The Reasons For This Project
Exhibit At “Zero Kilometres”

Archeology is often seen as a romantic discipline, confined to moments of leisure and pure cultural enrichment, but in reality it is a profession which has strong connections with all the main developments of our territory and provides unique opportunities to discover and reconstruct our history, normally exhibited in Museums. Malpensa offered the opportunity to face an exciting challenge: the new railway station has been chosen as the place to exhibit the finds, allowing on the one hand to display of the finds a few metres from where they were unearthed, on the other to make them easily accessible 365 days a year, 24 hours a day for a very large audience. Passing through the exhibition, even the most hasty and distracted traveler will notice the presentation of a wide selection of finds and original structures accompanied by an immediately comprehensible communication, thanks to the support of multimedia devices that convey short, but scientifically correct, messages. The traveler will also meet some particularly important figures in Lombard history, thus linking the first Golasecca population to the foundation of Milan up to the present day.

The terminal 2 railway station and its cultural contamination

Using a non-place to convey a cultural message: this is the objective that archaeologists have set themselves in conceiving a display in the Terminal 2 railway station at Malpensa airport.

Leaving the places usually dedicated to the exhibition and transmission of our heritage, such as museums or short-term exhibitions, to put the research results within everybody’s reach. These are the principles inspired by the archaeologists who conceived the exhibition, Filippo Maria Gambari and Barbara Grassi of the Superintendence, who gave the idea to the architects Davide Bruno and Luca Panteghini, who developed an original exhibition proposal: a synthesis of tradition and innovation. Claudia Mangani and Diego Voltolini developed the method of communication, short but easily understandable for the general audience, always faithful to the archaeological data. The many multi-multimedia presentations have been created by StudioBase2 with the collaboration of Simona Morandi and have the task of explaining, through images, traditions and rites in vogue in the late Bronze Age, introducing us to a distant reality. This challenge of valorization, which saw the unconditional support of the Lombardy Region, was magnanimously accepted by FNM and SEA, two companies that, understanding the importance of this cultural operation and also going beyond their institutional mission, have allowed, with their continuous collaboration, the unfolding of all the stages of this stimulating journey from the discovery of the finds to their exhibition.

Big projects for great discoveries

Careful designing and planning of projects that significantly affect the landscape allow one to avoid, in most cases, unnecessary delays in construction works and the loss of archaeological and cultural heritage: a precious and non-renewable resource.

The agreement between the Superintendence and FNM, who had designed the new railway line, has enabled the necessary work of preventive archaeology to be carried out, confirming the very high archaeological potential of an area that had already brought to light important sites dating back to the Late Bronze Age (XII-X century BC): along with traces of settlements, numerous burials, the famous Malpensa bronze hoard, as well as Roman remains. The excavation work was necessarily preceded, given the strategic importance of the Malpensa airport, by land reclamation activities that led to the discovery of numerous bombs dating back to the Second World War. In order to avoid delays in the construction schedule, it was necessary to employ several teams of archaeologists operating simultaneously. The archaeological excavations were conducted with scientific rigor, coordinated on the ground by Paul Blockley and Giordana Ridolfi, collecting all the data and carefully documenting all the discoveries, thanks to a multidisciplinary team. The financial resources of the various companies involved in the construction of the railway link has provided a unique opportunity to obtain, through archaeology, an historical reconstruction that constitutes an important "compensation" for an area that has witnessed once again a change in its appearance.

Restorations and analysis

The purpose of archaeological research is to reconstruct an historical period thanks to the material remains brought to light and their cultural interpretation.

For this reason the working group was composed not only of archaeologists, draughtsmen, surveyors and photographers who must faithfully document all the stages of the discovery, but also by restorers who intervene promptly, sometimes during the excavation, on the most delicate finds to ensure their conservation, and by specialists from different naturalistic disciplines who study preserved organic and inorganic remains. In the case of Malpensa, to speed up the work on site, while using the utmost caution in order to collect as much data as possible, more than twenty urns were recovered in block with their contents, for the collection of samples for anthropological and paleobotanical analyses: an operation that would have required a lot of time if carried out in the field. To correctly organize the work in the laboratory, the urns were x-rayed, so as to identify any bronze ornaments inside. The micro-excavation was then started: each phase of the work was coordinated to allow the retrieval of the finds and samples with all the necessary precautions; in the laboratory the restorers, Cristina Leoni and Ana Hilar, consolidated and reassembled the various fragments, recomposing the finds, sometimes with the use of integrations in compatible and reversible materials. Although the deceased had been cremated on a pyre, the anthropologists have in some cases been able to recognize, from the preserved bones, the sex of the deceased and his/her approximate age. Thanks to the paleobotanical analyses of Mauro Rottoli, at least three graves were found to contain rose hips, laid inside the urn, and the remains of the wood used for the funeral pyre, in particular oak, ash, beech and hornbeam, in addition to small shrubs, such as hazel, used to light the pyre: these constituted part of the local arboreal heritage. Even the surrounding land is a natural archive of extraordinary importance: in the Late Bronze Age the area of ​​the necropolis had already been partly deforested, probably due to the exploitation of the area for agricultural and settlement purposes.

