Rock Drawings of Valcamonica

Rock Drawings of Valcamonica

The rock drawings of Valcamonica are prehistoric petroglyphs carved in the glacier-polished, grey-purple Permian sandstone of the Camonica valley that extends for 90 km in the Italian provinces of Brescia and Bergamo in Lombardy. The name of the valley comes from “Cammunni”, the name its inhabitants carried during the Iron Age. Its artistic heritage, carved in 2500 rocks scattered along the entire valley, constitutes an extraordinary figurative testimony of the daily life and spirituality of ancient humans. The first appearance of these drawings can be dated back to the age of Epipaleolithic (20000-1000 BP) and the last to Medieval times (476-1453 CE) even if the best represented period is the Iron Age (1200 BCE - 200 CE). Between 200,000 and 300,000 incisions have been recognized and catalogued on the sandstone of the Camonica Valley. Most of these carvings represent animals and scenes of everyday life but also magic, war and navigation. The uniqueness of this archaeological site is that the figures were realized during a time span of 8000 years and have resisted until today, almost undamaged. The Rock Drawings of Valcamonica were added to the UNESCO World Heritage in 1979 CE and were thus the first Italian site to be added to the list.

History & Discovery

Different from every other European site of this kind, the carvings have always been part of the history of the population living in the Camonica Valley. However, before the 20th century CE, they were surrounded by indifference and they were called pitoti by the inhabitants of the valley. This name, in the local dialect, means 'scribbles', referring to the abstract and stylized drawings made by children. Only in the first years of the 20th century CE, precisely in 1914 CE, the alpinist and geographer Gualtiero Laeng signalled in the Touring Club Guide about the region, the presence of the two erratic boulders of Cemmo displaying some of the drawings of the valley. This helped to spread knowledge, contributing to an increase in interest in the prehistoric art of stone carvings of Valcamonica.

The Camunian rose, one of the most famous cravings of the valley, was chosen to become the symbol of the region of Lombardy itself.

In the 1020s CE, further studies were conducted, followed in the '30s by the politically-aimed research made by Franz Altheim and Erika Trautmann, commissioned by the then German Nazi officer, Heinrich Himmler. The purpose behind their studies was an attempt to identify in the carvings the north European origins of the Aryan race for it to be legitimized in the context of Hitler's Third Reich. The same was done by Italian fascists who reclaimed the Italian origins of the carvings as a symbol of the industriousness that characterized the population of the territory before the Roman period.

During the Second World War (1939-45 CE), the archaeological research was interrupted until 1959 CE. In this year, the first major step towards the site as it is known today was brought about by Laeng himself. He drew the first map of Naquane's rock engravings and founded the first archaeological park in Italy. Of major importance to the site were the studies fostered by another important figure, Emmanuel Anati, an archaeologist whose meticulous and scientific method introduced the technique of the manual field surveying of the rocks. This method helped him to develop a stylistic classification of the Camunian representative art, being able in the following years to discover and classify thousands of rock carvings in the archaeological site.

During the 1970's CE, pitoti became a symbol of identity and heritage of the Camonica valley and in 1975 CE, the Camunian rose, one of the most famous cravings of the valley, was chosen to become the symbol of the region of Lombardy itself. The meaning of this
carving is unsure, but the presumed symbolism behind it is the sun with the four cardinal points indicating the solar trajectory in the sky during the day. This was interpreted by Anati as having a meaning of fortune and prosperity. In 1979 CE, during the third World Heritage Committee in Cairo, the Camonica Valley became the first Italian UNESCO site.

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Oxen or elks, represented as the main characters of hunting scenes, are pierced & killed by weapons.

The carvings were realized on Permian sandstone that was smoothed by the melting and sliding of glaciers. The main techniques used to realize the figures were two: the “martelline” and the “filiform” technique. The “marteline” consisted in tapping the rocky surface first with a stone tool and then a metallic one which creates small circular concavities. The other technique that was used in Camonica Valley is the “filiform” or “graffiti”: with this procedure, the representations are achieved by engraving the rocky surface with a pointed instrument used as a burin chisel. This instrument, rubbed several times on the rocks, would leave the mark of a furrow.

