The Dolmen at Monticello near Finale Ligure

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Monticello dolmen

The Author describes the megalith known as Dolmen di Monticello: location, orientation, structure, geomorphology and other features found during the repeated personal observations. The Village of Monticello is located at 82 m. above sea level, along the western slopes of Gottaro. The first mention of this settlement dates back to 1268 when there was the division of inheritance between the sons of Giacomo Del Carretto, Marquis of Savona.

by Alfredo Pirondini


The Dolmen at Monticello near Finale Ligure
(Western Liguria, Italy): actuality and research perspectives


 

Description

The Village of Monticello is located at 82 m. above sea level, along the western slopes of Gottaro. The first mention of this settlement dates back to 1268 when there was the division of inheritance between the sons of Giacomo Del Carretto, Marquis of Savona. In fact, that document contains the citation “campagna et territorium Monticelli”. Probably, however, the origins are more ancient, related to discoveries of prehistoric structures (the remains of hillfort, with bases of huts, dating back, probably to Iron Age) near the village and on the St. Bernardino Plateau.

Later this fraction followed the same political fate of Finale Marquisate. It easy reached from Medieval Village of Finale Ligure, via a paved road and pedestrian paths, in about 15 minutes.

Once at the Church of St. Dalmazzo, a road leads to “Casa Boero”. From here a path with no trail, but well marked, leads to the Casa dei Lupi Morti, with a plot surrounded by citrus groves and terraces. We go, then, along the cliffs beneath St. Bernardino and, finally, on a path with a splendid view on Castel Gavone and the archaeological area of Perti Alto (with the Church of St. Eusebio and another one dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto), we reach the dolmen.

This megalith is located at 199 m. above sea level. The coordinates, measured with GPS apparatus, are:

Latitude: 44°11’22,380” North; Longitude: 8°19’52,392” East.

The dolmen is located in Valeggia along the northern slopes of Bric delle Pernici, on the upstream side up of the path that leads, with a short trip, the of St. Bernardino Plateau, a table land rich in prehistoric and protostoric archaeological findings.

It is completely made up of the Finale Stone (limestone of Miocene bioclastic origin, rich in fossil remains of marine sediments), about 250 cm high, with a horizontal table (major axis oriented in East-West direction), an orthostat downstream (along the path) consisting of a single stone structure, and an upstream orthostat composed of two large stones adjacent to a sort of dry wall on which is also part of the horizontal table (Figure 1). The room has a maximum height of 100 cm and its bisector is placed on the North-South axis (Photos 1 and 2).

Photo 1: the dolmen from South

Photo 2: the dolmen from North

The Author was able to observe that at 12.00 o’clock on January 19, 2011, the sunlight illuminated the chamber of the dolmen.

The board has a transverse “V-shaped” burst and the top is eroded by surface karst phenomena, but, some erosion could be interpreted as a petroglyph and even as cupmarks. A bigger basin, now filled of weeds (Photos 3 and 4), is similar to those found on the stone above the Stone-Altar above Arma  Strapatente (“Arma” is a Ligurian term for Cave) (18).

Photo 3: horizontal table from East

Photo 4: compass in the basin of the table

The floor of the room is not been probed since the megalithic complex has been considered the result of a landslide, and thus of “random” nature (13).

Discussion

It seems appropriate, at this point, to make few observations.

    1. If the landslide origin cannot be excluded, it seems an unlikely hypothesis. These landslides for collapse of rocks, consist in a sudden release of large rock masses placed on walls or very steep slopes. The initial movement is, as its main component, the vertical drop down, until the material reaches the side. After the impact there may be rebounding and/or rolling of the material. The collapse takes place when the cutting strength of the material along a surface becomes less than the weight of the block of rock (or soil) identified from this area. These types of phenomena are characterized by extreme speed. The result of the landslide is composed of an accumulation of debris of different sizes at the foot of the slope and is possible that larger stony blocks can be found at a considerable distance from the place of the posting. The predisposing causes are the existence of fracture zones and/or schistosity. The triggering causes are earthquakes, “cryoclastic” phenomena (dilating action of ice in rock cracks), the rain, the development of plant root apparatus, the undermining of the foot of the slope by man or natural erosion. These are all common events in the Finale Area, because of the characteristics of Finale Stone, but the dolmen arrangement is not a typical outcome of a landslide (14), (26).
      Comparison with a bold and questionable from the standpoint of geology and statistics, but very intuitive, it would be like expecting to build a small dolmen with playing cards and throwing up, falling on a table, you have in this way. I do not imagine how many attempts would be needed, but is probabilistic question.
      In addition, the path which runs immediately after the dolmen is at that point consists of solid rock, with no signs of impacts with other stones and are not viewable crowns (the part of material involved in the phenomenon, immediately adjacent to the top of the slope of landslide) or titles (top of the soil collapsed).

