Pozzi della Piana

Pozzi della Piana

Rock art engraving

Umbria – Orvieto (Terni)

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Pozzi della Piana rock art site

Paintings none
Engravings 1
Site dimensions +2500m lenght
Site orientation East
Site altitude a.s.l. 260m

Pozzi della Piana is a wide labyrinthine and flat karst system with five entrances and a complex subterranean network of galleries and chambers. Access is via shafts situated at some distance from the main utilised parts of the system. The cave opens on the right bank of the Forello Gorge, approximately 150 meters above the Tiber River. It extends into the upper part of a vast travertine bench along a mostly flat and fairly easy path of about 3 kilometers, with a maximum depth of 25 meters (cadastral caves registry of Umbria n°56 U/Pg). Inside, there is a network of tunnels and galleries, including a chamber called Sala dei Vortici (Vortex Hall), which is inhabited by bats. The cavity, in an advanced state of senescence, presents significant concretions such as veils, flows, stalactites, and stalagmites. In addition to its striking natural environments, the cave has yielded artifacts from the Early Neolithic period to the Bronze Age, with most material being of Middle Neolithic type. Among the recovered materials were some clumps of red ochre accumulated in natural holes. One centre of cult activity was a basin of water surrounded by a curtain of stalagmites and stalactites (Fontana Calioto or Galioto). Six or seven small cups of undecorated impasto pottery were found hidden in fissures or on shelves close by; all were upside down, presumably as the original users had left them. The cave also contains two smaller basins of water and a large spring.

In this cave, a water cult has been hypothesized in prehistoric times. The question that arises is whether the water – from the natural or artificial basins, or collected in pottery vessels – was used (as opposed to being venerated but not utilised) and, if so, what for? The archaeologists Ruth Whitehouse thinks it is likely that in Pozzi della Piana it was drunk: the clearest evidence are the little drinking cups placed upside down in niches and fissures close to a pool of stillicide water surrounded by stalagmites and stalactites.


Paper presented at the IIPP meeting on Umbria in the year 2023 by archaeologist Silvia Casciarri and colleagues on the cult complex of the Pozzi della Piana cave.

One of the five entrances to the cave system (photo by Tommaso Mattioli)
Plan of Pozzi della Piana cave system with the localization of the possible prehistoric engraving (adapted from Passeri 1970)
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Pozzi della Piana rock art figures

The prehistoric engraved figure was first mentioned in February 1967, during the discovery of the cave by the geologist and speleologist Leonsevero Passeri. This figure is located in the chamber known as ‘Fontana Calioto’ or ‘Fontana Galioto,’ situated in the innermost sector of the cave, close to a large rimstone pool. The engraving depicts a schematic anthropomorphic male cross-shaped figure, with legs rendered using a semicircular segment pointing downward.

The figure is depicted holding an elongated object in its right hand, with its head surrounded by four dot motifs. It is rotated and presented horizontally

The engraved figure at the moment of the discovery in 1967 (courtesy of Leonsevero Passeri)
The engraved figure of Pozzi della Piana (drawing by Tommaso Mattioli)
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Whitehouse, Ruth

Water turned to stone: stalagmites and stalactites in cult caves in prehistoric Italy Journal Article

In: Accordia Research Papers, vol. 14, pp. 49-62, 2015.



Mattioli, Tommaso

L'arte rupestre in Italia centrale : Umbria, Lazio, Abruzzo Book

Ali&no, Perugia, 2007, ISBN: 9788887594997.

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Bernabei, Marco; Cremonesi, Renata Grifoni

I culti delle acque nella preistoria dell'Italia peninsulare Journal Article

In: Rivista di Scienze Preistoriche, vol. 47, pp. 331-366, 1995.



Innamorati, Francesco

Brevi note sulla origine siriaca del culto di S.Romana praticato nelle grotte omonime di Titignano e del Monte Soratte e sulle frequentazioni della grotta di Titignano fra il XV e il XVIII sec. Journal Article

In: Simposio Internazionale sulla Protostoria della Speleologia, Città di Castello, 13-15 Novembre 1991, pp. 171-179, 1991.



Passeri, Leonsevero

Ritrovamenti preistorici nei Pozzi della Piana (Umbria) Journal Article

In: Rivista di Scienze Preistoriche, vol. XXV, no. 1, pp. 225-251, 1970.



Passeri, Leonsevero

Il Pozzo della Piana I nei travertini di Titignano Journal Article

In: Atti del VI Convegno di Speleologia - Italia Centro Meridionale, Firenze, 14-15 Novembre 1964, pp. 1-6, 1965.


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