Cemmo boulders menaced by a road

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Cemmo 2 boulder

TRACCE no. 1 – by Angelo Fossati and Elena Marchi


In this article there is outlined the story of the road and of the tunnel that the Capo di Ponte Municipality (Valcamonica, Italy) is opening 60 meters far from the Cemmo Boulders.

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Cemmo 2 engraved figures

Cemmo 2 engraved figures

The two boulders (Cemmo 1 and Cemmo 2) are the first engraved rocks found in 1909 in Valcamonica. It was the Italian geographer Gualtiero Laeng who gave news about the “Massi di Cemmo”. The rocks were studied some years later by Italian and foreign scholars. The engravings are 262 and belong to a period between 5 and 4 thousands years ago.

These petroglyphs document the oldest chariot and plough figures of the European prehistory.
The area where the boulders are, “il Pian delle Greppe” has been protected with a bond since 1961. This bond was enlarged in 1981 and in 1983 after the discoveries of the engraved stelae (dated to Copper age) Cemmo 3 and Cemmo 4. This bond was asked for and stated by the Archaeological Superintendency of Lombardy and confirmed by the State Ministry of Culture. In 1991 the new Archaeological Superintendent of Culture, Dr. Angelo Maria Ardovino, and the Ministry of Culture cancelled the bond and gave the permission to build the road that connects Capo di Ponte to Pescarzo, a little village hamlet of Capo di Ponte. Recent investigations certify that the bond was never cancelled but only ignored because of political pressures. Nobody knows and understands why he changed the decisions of his predecessors.

Moreover six months ago the local inspector of the Archaeological Superintendency, Dr. Raffaella Poggiani Keller, found a fragment of a Copper Age stele in a trench, made just in front of the area where the entrance of the tunnel has to be constructed. This confirms that the area maintains a great archaeological importance.

The Minister of Culture, Prof. Antonio Paolucci, on October the 20th, 1995, decided to stop the building of the road. Then a commission came to Cemmo and decided to confirm the stoppage of the works. But on November the 20th a second commission decided to allow the works on condition that the road should turn in an S shape just outside of the tunnel. The Minister ordered the carrying out of the excavations in the area before the tunnel is finished.

Cemmo 1 boulder

Cemmo 1 boulder

This was the sad story of the Cemmo boulders.
Some questions remain:

  • how can an area, bound and protected for 34 years because of its archaeological importance, have its bond cancelled?
  • we are not sure that the blowing up of the mines (that started on October the 11th) do not damage the boulders and the engravings
  • if in a bounded area the bond can be cancelled and a road constructed what will happen to other important sites that are not bounded yet?

We hope that UNESCO will take a strong position asking for conservation of the area that is included in the World Heritage List

Angelo Fossati – Elena Marchi
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