 

    1. The fracture on the horizontal rock of dolmen is “V-shaped”, with apex at the bottom (Photo 5). If fracture has been produced by the impact against the vertical rock in the downstream would have the apex at the top. This gap is more like a mechanical cryoclastic diaclasis event (the water, becoming ice, increases of 9% the original volume and generates sufficient pressure to fracture any kind of rock, especially the Stone of Finale) (14), (26).

 

  1. Dolmens and Menhirs are not strangers to the Finalese and Subalpine cultural zones, as previously thought until a few decades ago.
    It was believed, in fact, that the megalithic culture had been arrested in the Alps region, without crossing the Alps. Only exception was Puglia (in Southern Italy). There the dolmens, and other megaliths were, however, attributed to the influx of populations from Balkan Peninsula, across the Adriatic. In the rest of the Mediterranean basin, in fact, megalithism is well represented. The publication of S. Puglisi “La Civiltà Appenninica. Origine delle comunità pastorali in Italia” (21) in the late 50s of last century and the discovery, in the 60s, of the Eneolithic necropolis of Aosta, rebuts this argument (4) , (7), (8), (9), (10).
    Regarding to Liguria, in the second half of the 80s, two circular burial mounds have been identified near Sanremo (Imperia province). One of which, studied with stratigraphic methods, by the local branch of the Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri (i.e.: International Institute of Ligurian Studies), was attributed to the final phase of the Bronze Age (1).
    As a consequence, the penetration of megalithism in this region, presumably from nearby Provence, was proved.
    Accordingly, other Ligurian artifacts, especially in the Finalese (just mention the menhir and dolmen of Verezzi), until then, even with reservations, related to a recent rural life, took a different meaning and the lack of megalithic remains in Italy, differently from transalpine regions (northwestern and island species), could be explained by the increased turnover of civilization over time, that would have radically transformed the appearance of the area, resulting in the loss of many of these artifacts (7), (8), (9), (10).

Photo 5: “V-shaped” fracture of horizontal table

Figure 1: Diagram and position of dolmen

Conclusions

At the end of this short dissertation, which will not and cannot be exhaustive on the issue, it seems fitting to repeat that the source of this dolmen remains mysterious and the dating is only hypothetical.

The creation of megalithic structures, such as menhirs and dolmens, is placed in a period of time between the end of the fifth millennium at the end of the third millennium BC, corresponding roughly to a period between the Neolithic and the Bronze Ages (16), (20).

This dating would be corresponding with that of other megaliths, already described by authoritative experts and by the Author, in the vicinity of dolmen object of the present study (such as the rudimentary anthropomorphic Stele of “Pila delle Penne”), Plateau of St. Bernardino (including the so-called Observatory of Bric Pianarella), but also other megaliths of Finalese (2), (3), (5), (6), (12), (13), (15), (18), (19), (21), (23), (24), (25).

The excavation on this wider horizontal board, currently occupied by weeds, might have had the function of collecting liquid and, therefore, a ritual significance (11), (18).

It would be useful and desirable, therefore, further archaeological investigations (not excluding surveys of the soil at the base of the dolmen and its surroundings) and archaeoastronomical, not only of this megalith, but also of other nearby findings of the St. Bernardino Plateau that, at the time, looks very promising and represent only some examples of findings that would deserve a more detailed study in the light of modern scientific knowledge (e.g. archaeometry, archaeoastronomy, geology, etc.) that could lead to important innovations in the area of Western Liguria and, especially, in the Finalese.


