Italian archaeologists have unearthed temples attesting to the strength of fertility rites in prehistoric Italy.
The discoveries were made at a major site in Puglia (ancient Apulia) which has recently been recognised as an archaeological area "of significant importance," dig chief Anna Maria Punzi Sisto told reporters.
The new dig at Trinitanapoli has uncovered a huge well used for sacrifices to an unknown fertility goddess, Punzi Sisti said.
"This is a major discovery which shows the importance of these rites to Bronze Age peoples, around 3,500 years ago," she said.
"It should enable us to decode the ritual of this ancient religion," she added, revealing that traces of sacrificed animals and offerings of corn and other plants had been found.
As in other such rites, these offerings presumably asked the goddess to bless crops as well as keeping communities well supplied with fresh hands, Punzi Sisti explained.
Tombs have also been found, spanning out from a central religious area which is believed to have been used as a full-fledged temple, she said.
"The purpose of the site is unmistakable. Its opening architectural lay-out is similar to a vulva and the corridor that leads to the inside is narrow, like a birth canal".
"There is no image of the fertility goddess inside, but the temple itself, in its very shape, is an icon of fertility".
Two years ago the site yielded a remarkable find, the skeleton of a man - carbon-dated to 1,600 BC - which was taller than the average height of modern men, at 1.85m.
The media was quick to declare that a race of giants walked the Earth in Italy in prehistoric times. Scientists explained the Trinitanapoli giant as a product of unusual cross-breeding with tribes from the Balkans.
Okay ... I'm going to have to be the first to say "Don't eat that Elmer" about this one ... sacrifices to an unknown fertility goddess ... no image of said goddess ... and we build a whole theory on the entrance and corridor of a temple ... sorry; don't buy it. It's just a bit too Gimbutasesque for my liking.