The rock carvings of Valcamonica resulting from these two different techniques belong to four main stylistic groups. The first is the prehistoric period from the Epipaleolithic to the Bronze Age where figures are isolated or grouped in a symbolic character. Following this, it is possible to witness some carvings from the proto-historic period during the Iron Age, where the artistic narrative is more naturalistic and characterized by movement and the description of actions. Finally, the carvings belonging to the last period can be associated with the Cammuni population, inhabiting the valley from Roman to medieval times.

The Evolution of Cammunian Art

The rock carvings belonging to the Prehistoric period are sometimes of considerable dimensions. These drawings depict figures of animals, among which oxen or elks, represented as the main characters of hunting scenes, pierced and killed by weapons. During the Neolithic (10000-5000 BCE), the centre of the narrative characterizing the carvings of the Camonica Valley is shifted from animals to human beings. Characterizing this period were the symbolic representations of prayers in the orant position called “oranti”. These were stylized figures of human beings representing adoration, dance or lamentation. In this period the first representations of geometric figures were also found.

During the Chalcolithic (5000-4000 BCE), rock art is characterized by stelae and menhirs carved with symbolic and naturalistic figures. These rocks were placed in worship sites for ceremonies and rites or had a sepulchral function. These worship places were attended for thousands of years.

The Bronze Age (3300-1200 BCE) was characterized by carvings representing ploughing scenes, looms and prayers while the Iron Age (1200 BCE - 200 CE) presents figures of warriors during hunting, duels and horseriding. These scenes represented the initiation rites faced by young aristocratic boys to become men. In these carvings, warriors are meticulously represented with a variety of weapons that were rediscovered by archaeological digs at the site of Val Camonica. In the representation of hunting scenes, the prayers are often deer, that were hunted by a man represented on a horse and helped by a dog. In addition, there are also drawings representing simple buildings, aquatic birds and footprints. Finally, with the Roman conquest of the territory, the Cammunian Art saw its decline mainly due to the “fight” promoted by the believers of the Christian doctrine, during the 4th century CE, against the idolatry of carved stones, called in Latin saxorum veneratio. During the period of the Middle Ages (476-1453 CE), drawings of symbolic figures, towers, castles and churches represented the very last rock carvings of the Camonica Valley.

The Site Today

The archaeological park was created in 1955 CE by the archaeological superintendence of Lombardy under the name of the National Park of Rock Engravings in Capo di Ponte (Parco nazionale delle incisioni rupestri di Naquane). Later, in 1964 CE, Emmanuel Anati founded the Cammunian Center of Prehistoric Studies. After the inclusion of the site in the UNESCO list, further research is still continuing today to broaden our knowledge of the site and unearthing new carvings and rocks. In the context of the archaeological site, eight different parks were realised, among which are the natural carving reserve of Ceto, Cimbergo and Paspardo, reaching an extension of 290 hectares distributed among 3 different municipalities. In addition, the most recent introduction in the park was in 2014 CE with the institution of the National Museum of Prehistory of the Camonica Valley (Museo Nazionale di Preistoria della Valcamonica). The importance and uniqueness of the archaeological discoveries within the site are a testimony to the great contribution that the Camonica Valley has brought to our knowledge of the history of the ancient humans.

This article was submitted as part of Our Site's UNESCO Summer School scholarship programme.


Unesco Sites of Italy: Rock Drawings in Valcamonica

Val Camonica, one of the largest valleys of the central Alps, located in eastern Lombardy (northern Italy), is home to the first Italian site registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List, in 1979.

The site contains one of the largest collections of prehistoric petroglyphs in the world - more than 140,000 symbols and figures carved in the rock over a period of 8,000 years, depicting themes connected with agriculture, navigation, war, hunting and magic, as well as geometric figures. The site is not yet fully explored and extends over an area of ​​70 kilometers.

The first traces of human presence in Val Camonica date back to at least 13,000 years ago, after glaciers began to melt. But it was only during the Neolithic era that the first inhabitants settled permanently in the valley. Some anthropomorphic figures (stylized human beings with their arms facing upwards) and certain topographical representations are traditionally traced back to this phase.

