Rock engravings

Bessa was frequented before the gold mine exploitation by Romans and the combining of the metal and high concentration of erratic blocks, with surfaces suitable to be engraved, caused this presence, of which we have important signs: more than 600 engravings mainly hemispheric shaped, commonly called "cup marks". Despite a quite homogeneous distribution most of the engraved rocks are concentrated between Filippi and Vermogno hamlets (Zubiena) that is on 1/3 of the Terrace surface. This anomaly can be explained as the morainal hills, delimiting the right side of Bessa, end in Vermogno, and the settlements were probably placed on these sunny and safe hills. It is clear that the acts connected to the engraving were near the populated areas because of the high availability of surfaces. Rocks are generally posed on little hillocks, planes and never in the shade, besides most of the engravings are on horizontal surfaces or surfaces leaning towards the sun and are in this case mostly concentrated on the upper part; these characteristics suggest that a high sunny condition was predominant in the choice.


Rock n. 14                                    Rock n. 50 (evil rock)


Rock n. 29         Rock n. 32

Rock n. 43         Rock n. 31


Nowadays it is not possible to date the rock engravings in Bessa as the exploitation has affected the surface layer of the ground almost entirely; most of the surrounding high grounds went through a continuous anthropization up to today and it has not been possible to conduct any surveys at the roots of the few rocks that might have preserved the original sediment. However the wide variety of types and dimensions suggest a very long engraving period. Besides it is important to consider that the rocks are situated between 370 and 340 m in height, in an ideal settlement area, near streams. The idea according to which the rock engravings in Bessa developed when the Romans exploited the mines should be abandoned, as their distribution is limited to 1.5 km2, against a total surface of the upper Terrace superior to 4.5; in addition, the area where there is the larger concentration of settlements relative to the roman mine does not coincide with the engraving area. A still present echo of cults connected to stones can be found on two rocks placed at the ends of the engraved area. The Roch d'la Sguia (sliding rock) is a wonderful monolith (almost a huge egg) on which longitudinal striations, due to the transport in the glacier, are still visible. On the rounded back, besides a series of cup marks, there is the smooth sign produced by several "slides" of women looking for fertility (and in recent time by children playing). The old connection between stones and procreation is well known in many parts of Europe and it is linked to protohistoric cultures whose influence arrived to us. Opposed to the beneficial Roch d'la Sguia there is the Roch Malegn (evil rock), a huge and sharp-edged rock broken into 3 pieces, that still today a few inhabitants of the area do not like to see or mention. The predominant and sunnier fragment is engraved with a substantial series of cup marks mainly connected two by two by a little channel. The insisting presence of the couple theme suggests that also in this case the fertility entered the history of this rock a long time ago; this could explain its very bad fame probably due to an anathema of Christian origin.


Sliding rock                                           Evil rock


In despite of the several subdivisions provided by the International Card of Rock Art, most of the cup marked rocks appear covered with sequences of scattered signs apparently accidental. However in Bessa a series of engravings that look like intentional compositions appear on two rocks. The first one (n.5), situated below Roletti hamlet (Zubiena) presents on the flat upper surface more than 80 cup marks; 61 of them seem organized in a balanced structure and provided with symmetry, where the continuity and the regularity of the signs suggest a wanted unit execution and seem to represent an object provided with handle (a double row of cup marks), at its top, on the left side, there is a trapezium form and on the right one a long appendage. This "object" presents strong similarity with the "axes with bent handle" engraved on French megaliths, but obviously the relationship is only a work hypothesis. The second rock situated below Vermogno hamlet (Zubiena) presents 5 alignments of cup marks, partly connected by little channels, parallel to each other. Also in this case the composition of the signs seems to be intentional, considering that the alignment of more than 3 cup marks is very rare both in Bessa (7 in total, 5 on the examined rock) and anywhere else.



-Rock n. 5                                         Rock n. 41




A serpentine shale staele, 2.90 m long, 60 cm wide and 80 cm thick has been located in Fontana del Buchin. The apical part is prism-shaped, maybe simulating a head, from which bent shoulders descend. The base of the presumed "head" presents a collar engraving, but because of the schistosity of the rock, it has not been possible to determine if this was intentional. A bent pectoral cavity, surely artificial, occupies the below part for about 40 cm in height. The bottom part, narrowed down, ends with a diagonal cut point, bordered by a rounded step working. The back surface, flat in the shoulders, continues towards the bottom with convexity and concavity hard to explain with natural erosion phenomena. The stele was in commanding position towards the border of the Terrace, near the most abundant stream of the Park, where there are no engraved rocks, and lies on the ground towards south-east, in line with the winter solstice dawn. Archaeological inquires are running to establish the dating for this important find, probably belonging to a period prior to the roman presence.







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