Lavagnone is one of the most important archaeological sites in northern Italy, occupied almost continuously from the Mesolithic to the Bronze Age.

The pile-dwelling posts

Lavagnone basin, which extends between the municipalities of Desenzano and Lonato, is one of the many small lake basins that characterize the landscape of the Garda morainic amphitheatre.

What remains of the ancient lake is a small marshy area that occupies the central part of the basin whereas the lakebed was reclaimed for agricultural purposes (at the beginning of the 20th century).

Numerous excavations were carried out here during the 20th century. The first archaeological excavations were carried out between 1971 and 1979 by R. Perini, who discovered of the plough. Since 1989, the University of Milan has carried out annual excavation campaigns.

Digs affected various points in the basin (from the north western shore to the marsh edge) and made it possible to reconstruct the history of the settlement that, over the centuries, was characterized by the occupation of different environments for residential purposes (near the shore of the small lake, in temporarily flooded areas or in dry areas) and the use of several building techniques. Houses were raised on platforms, resting on long isolated poles, or on shorter posts resting  on pile shoes, on reclaimed areas (wooden foundations filled up with stones) or otherwise built directly on the ground, with simple beaten earthen floors.

The first village, reconstructive hypothesisThe first village, reconstructive hypothesis

The best-preserved remains date back to the settlement establishment period. At the beginning of the Early Bronze Age, when the water level of the small lake had fallen considerably compared to the previous periods, a pile-dwelling village was built on a suspended platform, about 80 metres from the ancient shoreline, in a periodically flooded area. To the east and towards the dry land it was bounded by a palisade and could be reached from the north eastern shore, following a wooden walkway (timber trackway). Dendrochronological dating allowed researchers to determine when the village was built for the very first time: 2077 BC.

After the oldest village had been destroyed in a fire, which according to dendrochronological dating occurred around 1984 BC, a new one (LAV 3) was built using an innovative building technique  which provided for the use of pile shoes. Also this settlement was destroyed in a fire which broke out, according to dendrochronological dating, around 1916 BC.

To build the new village (LAV 4), the regularly flooded areas were reclaimed to isolate the new houses from the damp ground beneath.

During the Middle Bronze Age, the settlement on the banks of the basin was on dry ground, while recent excavations have shown that pile-dwelling structures still existed in the central part.

The Lavagnone ploughThe Lavagnone ploughLavagnone plough

The plough, the oldest agricultural machine, represented a real revolution in the relationship between man and agriculture, and was the tool which started the essential seasonal cycle of sowing, growing and harvesting.

Lavagnone plough, discovered by R. Perini in1977 in the levels of the oldest pile dwelling (dating to 2067 BC, thanks to dendrochronology, beginning of the Bronze Age), belongs to the so-called "Trittolemo" type, characterized by the plough stock or share, the plough-beam, to fasten the share to the yoke, and the plough-stilt, a sort of shaft to control the direction and the furrow depth. This type of ploughs, which started to be manufactured in Late Copper Age, spanned over a very long period of time, over a thousand years. The Lavagnone plough is the oldest surviving example.

The oldest portrayals of ploughs in Italy are in the Camonica Valley (Brescia) and date to the Copper Age (c. 2800-2400 BC); however, the oldest detailed images of plough in use date back to the Iron Age (600-400 B.C.), within the so-called "Situla Art", a particular technique of embossed and incised figurative decoration of bronze foil objects,