University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Rock-art in the taskscape: a GIS-based approach to understanding the role of Iron Age rock-art in the lived landscape of Valcamonica (BS), Italy
Craig Alexander

Last modified: 2011-12-18


Italian rock-art has traditionally been studied from an art-historical perspective rather than from the perspectives of landscape and social archaeology. In this paper I reconstruct the population and habitation structures of Iron Age Valcamonica along with the likely associated economic geography. From these elements I develop an understanding of the taskscape and the role of rock-art sites within it. Analyses include a GIS-based demographic reconstruction and predictive site modelling in addition to more traditional viewshed, intervisibility and anisotropic least-cost path analyses. Issues of location and demography cast strong doubt on the currently dominant hypothesis in Italian archaeology regarding the production of the rock-art: that it was the result of initiation rites for aristocratic warriors. It is demonstrated, rather, that the rock-art of Iron Age Valcamonica was an integral part of the lived landscape and was likely the work of shepherds, hunters and wild-food gatherers. De Lumley’s magisterial work on the rock-art of Monte Bego on the French-Italian border is called Le grandiose e le sacré – this innovative paper argues that we should regard the rock-art of Valcamonica as being mundane and quotidian rather than grandiose and sacred and all the more interesting for those very reasons.


GIS; taskscape; economic geography; demographic reconstruction; predictive site modelling