References

  1. Alessi C. (2009). Sanremo (IM). Siti Archeologici a Monte Bignone. Archeomedia – Rivista di Archeologia On-line (settembre 2009)
  2. Bagolini B., Cremonesi G. Il processo di neolitizzazione in Italia, Atti XXVI Riunione Scientifica I.I.P.P. 1987, 21-30.
  3. Bernabò Brea L. Gli scavi nella caverna delle Arene Candide, I, 1946-II, 1956.
  4. Bernardini E. Guida alle civiltà megalitiche. Vallecchi, Firenze, 1977
  5. Biagi P., Nisbet R. Popolazione e territorio in Liguria tra il XII e il IV millennio b.c., in AA.VV., Scritti in ricordo di Graziella Massari Gaballo e di Umberto Tocchetti Pollini, Milano 1986; 19-272
  6. Capelli C., Cabella R., Del Lucchese A., Piazza M., Starnini E. Archaeometric analyses of Early and Middle Neolithic pottery from the Pian del Ciliegio rock shelter (Finale Ligure, NW Italy), ArchéoSciences, 2008; 32:115-124.
  7. Codebò M. Archaeo-astronomical hypotheses on some ligurian engravings, Proceeding NEWS95 – INTERNATIONAL ROCK ART CONGRESS, North East West South 1995 Turin, Italy, by Ce.S.M.A.P.-I.F.R.A.O., Survey supplement 1999, Pinerolo, Italy.
  8. Codebò M. Prime Indagini Archeoastronomiche in Liguria, Memorie della Società Astronomica Italiana – Journal of the Italian Astronomical Society. 1997; 63 (3).
  9. Codebò M. I menhir di Torre Bastia. Notiziario C.A.I., Sezione Ligure, Sottosez. Bolzaneto,1993; 11: 30-31.
  10. Codebò M. I Primi Passi di un Archeostronomo, Bollettino dell’Osservatorio Astronomico di Genova. 1994; 66:12-20.
  11. Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (C.I.L.II, 2395 ).
  12. Del Lucchese A. Il Riparo di Pian del Ciliegio, Quaderni del Museo Archeologico del Finale, 2009.
  13. Giuggiola O. Una costruzione megalitica a Finale,  Rivista Ingauna ed Intemelia, 1984; 39.
  14. Matsuoka N., Murton J. Frost. Weathering: Recent Advances and Future Directions, Permafrost and Periglac. Process. 19: 195–210 (2008).
  15. Pirondini A. Osservazioni su un sito di interesse archeologico nei pressi del Castelliere delle Anime (Rocca di Perti – Finale Ligure). TRACCE Online Rock Art Bulletin (2010),
  16. Pirondini A. Castelliere of Verezzi – Hillfort in Italy in Liguria, The Megalithic Portal. Andy Burnham Editor, 2010
  17. Pirondini A. Site near Finale Ligure, The Megalithic Portal. Andy Burnham Editor (2010)
  18. Pirondini A. Struttura megalitica soprastante l’Arma Strapatente (Orco-Feglino, Finalese, Liguria), Archeomedia – Rivista di Archeologia On-line. (2010),
  19. Pirondini A. Il Riparo Sotto Roccia di Pian del Ciliegio: un Sito Neolitico del Finalese, TRACCE Online Rock Art Bullettin (2011)
  20. Pirondini A. Castelliere di Verezzi: Industrie Litiche. Archeomedia – Rivista di Archeologia On-line. (2010),
  21. Pirondini A. Pian del Ciliegio Rock Shelter, The Megalithic Portal, Andy Burnham Ed. 2011;
  22. Puglisi S. M., La civiltà appenninica. Origine delle comunità pastorali in Italia, Firenze, 1959
  23. Schipani De Pasquale R., Riccobono F. Originale utilizzo di materiali “da spetramento” in area suburbana, In: Colloquio Internazionale Archeologia ed Astronomia di AA.VV., R.d.A., 1991; supplem. n. 9. Roma.
  24. Tinè S., Il Neolitico e l’età del Bronzo in Liguria alla luce delle recenti scoperte, in Atti XVI Riunione Scientifica I.I.P.P., 1974: 37-54
  25. Tizzoni M. Incisioni all’aperto nel Finalese, Liguria, Bollettino del Centro Camuno Studi Preistorici, 1975; 12.
  26. Walder J.S., Hallet B. The Physical Basis of Frost Weathering: Toward a More Fundamental and Unified Perspective, Arctic and Alpine Research, (18), 1, 27-32 (1986).

Aknowledgements

  • My father (10/13/1929 – 05.21.2005), in the 7th anniversary of the death, who first introduced me to the rock art of Valcamonica.
  • y Family for the company during this Research.

© 2012 by Alfredo Pirondini

One comment

  1. Wolfgang Schreiber says:

    A feature article on this interesting megalith in finalese zone. Vivid congratulations.

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