Natura, arte rupestre, archeologia, turismo culturale

Sottolaiolo

Since 1980, the soprintendenza archeologica della Lombardia  (archaeological superintendence of Lombardy) and the Centro Camuno di Studi Preistorici (CCSP) conducted an impressive archaeological survey between Paspardo and Capo di Ponte in preparation for the construction of a new road called the nuova strada della Deria.

In the spring of 1984, seven rocks were noted in a place locally known as Dos Sottolaiolo, which CCSP recorded and studied during the next few years, creating a corpus the Società Cooperativa Archeologica «Le Orme dell’Uomo» (Footsteps of Man Archaeological Cooperative Society) then published in 1988. Le Orme dell’Uomo resumed work here in 1995 when some ten new rocks were detected.

In local dialect, Dos Sottolaiolo means “hillock below the pond”, in memory of “Orecchina di mare”, a pool of stagnant water and marsh in the locality of Munfrì where run-off water from nearby mountains collected. Up-to the 1930s, this small body of water was used to soak flax and hemp plants from which linen could be made and woven.

Dos Sottolaiolo, a natural terrace by a cliff overlooking the valley floor, would have been well-placed strategically for watching over central Valcamonica. It also has breathtaking views of the mountains of Pizzo Badile Camuno to the south and Concarena to the west.  Today, chestnut, hazel, dogwood and wild cherry trees shade this slightly undulating area, but the prehistoric environment must have been very different given that chestnut cultivation was introduced by the Romans.

Most figures found on the rocks of Dos Sottolaiolo are attributable to the middle and late Iron Age, a few to the beginning, while several Christian symbols are obviously historical. It is worth noting this locale is very near Campanine di Cimbergo, the most dense area of historical rock engravings in the valley.

The Iron Age of Valcamonica is roughly the last millennium Before Bhrist or, more precisely, the timespan from 900 to 16 before christ, the year of the Camunni became part of the Roman empire. It is a period characterized by the development of iron metallurgy, especially for the manufacture of weapons and tools. Use of the new material often coincided with major economic and social changes that affected many aspects of people’s lives, including agricultural practice, religious belief and artistic style. Researchers often call this epoch Protohistory, the time immediately preceding the earliest forms of writing.

Dos Sottolaiolo’s predominant subject matter is undoubtedly the warrior, alone, weapons – helmet, shield and spear, sword or ax – in full view. Features of engraved weapons show a semblance to finds dating to the second half of the Iron Age. The giant-like warrior on rock 5, portrayed in a heroic pose with weapons raised and a short tunic revealing the genitals, is much like Etruscan images found elsewhere. The warrior wields a spear and “ox-hide” shield comparable to similar weapons and art dated to around the late fifth century before christ.

Duelling scenes, possibly of ritually enacted ceremonies, are another characteristic recurrent theme assigned to the Camunni of the Iron Age. For the ancient Italic people, duels had a socio-religious significance. Although not quite trial by combat, duels between champions of opposing communities could have taken the place of outright warfare, or they may even have been tournaments held in honour of the deceased. In Valcamonica, the duelling images were possibly recounting myths and legends of an epic duel between two ancestors, heroes or divinities.

There are also weapons, single or grouped, reminiscent of Chalcolithic and Bronze Age compositions. Wide-bladed battle-axes here are comparable with weapons found in alpine cultural contexts from the end of the Iron Age.

Juxtapositions of some figures of warriors with symbols raises interpretative doubts. The conundrum here is posed by four-lobed variants of the rose camune. Around a hundred of these occur in the valley. Even though they are more characteristic of the Iron Age, there is a continental dispersal of probable Bronze Age motifs in places as far as Portugal and Sweden. Many hypotheses ponder possible meanings, from solar symbols to musical instruments, but recently, some scholars have surmised they symbolize femininity.

Rose camune are somewhat analogous with palette, another mystery. Palette may depict ritual tools (maybe for collecting cremation ashes) that were found in numerous female burials and votive offerings of the Paleoveneti complex.

A few zoomorphs are found here: deer and quadrupeds, a serpentine motif and an animal of apparent historic age that looks like an elephant.

Cup marks, points and groups of pecked-like hammering marks look as if they were intentionally placed next to other figures, but for reasons that are not yet understood.

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Novembre  2017