The post-palaeolithic record of the Italian peninsula and the Apennine Mountais.

Rava Tagliata

Red paintings in Rava Tagliata shelter (Abruzzo). Before and after Dstretch.

This database seeks to provide an up-to-date review of the quantity and consistency of post-Palaeolithic rock art on the Peninsula, particularly along the Apennine Mountains. These rock art sites differ in their shape and their placement in the landscape, as well as the colour used to create the paintings or the engraving techniques employed, the organisation of the motifs on the panel, the iconography of the figures, and, as a consequence, the chronology to which the rock art can be attributed. For all these aspetcs, please refer to the bibliography indicated in the individual record or in the bibliography section of this website. Before scrolling down to the database of artistic record of the Apennine mountains and the Italian Peninsula, it is worth considering the historical development of rock art research in this area. The timeline below collects the main milestones.

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Brief history of the research

An overview of the history of rock art research along the Apennine mountains and the Italian peninsula

Interest in rock art on the Italian peninsula south of the Alps, and particularly along the Apennine Mountains, began in the spring of 1936 with Alberto Carlo Blanc (1906-1960). At that time, he was one of Italy’s most prominent figures in prehistoric studies and an internationally known scholar. In the 1930s, Blanc was systematically surveying the caves of the Lepini Mountains in the Pontine region near Rome. During this survey, he discovered a 30-cm-high red painting of an anthropomorphic figure in a large shelter near the village of Sezze (province of Latina) known to the local farmers as the Arnalo dei Bufali (Cave of the Buffalos).

The official report to the National Archaeological Board was not made until 27 February 1939, the year the find was published. It was reported in a letter from the president of the Italian Institute of Human Palaeontology, Gian Alberto Blanc, Alberto Carlo’s father, to the Royal Superintendency of Antiquities of Lazio. In analysing the Arnalo dei Bufali painting, Alberto Carlo Blanc wrote that “there are no similar figures in Italy” [1] but that it resembled the phi figures “that abound in the neo-Eneolithic rock art of Spain”. In fact, the Arnalo dei Bufali painting was the first evidence of schematic rock art found outside the Iberian Peninsula and Blanc was correctly attempting to interpret this evidence from a Mediterranean perspective. André Glory did the same for the post-Palaeolithic rock art paintings of southern France, although some years after Blanc [2].

Blanc’s knowledge of the schematic rock art of the Iberian Peninsula derived from a close relationship and sincere mutual affection with Henri Breuil (1877-1961), who had published four famous volumes on that rock art tradition just a few years before the discovery of Arnalo dei Bufali. Their friendship had begun in 1935 when they jointly discovered the second Neanderthal skull at Saccopastore in Rome [3][4]. For this reason, Alberto Carlo Blanc was able to invite Breuil, together with his friend Hugo Obermaier (1877-1946) and the Chinese palaeontologist, archaeologist and anthropologist Pei Wenzhong (1904-1982), considered a founding father of Chinese anthropology, to visit the Arnalo dei Bufali shelter between 1936 and 1939. He wanted them to examine the painting and to attempt to confirm its authenticity and relevant antiquity [5].

Since 1939 until recent times, rock art research on the Italian Peninsula has been undertaken by several people, both professional and amateur. In the last years, particularly interesting discoveries have been done in Umbria, Abruzzo, Molise, Puglia and Gargano regions. The timeline hereafter provides an overview and brief tour of the milestones content, with a few illustrations of significant contributions to the history of rock art research in this area


  1. Alberto Carlo Blanc (1939): Dipinto schematico rupestre nell'Arnalo dei Bufali sotto Sezze Romano. In: Bullettino di Paletnologia Italiana, vol. III, pp. 1-10, 1939.
  2. André Glory (1941): Quelques peintures ibériques dans l'Ariège. In: Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique du Midi de la France, pp. .165-171, 1941.
  3. Henri Breuil and Alberto Carlo Blanc (1935): Il nuovo cranio di Homo neanderthalensis e la stratigrafia del giacimento di Saccopastore (Roma). In: Bollettino della Società Geologica Italiana, vol. 54, no. 2, pp. 289-300, 1935.
  4. Massimo Tarantini (2015): Continuità, rinnovamenti, contaminazioni. Preistoria e protostoria in Italia dal 1925 al 1962. In: Guidi, Alessandro (Ed.): 150 anni di preistoria e protostoria in Italia, pp. 163-177, Istituto Italiano di Preistoria e Protostoria (Studi di Preistoria e Protostoria I), Firenz, 2015.
  5. Flavio Altamura and Alberto Bertolini Blanc and Giovanna Bertolini Blanc and Ilenia Lungo and Margherita Mussi (2019): La scoperta dell'Arnalo dei Bufali I(Sezze, LT): documenti fotografici inediti dall'archivio Blanc-Aguet. In: Ipotesi di Preistoria, vol. 11, pp. 145-148, 2019.



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