According to Unesco, the Rock Drawings of Valcamonica “constitute an extraordinary figurative documentation of prehistoric customs and mentality.”

The drawings vary from the spiritual to the material: people in a circle revering the sun, an elk with its head turned, a map of the valley with roads and houses. 5,000-year-old drawings from the Copper Age show the beginnings of agriculture and the shift from hunting to farming.

To make the petroglyphs, people used a hard stone against a soft rock surface. Archeologists believe that the sound made by striking rock was used in rituals the sound connected humans to sacred beings and to the spirits who dwelled in the rocks.

The engravings were discovered at the beginning of the 20th century, and continue to be studied today, because, as Unesco points out, “they teach us much about the history of mankind.”

La Val Camonica, una delle valli più estese delle Alpi centrali, situata nella Lombardia orientale (nord Italia), ospita il primo sito italiano iscritto nella Lista del Patrimonio Mondiale dell’UNESCO, istituito nel 1979.

Il sito contiene una delle più grandi collezioni di incisioni rupestri al mondo: più di 140.000 simboli e figure scolpiti nella roccia lungo un periodo di 8.000 anni, raffiguranti temi legati all'agricoltura, alla navigazione, alla guerra, alla caccia e alla magia, oltre che figure geometriche. Il sito non è ancora stato completamente esplorato e si estende su un'area di 70 chilometri.

Le prime tracce di presenza umana in Val Camonica risalgono ad almeno 13.000 anni fa, dopo che i ghiacciai iniziarono a sciogliersi. Ma fu solo durante il Neolitico che i primi abitanti si insediarono stabilmente nella valle. A questa fase sono tradizionalmente riconducibili alcune figure antropomorfe (esseri umani stilizzati con le braccia rivolte verso l'alto) e alcune rappresentazioni topografiche.

Secondo l'Unesco, i graffiti rupestri della Valcamonica “costituiscono una straordinaria documentazione figurativa sugli usi e la mentalità preistorici”.

I disegni variano dallo spirituale al materiale: persone in cerchio che riveriscono il sole, un alce con la testa girata, una mappa della valle con strade e case. I disegni risalenti all'età del rame (5.000 anni fa) mostrano le origini dell'agricoltura e il passaggio dalla caccia all'agricoltura.

Per realizzare le incisioni rupestri, gli uomini preistorici usavano una pietra dura sfregata contro una superficie di roccia morbida. Gli archeologi ritengono che il suono prodotto dal battere la roccia fosse usato durante i rituali il suono collegava gli esseri umani agli esseri sacri e agli spiriti che dimoravano nelle rocce.

Le incisioni furono scoperte all'inizio del XX° secolo e continuano ad essere studiate ancora oggi, perché, come sottolinea l'Unesco, "ci insegnano molto sulla storia dell'umanità".


Adamello - Source: Archivio Distretto Culturale Valle Camonica. La Valle dei Segni

Borno - Brescia - Source: Archivio Distretto Culturale Valle Camonica. La Valle dei Segni

Hunters, warriors and paesants | Source: Archive Cultural District Vallecamonica. The Valley of the Signs

The Camunian Rose - Source: Archivio Distretto Culturale Valle Camonica. La Valle dei Segni

Depiction of a warrior - Source: Archivio Distretto Culturale Valle Camonica. La Valle dei Segni

Prehistoric maps of Valcamonica | Source: Archive Cultural District Vallecamonica. The Valley of the Signs

Prehistoric houses of Valcamonica - Source: Archivio Distretto Culturale Valle Camonica. La Valle dei Segni

Signs valley - Source: Archive Cultural District Vallecamonica. The Valley of the Signs

Depiction of a warrior | Source: Archive Cultural District Vallecamonica. The Valley of the Signs

Valcamonica and its rock drawings are the first of Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, having been inserted on the List in 1979.
Valcamonica (or Valle Camonica), in Lombardy, extends over approximately 90 km (56 mi) in the middle of the eastern Alps, between the Provinces of Brescia and Bergamo.The Valley takes its name from the Camuni people, a population that – according to ancient Latin sources – lived in the zone during the Iron Age (I millennium B.C.). Nonetheless, the 250,000 rock engravings making the Valley one of the largest petroglyphic collections in the world were realized in the course of 8,000 years, from the Mesolithic period (VIII-VI millennia B.C.) until the Roman and Medieval ages, passing through the Neolithic period, the Copper, Bronze, and Iron Ages.

