The discovery of Valcamonica rock art

A past that never passes

Today Valcamonica is well known among scholars and people around the world for its prehistoric heritage and its rock art. Fifty years ago only its inhabitants and the few scholars that went there knew about it.

Rock art: the Big Rock of Naquane, National Rock Art Park, Capo di Ponte (Valcamonica)The historiography of the valley during the second millennium after Christ is rich in references to the Roman-age ruins, pagan deities and legends linked to the introduction of Christianity in the Valley.

Even though rock art was still actively produced between 1300 and 1600 a.C. there is not a single mention of it into the written sources.

The Romans themselves, firmly established in the Valley since the half of the I century B.C., never referred to this peculiar form of art, so deeply rooted in the everyday life of the mountain people as much as deliberately ignored by the official authority.

The engravings were under the eyes of shepherds and woodmen every day and in the end they started to be seen as signs of a forgotten and long gone past, the domain of witches and legendary beings using the signs on the rocks for their unknown magical rituals. The local inhabitants referred to the engravings with a simple word from their dialect - 'pitoti'-, meaning 'small figures', not even starting to guess the enormous cultural value of those signs on the rocks until it started to be recognized at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The Pioneers Discoverers Of The First Half Of '900

Gualtiero Laeng, a renowned researcher from Brescia, since his youth came to the Valley for his summer holiday and later on for his geological, archaeological and naturalistic studies. He reminded that back in 1908 he guided a group of people to the 'Preda dei Pitoti' nowadays known as the Boulder N.1 in Cemmo, an imposing example of engraved rock located in the Pian delle Greppe basin near Cemmo in Capo di Ponte.

Rock art: Cemmo's Boulder n. 1, Cemmo's Boulders Archaeological Park, Capo di Ponte (Valcamonica)In 1909, for the first time he officially informed the then National Committee for the Protection of Monuments of the existence of this incredible prehistoric heritage in the Valley. In an entry authored by himself for the Touring Club Guide of Italy of 1914 he wrote about 'two big solitary boulders with sculptures and graffiti similar to the famous ones found at the Meraviglie lake in the Maritime Alps'.

Forgotten for centuries and deleted from the collective memory, the rock art of the Valcamonica came back to the light of the world as cultural heritage at the beginning of the twentieth century. Researches started to be conducted systematically and were crowned by the systematization envisioned by Emmanuel Anati who, in 1964, created the Centro Camuno di Studi Preistorici (Valcamonica Center for Prehistoric Studies) in Capo di Ponte.