The first celts in italy

Towards the end of the Bronze Age, between 1100 and 900 BC approximately, we witness the formation of the first communities that will characterize the regional and cultural diversities of ancient Italy.

At that time, the territory of Malpensa was inhabited by a population of Celtic ancestry, defined by the scholars as “Protogolasecca”, known above all through their burials, today more numerous, while the remains of settlements, like those found in Somma Lombardo, are very rare and suggest the presence of houses made of perishable materials. From the objects found in the burials, rarely numerous, such as the large pins of the males and the fibulae of the females, and thanks to the shapes of the pottery vessels, already in this period we can recognize many points of contact both with the peoples inhabiting what is now Switzerland, and with those of eastern Lombardy and Veneto. In this period the funeral rite was of cremation: a timber pyre was built on which the body of the deceased burned for many hours. The ashes, collected ritually, were then laid in urns. These containers were made of pottery or, more rarely, of perishable materials such as fabric or leather. Next to the remains of the deceased it was also customary to place her jewelry and some everyday objects, as symbols of the role played in life. In the territory of Somma Lombardo, at Belcora and at Malpensa, three large burial mounds have been identified, which envisaged a sort of monumentalization of the burial through the building of a large earthen tumulus: an operation that involved the participation of a large part of the community to celebrate the memory of a particularly important person. In some cases, the visibility of the burial mound could also be guaranteed by objects placed on the top of the mound. In a couple of cases the funeral ceremony included, among other things, around the pit containing the urn, the deposition of the charcoal from the funeral pyre so that nothing of the cremation would be lost. The presence of broken domestic pottery on the closed burial testifies the custom of offering libations and rites for the deceased shortly after burial.

From Malpensa to the foundation of Milan

The Golasecchian Celts have left us with important legacies, even if in many cases we are not aware of them.

The most significant contribution is represented by the traces they have left in the Lombardy area. If in the initial phase of Protogolasecca (XII-X century BC) the settlements, documented in very limited numbers, were probably small scattered villages, each of which refers to a small or medium-sized group of burials, during the Iron Age (IX-IV century BC) the situation progressively changes: the three main Golasecchiani districts become more and more defined, one between Golasecca-Sesto Calende-Castelletto Ticino, one in the Como area and, in Swiss territory, the Ticino one. The first two territories are characterized in the VII and VI centuries BC as important centres; Como was later to develop an urban-like structure.The Golasecchian Celts developed a particular propensity for trade, with the organization of a dense exchange network , also thanks to the river Ticino that became a major axis for wide ranging routes; they became the link between the Etruscan and Italic peoples, bearers of customs typical of the aristocracies influenced by Greek and Mediterranean traditions, and the Celtic populations stationed beyond the Alps, conveying, among other things, the customs linked to the consumption of wine and to the banquet ritual. During the first half of the V century BC there is a collapse and depopulation of the western Golasecchian area and the consequent shift in the centre of control of the trade network with the Etruscan world from the Ticino region to the plain with the foundation of Milan, attributed to the mythical Belloveso, and the other main Lombard cities, such as Bergamo. With the establishment of the federal state of the Insubri, in the IV-III century BC, Milan (the Latin Mediolanum) will become its capital and will have more and more importance up to the present day. Among the legacies of the Golasecchian Celts we cannot forget the use of bracae, real trousers, in an moment in which, for all the Italic peoples, also for men, tunics and skirts were common, along with the production of beer of high alcohol content, the beginning of the modern way of aging and consuming wine in barrels and jars for oxygenation, and finally the spread of blue cheese.

The Golasecca Culture

Ancient history is able to exert a mysterious and particular fascination which has something to do with the search for our roots and the knowledge of the civilizations that preceded us.

It is through this fascination and idea that Lombardy decided to show its best face to those who arrive in its territory: a face that is proud of its' ancient origins and cultural heritage which is unique in the world, from Da Vinci's Last Supper to the rock-carvings of Valcamonica, from La Scala Theatre to the Bernina Express.

It is therefore with great pleasure, that the Lombardy Region has given its contribution to the valorization of the cultural and archaeological heritage of the Golasecca Culture, also through this permanent exhibition, precious because of the finds on display and for the fact that it brings to the attention a place, an ancient population, a territory rich in culture, all to be discovered.

Roberto Maroni - President of the Lombardy Region