The long arc of history that these carvings span, executed on over 2500 rocks (on both sides of the valley), render this place particularly moving roaming among these rock incisions, one will find narrations regarding evolutions of customs and of the mentality of our prehistoric ancestors.

The most ancient petroglyphs, such as those present in the Commune of Dafo Boario Terme, contain representations of animals on a large scale – after all, the quotidian life of an archaic society like that of the Mesolithic and the high-Paleolithic periods was heavily-concentrated on nomadism and the hunt. Cave art featuring human figures and geometric elements (Neolithic) similar to those at the Regional Reserve of Ceto, Cimbergo and Paspardo, on the other hand, recount the diffusion of early agricultural practices.

Even the first religious characters appear in this epoch. Harking back to the Copper Age (4th-3rd Millennia B.C.) then, are the storied boulders with depictions of humans and symbols linked to the appearance of the wheel, carriage and the first metal-working techniques, many of which are traceable to the National Archaeological Park of the Boulders of Cemmo, and of Asinino Anvòia.

In the Bronze Age (II millennium B.C.), arms and weaponry became one of the principal subjects of the rock engravings, while just as important are the scenes depicting feminine initiation rites from c. 3000 to 2000 B.C. The most complex and elaborate hieroglyphics, however, originated in the Iron Age they were singularly tied to the Camuni people, who had long been settled in the Valley. Finally, the subsequent epoch marked – together with the rise of Roman dominance – the decline of the cave art in Val Camonica, which was resumed to a certain extent during the Medieval Age, this time with symbols of an obviously more religious and Christian character.

Signaled for the first time in 1909 by Walter Laeng (A Brescian geographer), the cave art is divided into various localities, including eight thematic parks, among which is the Natural Reserve of Cave Art in Ceto, Cimbergo and Paspardo the Park covers an area of approximately 290 acres, distributed over three different municipalities.

A walk through Valcamonica is truly an evocative itinerary through history, as told by art.


Community Reviews

I visited this WHS in July 2019 for the first time in my life (despite of living not so far from it - about 2 hrs by car). If you have Lombardia Carta Musei, Parco Nazionale delle Incisioni Rupestri di Capo di Ponte is included in your card (otherwise, ticket is 6&euro). Parco Archeologico Nazionale dei Massi di Cemmo has a free entrance.

I was very lucky, since - by chance - that day there was a special night opening of Massi di Cemmo and Parco Archeologico Comunale di Seradina-Bedolina, with a guided tour with the Park director, so we could get very interesting explanations. Also, drawings are better seen with raking lights (i.e. early morning, sunset, or night with a raking lamp).

So, we started with Massi di Cemmo, they're the easiest to see, the park is in the centre of the town (I guess you can also walk there from the station), they are 2 big vertical (drawings are on the vertical side) stones so this saved them from centuries of damages from snows, people walking and so on. Then we started walking with the director and a group to the Seradina Bedolina Archeological area. He guided us to the most important rocks (big horizontal rocks, so carvings are very thin) and talked about the different carvings, he also told that carvings here have different subjects from carvings at Naquane.

Then, on Sunday morning, we went to Naquane (we walked there from our B&B, but there is a small parking lot a few hundred mts from the park entrance). We went there in the morning and I guess we were the first visitors, when we left there were many visitors and some groups.

Carvings here, during the day, are more difficult to see than the ones in Massi di Cemmo and the ones seen during the night, here we have horizontal rocks again. The park is big, with good signs and some wood track to get near to some of the drawings you couldn't reach on your own (it's forbidden to walk on rocks).

