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Sottolaiolo – rose camune

Rock 1 of dos Sottolaiolo has rose camune (four-lobed clover-like shapes).

The rosa camuna, one of the most famous symbols in the rock-art of Valcamonica, has fascinated scholars ever since its first disclosure, when it immediately roused wide debate on possible interpretations.

Today, the rosa camuna is the symbol of the region of Lombardy. A team led by Bruno Munari retrieved the symbol from the scientific archives of the Centro Camuno di Studi Preistorici, studied its shape and so derived a version that was was finally adopted as the logo of the region in 1977.

The most common variation of the rosa camuna consists of nine cup-marks arranged as three rows and three columns with a four-lobed outline weaving in and out between the outer dots. Another variety is the so-called swastika shape where nine cup-marks form a cross with a swirling outline weaving around the outer dots. Most of the rose camune (roughly a hundred are known) are found in the municipality of Paspardo and in the park of Luine in Darfo Boario Terme. The largest is at Carpene di Sellero (a fifty-centimetre diameter swastika-like shape), while the most iconic and famous are on rock 24 of Foppe di Nadro.

What appears to be the oldest swastika shape bears similarity to those first seen in Mesopotamia during the sixth millennium before Christ, which then spread to Europe and Asia. The earliest examples in Italy are from Late Bronze Age Etruscan and Venetian territories. It first appeared in Valcamonica during the seventh century before Christ and from V century, the four-lobed variety took over.

There are many interpretations – some find analogies with Catherine wheels and sistrums (musical instruments), associating the image with Celtic culture; others suggest a probable assimilation through cultural and commercial contact with the Etruscan and Italic people during the first half of the Iron Age.

In Valcamonica, rose camune are often associated with armed figures, possibly signs of protection or good luck bound to a masculine sphere, but there are feminine items like jewellery and belts among artefacts from the Hallstatt culture. An explanation for this apparent discrepancy could be that Camunni art of the Iron Age celebrated virile warriors, whereas a few select symbols may have represented feminine qualities.