Vol. 9 (2020): Stones, Castles and Palaces to Be Read: Graffiti and Wall Writings in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
Part Two - Case Studies

The Mind of the Shepherds: Five Centuries of History Told by the Rocks of the Fiemme Valley

Marta Bazzanella
Museo degli Usi e Costumi della Gente Trentina
Published March 7, 2020
Keywords
  • Ethno-Archaeology,
  • Fiemme Valley,
  • Rock Art,
  • Shepherd’s Writings,
  • Trentino – Northern Italy
How to Cite
Bazzanella, M. (2020). The Mind of the Shepherds: Five Centuries of History Told by the Rocks of the Fiemme Valley. Journal of Early Modern Studies, 9, 141-162. https://doi.org/10.13128/jems-2279-7149-11193

Abstract

Mount Cornón in the Fiemme Valley (Eastern Trentino, Northern Italy) was subject to intensive use in a local economy based on forestry, agriculture and animal farming. Through the centuries the shepherds working in this area left thousands of inscriptions on the rock using red ochre. There are initials, family symbols, acronyms, dates, names, livestock tallies, portrayals of animals, greetings and short anecdotes. What is surprising is their ability to write before the first literacy schools in the valley were established. The resulting visual effect is that of a painted mountain, which looks like other rock art contexts of the Alps such as, for instance, Valcamonica in Lombardy or Monte Bego in France; but there the writings are engraved on the rocks. The ongoing historical-ethnographic and ethno-archaeological research on the rock art sites of Mount Cornón by the Museo degli Usi e Costumi della Gente Trentina aims to reveal the circumstances of pastoral life in the Fiemme valley over the last five centuries and, thus, to discover the particular socio-economic and cultural context that brought the writings into being.