Then, we took our car and tried to see Parco Archeologico Coren delle Fate, it's not well signedposted, and it's not clear if you can drive along the road or where the car road ends and you have to park the car an walk. Anyway, at the beginning we ended up in a private backyard, the owner was very kind and gave us explanations to reach the correct place, but warned us that carvings were very light to see (and he was right). Then we tried to visit the Parco Comunale di Sellero, where we were supposed to see rocks and mines. Unfortunately, signs sent us to nowhere (on a very narrow road, until where we found a "private road, no trespassing" sing, and a "no park" sign). So we had to turn back and give up. Later, somebody we met in a local shop, told us you're allowed to visit that park only with guided tour on request (and on payment). (the official site doesn't mention it, since it writes the park is always free and open).

So we came back to Capo di Ponte and visited the MUPRE museum http://www.mupre.capodiponte.beniculturali.it/ (it's included in the Naquane ticket, but it has shorter opening hours) where we could see more rocks with very good lighting, and items found in graves or archeological diggings.

My opinion, about what I could visit, a very interesting site, but very poor communication (i.e. we discovered about the special night opening only because our B&B owner told us, the museum just wrote it locally on some leaflets, nothing on their webpage).

(sorry for my poor English)


Rock Art in the Alps – Valcamonica Rock Drawings

The Valley takes its name from the Camuni people, a population that – according to ancient Latin sources – lived in the zone during the Iron Age (I millennium B.C.). Nonetheless, the 250,000 rock engravings making the Valley one of the largest petroglyphic collections in the world were realized in the course of 8,000 years, from the Mesolithic period (VIII-VI millennia B.C.) until the Roman and Medieval ages, passing through the Neolithic period, the Copper, Bronze, and Iron Ages.

The long arc of history that these carvings span, executed on over 2500 rocks. The most ancient petroglyphs, contain representations of animals on a large scale – after all, the quotidian life of an archaic society like that of the Mesolithic and the high-Paleolithic periods was heavily-concentrated on nomadism and the hunt. Cave art featuring human figures and geometric elements (Neolithic) similar to those at the Regional Reserve of Ceto, Cimbergo and Paspardo, on the other hand, recount the diffusion of early agricultural practices.

Even the first religious characters appear in this epoch. Harking back to the Copper Age (4th-3rd Millennia B.C.) then, are the storied boulders with depictions of humans and symbols linked to the appearance of the wheel, carriage and the first metal-working techniques.

In the Bronze Age (II millennium B.C.), arms and weaponry became one of the principal subjects of the rock engravings, while just as important are the scenes depicting feminine initiation rites from c. 3000 to 2000 B.C. The most complex and elaborate hieroglyphics, however, originated in the Iron Age they were singularly tied to the Camuni people, who had long been settled in the Valley. Finally, the subsequent epoch marked – together with the rise of Roman dominance – the decline of the cave art in Val Camonica, which was resumed to a certain extent during the Medieval Age, this time with symbols of an obviously more religious and Christian character.


Il Parco Nazionale delle Incisioni Rupestri di Naquane, a Capo di Ponte, è stato il primo parco istituito in Valle Camonica nel 1955. L’area si estende per oltre 14 ettari e costituisce uno dei più importanti complessi di rocce incise nell’ambito del sito del Patrimonio Mondiale UNESCO n. 94 “Arte Rupestre della Valle Camonica”. Al suo interno, in uno splendido ambiente boschivo, è possibile ammirare ben 104 rocce incise, corredate da pannelli informativi e suddivise in 5 percorsi di visita facilmente percorribili per circa 3 Km. La visita completa di tutti i percorsi richiede almeno 4 ore.

Su queste ampie superfici di arenaria di colore grigio-violaceo, levigate dall’azione dei ghiacciai, gli antichi abitanti della Valle realizzarono immagini picchiettando con un percussore litico o, più raramente, incidendo con uno strumento a punta. La cronologia delle istoriazioni del Parco si colloca tra il Neolitico (V-IV millennio a.C.) e l’età del Ferro (I millennio a.C.), anche se non mancano incisioni di età storica. L’epoca meglio rappresentata è sicuramente l’età del Ferro, quando la Valle era abitata dai Camunni delle fonti romane.

