2 The  Camillo Story

History of the Veneto People

Around four million years ago, the Po valley was submersed by the sea, forming a large gulf in the Adriatic Sea. At this time our forebares still lived in the trees in Africa. It was only much later that they arrived to the future Veneto area and occupied the few scattered caves in the surrounding hills, ranging from the Adige river to the Isonzo.

There lived the first primitive people of the area, who thrived and multiplied over many thousands of years, to become what we now call the Veneti. During the more recent paleolithic times, well after that the sea had receded, these people descended to the marshy plains and constructed pile-dwellings on the water's edge, forming the first modest villages.

There are traces of early man, dating from 60,000 years ago. The climate and vegetation underwent profound changes through the ages, from lush forests, with neanderthal man hunting, deer and roe-bucks, to the colder steppes of the last ice-age, 40,000 years ago, dominated by bison and mammoths. In the following warmer period, 27,000 years ago, the fauna consisted of wolves, lions, heinas and cave-bears. From around 9 to 12,000 years ago, the climate became very similar to now and the countryside acquired its present aspect.

If only cave walls could talk! How many tales of battles with ferocious animals, adventures and tragedy they could tell! And why not, also of love! We who exist today are certainly direct descendants of some passionate love story that matured in a dark cave, 50,000 years ago.

Most of Europe was covered with an immense forest with thick undergrowth, providing an ideal breeding place for a wide variety of animals, which in turn also proved to be an ideal habitat for man. Food was abundant  there, for the picking or for hunting and man therefore prospered in Europe.  The ease with which he fed himself, left him with plenty of spare time to develop other talents, thought, speech and the ability to make tools, making him evolve ever more.

The tools with which he dug roots and make shelter, also served as weapons to kill animals for food. Once man had mastered the control over fire, he quickly learnt to savour barbecued meat, rendered softer and more digestible, as the three or four million years of evolution had specialised his body on a basically vegetarian diet. But now his intelligence made it possible to widen his diet and increasing his chances of survival and domination.

However, these tools that had become hunting instruments, soon became weapons that were turned on his fellow beings. In Europe at that time, there were two breeds of man, Homo Sapiens and a less fortunate cousin, Homo Neanderthal, who was, alas, slightly less intelligent.

With all of this thickly forested continent to roam around in, these few thousand individuals very seldom ran into each other, but these rare occasions more often resulted in battles and poor Neanderthal man coming out the worst for it. The futile reason for the clashes, was probably the same one we have witnessed all too often throughout history, the hate for everyone different. This is therefore the most likely reason for the extinction of Neanderthal man, who managed however, to survive right up to 40,000 years ago (just the other day on the evolutionary time scale). Nevertheless, the primitive physical traits that we occasionally meet in the streets, suggest that there may have been some racial (read romantic) intermingling between the two branches of man.

Leading his small family behind him through the thick undergrowth of the European forest, our Homo Sapiens follows the path recently beaten by a passing mammoth elephant, which in turn followed the path broken by the deer, which followed the wild boar path, which trod a rabbit path. These same paths were used continually throughout the ages, becoming ever more radicated in the countryside, until man began to pass by on horse-back and then with horse-drawn carts and this explains the apparently random turns in many of our country roads today.

Returning to our hero, he is forced to a stop, as the smaller of the group has a tummy ache that needs to be relieved after having over-indulged on the way in their supply of wild apples. Our leader decides to make camp for the night while junior attends to nature. A nearby spring will provide water for the family and the forest is plentiful in game. Yes, nature thinks of everything, even to germinate the apple seeds that junior left behind so well fertilised and on their return trip a few years later, our family, now grown in number, finds a lovely apple tree by their old camp-site, which becomes thereafter a favourite stopping place for this family and for its future descendants, until someone decides to build a more permanent shelter there. Many a grand city of Europe will have had  such a humble and basic origin for the selection of its founding site.  

A primitive hut stll used in Sardinia

The Po valley proved to be rich in wild game and the soil very fertile, enabling the villages to grow, and the inhabitants to develop a stabilising agriculture and a commerce based on the production of artifacts. Being closed to the north by the rugged Alps, the natural outlet for their trade was with the rest of the peninsular and also along the coast eastwards, towards the Balkans and the Danube valley, passing through the village that was to become the city of Trieste. The recent finding of the mummified body of a late stone-age man at Similaun in the Dolomites, close to the Austrian border, shows that the path northwards was treacherous, but possible.

The passage to the east, however, also permitted other peoples from that area, to come to the Veneto region, either as peaceful traders and settlers, or as invaders. These were the Galations, which is the Greek name for the Celts that lived in that area, who were conquered by Alexander the Great, around 356 B.C.


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