The symbol chosen by N E U N A U as its concept image is one of the most baffling figures among the wide range of prehistoric alpine iconography
“rock of the sun ” photo by Fulvio Roiter
At first, this symbol has been linked exclusively to the Valtellina, one of the major valleys of Northern Italy where it was first identified but then, in recent years, the most recent findings prove that it was widely known also in Valle Camonica. It is mostly visible on steles and other engraved boulders, and belongs to the wide and varied iconographical patrimony of the Italian Copper Age spanning between 4th and 3rd millenniums BC.
“caven 3” , town of Teglio (so)
“Borno 1”,town of Borno (BS)
These monuments are connected to the European cult of megalithic sanctuaries. In these ancestral places, intended for the cult of mythical ancestors (or even gods), series of rocks and boulders engraved with figures and symbols were placed in rows astronomically oriented towards the true north and standing vertical, facing East with their main side, towards the rising sun
(Loc. LOA, Town of Berzo Demo, Val Camonica) Photo by Paolo Rondini
NEUNAU: writing as a symbolic act
The prehistoric images engraved on the rocks are, to us, a nearly unintelligible form of communication: one of the most primitive forms of human expression, they have been found in many parts of the world from Australia to Europe, to America. Valle Camonica, an alpine valley in northern Italy, is one of the main areas of concentration of rock art worldwide. Here, between the high mountains and narrow glens, the figures fixed permanently on the rock surfaces go along with the evolution of man and, from 13000 BP until the modern era, have carried their legacy to us, offering a unique link to our ancestor’s way of living, thinking, communicating.
It is in only between the 6 th and the 5 th century BC that we begin to meet, engraved together with the “old” figures of men, symbols and animals, the first inscriptions. The writings are performed in two ways: with the technique of percussing the rocks with stone tools and with the graffiti technique, done by scraping the rocks with metal tools. These inscriptions use a local version of the Etruscan alphabet, moulded to express a language that we, today, still do not understand.
Our actual knowledge allows us to recognize some names, like NEUNAU, Mapas, Enes au, Teniau, and so on. Even if between these words there are some which may be referable to certain known deities, it is thought that the majority of the names inscripted belonged to the people that lived here: maybe to express their devotion to the ancient gods or, possibly, to accompany their journey to the netherworld.
A. Marretta, S. Solano, Pagine di Pietra. Scrittura e immagini a Berzo Demo fra età del Ferro e Romanizzazione, Parco Nazionale delle Incisioni Rupestri, Capo di Ponte, Quaderni, 4, 2014