Alcune rocce sono di notevoli dimensioni, come la Roccia 1, che colpisce il visitatore per la straordinaria ricchezza e varietà delle figure incise, circa un migliaio. Sono presenti molte figure di animali, uomini armati, telai verticali a pesi, palette, edifici, coppelle e un labirinto.

Molte rocce sono dominate da figure umane realizzate in modo schematico, nella posizione detta dell’orante: hanno braccia rivolte verso l’alto, gambe contrapposte e corpo lineare, con alcune varianti. Gli studi mostrano la lunga durata di questo tipo di figura che ha inizio nel Neolitico e perdura fino agli inizi età del Ferro. Sulle rocce del Parco possono essere presenti guerrieri, cavalieri, animali, edifici, figure simboliche ed iscrizioni camune, a volte interpretati come elementi di scene di significato complesso, ma è necessaria molta prudenza. Molto spesso le superfici rocciose erano ripetutamente incise, sovrapponendo tra loro figure di età diverse. È così che ad esempio è nata la cosiddetta “scena del villaggio” della roccia 35, dove alcuni edifici che si sovrappongono a precedenti scene di caccia al cervo sembrano mostrare un villaggio con le sue attività. Alcune figure presentano una particolare valenza artistica, come la famosa raffigurazione del sacerdote che corre della roccia 35. In alcuni casi abbiamo vere e proprie raffigurazioni divine, come nel caso della Roccia 70, dove una figura di grandi dimensioni, dalle evidenti corna di cervo, è interpretata come il dio Cernunnos, che trova confronti con il celebre calderone di Gundestrup (Danimarca).


The history of Valcamonica begins with the end of the Glacier Age, otherwise known as the ‘Würms Glaciation’ (or Last Glacial Period), which retreated about 15,000 years ago, to reveal the wide expanse of valley that we see today. The Pre-Indo European population known as the ‘Camuni’ (as the Romans later called them) began to settle in the area only during the Neolithic period, leaving – first as visiting nomads, then as permanent inhabitants of the Valley – innumerable drawings in the rock of caves. With these primitive and singular artworks, Valcamonica fully earns its spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

From the 16th Century B.C. to 476 A.C., the Valley was occupied by the Romans that guaranteed to its inhabitants ample territory in which to govern autonomously. Yet the Latinization of the Camuni took place rather rapidly, and for this Roman politic was responsible, having conferred upon all the valley’s inhabitants Roman citizenship. During the Roman era, Valcamonica was also subject to Barbarian invasions, while the subsequent fall of Rome brought the incursions of the Heruli and Ostrogoth clans, who left wide death and destruction in their wake.

The Lombards ruled the area until 774 A.C., and were then overtaken by the Carolingians, who eventually bestowed the Valley unto the Abbey of Marmoutier. The Benedictines influenced the zone’s turn to Christian faith and traditions.

In circa the year 1000, the sense of self-identification and autonomy that characterized the settlements in the valley gave birth to the so-called ‘Vicinie’, a type of neighborhood association. After 1164, the area's first communes formed (under the Emperor’s permission) in 1428 the Valley was then annexed to the Republic of Venice, putting end to the long dispute between the Lagoon communities and Milan over its control.

Later, in 1769, Brescia was conquered by the French, and so Valcamonica took its name from ‘Canton of the Mountain,’ and was subdivided into seven distinct villages. Agriculture and livestock farming signaled the Valley’s decline during the Napoleonic period in 1861 it was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy. During the First World War Valcamonica was several times a battle theatre (one of which was the White War in Adamello).


Rupestre.net


Panorama from Paspardo over the Concarena mountain

Paspardo, Valcamonica (Italy)

The Footsteps of Man Archaeological Cooperative Society is based in Valcamonica, an alpine valley comprised between the province of Bergamo and Brescia in Northern Italy, where rock art constitutes an archaeological, artistic, ethnographic and historical patrimony of inestimable value, not only for its antiquity but, above all, for the thematic and iconographic wealth.

The rupestrian tradition of Valcamonica consists of about three hundred thousands engraved figures mainly located in open air and on flat rocks.
Iron Age warrior, tracing The art is distributed across five fundamental periods from Palaeolithic to the arrival of the Romans in the valley.

