Iron Age in Valcamonica rock art

The Warriors' Season

Rock art: warrior handling an axe and a shield from Campanine, Cimbergo, Natural Rock Art Reserve of Ceto, Cimbergo, Paspardo (Valcamonica)Finally, after being in the make for thousand of years during which new ideas, tribes and technological innovation got together, at the beginning of the last millennium before Christ the Valley saw the rising of an ethnic unification helped by a common way of life, economic system and shared religious beliefs. Scholars define this new group as Camunni.

To the Camunni as a specific cultural group inside the Alpine peoples then we will reserve the last eight centuries of the first millennium B.C.: the Iron Age.

The hegemonic processes established during the Bronze Age were cemented and perfected thanks to the arrival of the iron technology. Discovered by the Hittites in Anatolia centuries before, the iron arrived in the Valley bringing its load of superior efficiency and resistance, therefore a stronger economic value too. The chiefs became land principes and the warriors turned gradually into aristocrats thanks to the privileges assured them by monopolizing the weapons.

Rock art: deer attacked by a chasing dog during the hunt, Naquane National Rock Art Park, Capo di Ponte (Valcamonica)Metallurgy, an industry completely controlled by aristocracy, was improved with the help of Celtic experts and Etruscan traders. This was an age of boundless commerce, the trading network expanded to the farthest corners of the European continent, north and south.

Once again these changes can be found in the ideological production of the rocks' engravers. From the Bronze Age cult of the weapons there was a transition to the cult of the man bearing weapons.

Within this period we can place between 70 to 80% of the hundreds of thousands known engravings in the Valley. Many duel scenes and thousands of human beings, sometimes gigantic in size, boasting weapons, muscles and phallus represent a declaration of what the Camunni thought a man had to be: strong, virile, heroic, superior.

All the other figures like huts, labyrinths, footprints, hunting scenes, grids, inscriptions and several kind of symbols are nothing but a corollary to the main concept of the warrior as a superior being and, consequently, his caste as a ruling class. All the rest, mainly the world of the common people and their daily life, remains in the shadow.

The apex of the prehistoric man's epic in the Valley overlapped with the natural beginning of his decline. The very last centuries of the first millennium b.C. are Protohistory, an age leading to a new era shaped by urbanization and by the definitive spread of writing.