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The Lepontii were an ancient Celtic or Ligurian people occupying portions of Rhaetia (in modern Switzerland and northern Italy) in the Alps during the late Bronze Age/Iron Age. Recent archeological excavations and their association with the Golasecca culture (9th-7th centuries BC) and Canegrate culture (13th century BC) point to a Celtic affiliation. From the analysis of their language and the place names of the old Lepontic areas, it was hypothesized that these people represent a layer similar to that Celtic but previous to the Gallic penetration in the Po valley. The suggestion has been made that the Lepontii may have been celticized Ligurians.
The chief towns of the Lepontii were Oscela, now Domodossola, Italy, and Bilitio, now Bellinzona, Switzerland. Their territory included the southern slopes of the St. Gotthard Pass and Simplon Pass, corresponding roughly to present-day Ossola and Ticino.
A map of Rhaetia shows the location of the Lepontic territory, in the south-western corner of Rhaetia. The area to the south, including what was to become the Insubrian capital Mediolanum (modern Milan), was Etruscan around 600-500 BC, when the Lepontii began writing tombstone inscriptions in their alphabet, one of several Etruscan-derived alphabets in the Rhaetian territory.
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