As an active rock art centre, member of IFRAO (International Federation of Rock Art Organizations), the Footsteps of Man organizes its annual archaeology fieldwork at Paspardo, one of the major area with engravings concentration, giving the opportunity to those interested (archaeologists and scholars, students and enthusiasts) to help the research and the study of the rock art of Valcamonica.

The project participants will: survey, excavate, clean, photograph, draw and catalogue the rocks engraved in three main sites at Paspardo, Valcamonica: Vite-Deria, Dos Costapeta, Dos Sulif.


Paspardo - Valcamonica

Tracing Valcamonica rock art, Iron Age figures
Taranis, an Iron Age God The archaeological site is Paspardo and others areas in Valcamonica, where there are many engravings and situated in different places. The engravings are dated from the Neolithic to the Middle Age.

The project consists of different phases, some are made on the sites, some in the laboratory:

1) researches on the sites: surveys for finding new engraved rocks analysis of the damages of the rock surfaces and conservation problems drawing of the engravings with permanent pens on plastic sheets photographs
2) in laboratory: reduction of the drawings in scale size and catalogue of the engravings.

Participants usually come from different countries of the world, official languages are English and Italian. In Paspardo the accommodation is provided in houses with rooms, dormitories, showers and kitchen.

Who is interested in coming should stay for a session of seven days in minimum .

  • 1st day : Opening and welcome. Visit to the rock art sites of Paspardo.
    Evening: conference "What is rock art? Rock art in the Alps"
  • 2nd day : Morning and afternoon: introduction to the work of documentation, tracing rock art figures.
    Evening: conference "How to study a rock: examples from Valcamonica and Valtellina"
  • 3rd day : Morning and afternoon, research and documentation tracing and recording
    Evening free
  • 4th day : Morning and afternoon: survey in rock art sites
    Evening: conference "How to date Rock Art?"
  • 5th day : Morning and afternoon: research and documentation tracing and recording.
    Evening free
  • 6th day : Morning: guided visit to an Archaeological Museum and/or Rock Art sites.
    Afternoon: computer work (data and pictures). Evening conference: “The management of rock art sites: the example of Valcamonica and Valtellina”.
  • 7th day : Morning free.
    Afternoon: collecting materials and closing session.
    Evening free.

This itinerary is only an example of a session of 7 day. The programs of the two weeks are different. The conferences (usually in English or with English translation) will be illustrated with the help of slides or Power point. The themes of conferences also will be diversified.

We suggest also to take a look at Rock Art in the Alps page.

There are vacancies for 25 volunteers

Italian - English - French - Spanish spoken

  • H ow to reach Paspardo: there are two ways, by bus or by train.
  • BUS : from the Piazza Garibaldi Station (Bus Terminal) in Milan (that you can easily reach with the green line of the underground, get off at the Garibaldi station) there is a bus (at 2.00 p.m.) that takes you to the Valcamonica where you get off at Ceto-Cerveno station.
  • TRAIN : from the National Railway station in Brescia there is a train (at 5.00 p.m.) that goes to Valcamonica. You get off in the station of Ceto-Cerveno.

Work clothes and gloves, gym shoes, sleeping bag, solar cream and sun glasses, mountain clothes (Paspardo is 1000 m over the sea level). Please to take out insurance against illness and injury, because we decline any responsibility. If you can, please have an anti-tetanus vaccination. Minimum age is 16 years.

At the end of the course, on request, it will be possible to obtain a certificate of attendance.

