Vol. 153 (2023): Archivio per l'Antropologia e la Etnologia
Research Papers

Tra assenza e presenza delle figure di cervidi nell'arte rupestre della Valcamonica. Frammenti di una simbologia ricorsiva

Giulia Pessina
Dipartimento di Storia, Archeologia e Storia dell’arte, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano
Dario Sigari
CNRS - UMR 5608 TRACES. Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès - Maison de la Recherche / Istituto di Scienze del patrimonio Culturale (ISPC). Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) - Montelibretti (Roma)
The cover of the CLIII_2023 volume

Published 2023-11-01


  • prehistoric art,
  • animal figures,
  • liminality,
  • interpretation,
  • prehistoric cultures

How to Cite

Pessina, G., & Sigari, D. (2023). Tra assenza e presenza delle figure di cervidi nell’arte rupestre della Valcamonica. Frammenti di una simbologia ricorsiva . Archivio Per l’Antropologia E La Etnologia, 153, 119–136. https://doi.org/10.36253/aae-2345


The article considers the consistency and distribution of the figures of cervids in Valcamonica rock art, through the systematic analysis of their presence/absence in the Palaeolithic, Chalcolithic, and Iron Age engravings. The attention for these animals unites, since the Palaeolithic, the iconography of geographically distant cultural facies. The primordial and constant presence of this family of mammals in the Alpine and Pre-Alpine territory, in particular, favours the observation of specific attributes of the animal, selected and reworked in the pre- and proto-historical imagery and culture, and potentially «veiled» by the mantle of symbolic superstructures. In Valcamonica,
Pleistocene engravings of cervids relate dynamically to the surrounding post-glacial environment. In the Chalcolithic, they dominate the zoomorphic apparatus of the male statue-stelae, the monoliths-totem of the clans. The proto-historical world, on the other hand, sees them as protagonists of the initiation rituals of young warriors. Through different historical-cultural phases, semantic correspondences seem to persist between deer and the concepts of light/fire, remarked by the comparison with the recent tradition of the valley. Further considerations highlight the role of cervids/deer as animals markedly liminal that is, ideally framed in multiple spatial and «metaphysical» dimensions.