  • Attorrese E., A. Fossati, "Rock 53 of Vite-Deria: New Elements for the Study of Degradation of Valcamonica
    Petroglyphs.
    " American Indian Rock Art. 28: 103-110. 2002.
  • Fossati A., "But they are only puppets. Problems of management and educational programs in the rock art of Valcamonica and Valtellina, Lombardy, Italy." Rock Art Research. 20(1): 25-30. 2003.
  • Arcà A. , A. Fossati, Sui sentieri dell'arte rupestre. Le rocce incise delle Alpi. Storia, ricerche, escursioni (On the paths of rock art. The carved rocks of the Alps. History, researches, excursions). Turin, 1995 (available from here)
  • Simoes de Abreu M., A. Fossati, L. Jaffe, Etched in Time. The Petroglyphs of Val Camonica. Cerveno, 1990

For any further information :
read the specific TRACCE paper (2021)
Footsteps of Man, Archaeological Cooperative Society
Piazzale Donatori di Sangue, 1
25040 CERVENO (BS) - ITALY
tel. – fax +39-0364-43.43.51 Cell. +39-340.851.7548
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Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus (Libya)

Images on rocks in the Sahara provide a glimpse into the development of humans in this now barren land.

On the borders of Tassili N’Ajjer in Algeria, also a World Heritage site, this rocky massif has thousands of cave paintings in very different styles, dating from 12,000 B.C. to A.D. 100. They reflect marked changes in the fauna and flora, and also the different ways of life of the populations that succeeded one another in this region of the Sahara. Video from UNESCO

Backstory

The rock art sites of Tadrart Acacus have survived for 14,000 years in the desert of southern Libya, but they are now under serious threat. Since 2009 , vandalism has been a continuous problem: graffiti has been spray-painted across the surface of many of the paintings, and people have carved their initials into the rocks. But despite UNESCO’s and other organizations’ calls for the government to intervene with restoration and security measures, efforts to protect this precious ancient site have been gravely hampered by armed conflict and political chaos.

Libya experienced a political revolution in 2011 with the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi, and since then the country has been in a state of civil war. Savino di Lernia , an archaeologist at Sapienza University of Rome who has worked extensively in the Tadrart Acacus mountains, explains how dangerous the area—formerly a tourist destination—has become:

Today, the site is inaccessible: no commercial flight connects Tripoli and Ghat, a nearby town (a weekly military aircraft brings food, essential goods and first-aid equipment). The tarred road between Ghat and Ubari is broken up, and clashes between the Tebu and Tuareg tribes increasingly affect the area….Being a Saharan archaeologist today is a difficult job. Researchers fear being kidnapped or even killed.

Yahya Saleh, a local tour guide, mourns the fact that local hunters now regularly scrawl their names across the art: “People do not know the value of this. There are supposed to be people to protect these areas…because if this issue persists, then they will be gone within two years.”

The ongoing vandalism of the Tadrart Acacus sites is only one of the many overwhelming difficulties Libya faces with regard to cultural heritage protection. As di Lernia notes ,

Perhaps the greatest threat to Libya’s diverse heritage is the trafficking of archaeological materials, for profit or to fund radical groups….No one has been able to fully assess the situation in Libya. Going to work among the black smoke of grenades, the men and women of the Libyan Department of Antiquities are doing their best. But museums are closed and the little activity left in the field is limited to the north.

Until the fighting in Libya stops and archaeologists can again effectively cooperate with the government and international organizations to restore and protect sites like the rock art at Tadrart Acacus, Libya’s rich trove of monuments and artifacts will continue to be endangered.


The Valcamonica–Valtellina area is one of the most interesting in the Alps regarding rock art. Here, there is prehistoric rock art dating from the end of the Palaeolithic to the arrival of the Romans (16 BC ). Outcrops were decorated by hammering and scratching using quartz tools. ‘Crosses’, necklaces, and spirals are the most ancient figures attributed to the Neolithic (fifth millennium BC ) and have definite connections with the megalithic art of western Europe. Topographic figures appear later, during the fourth millennium BC . These images show motifs such as spots (pecked areas), double and single rectangles, groups of dots or lengthened dots (‘macaroni’), oval shapes, ‘mushrooms’, and the so-called ‘bandolier’ (a circular map). These motifs probably represent fields and constructions, real or imaginary. In the third millennium BC, the so-called final Neolithic (or Copper Age), statue-menhirs appear. These monuments were erected to create alignments near flat cairns, maybe for religious purposes or in connection with ancestor cults.

Angelo Eugenio Fossati, Università Cattolica del S. Cuore.

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Watch the video: Rock Drawings in Valcamonica UNESCONHK