Riparo Dalmeri

A treasure chest for the prehistory of Trentino and Europe

​Riparo Dalmeri is a prehistoric archaeological site of local and European relevance. Excavations covered nearly two decades, from 1991 to 2009. Thanks to the abundance and good preservation state of the findings, it led us to understand the habits, the activities and the relationship with the mountain territory of those living in the area by the end of the Paleolithic about 13,000 years ago.

Riparo Dalmeri is located at 1,240 m above sea level, on the Northern edge of the Marcèsina plain, in the municipality of Grigno (Trento).

The hunters of Riparo Dalmeri exploited a territory covering the alpine prairies of the plateau (around 1,200-1,350 m above sea level), the conifer forests at slightly lower latitudes, and spread out to the ancient valley floor of the river Brenta.

The economics of those dwelling in Riparo Dalmeri was based on ibex hunting, although some findings reveal the presence of other animals such as deer, roe, and chamois, and more sporadically bear, badger, beaver, wild boar, and elk. The diet of the inhabitants also included birds and fish. Fish remainders - mainly barbel and chub and to a lesser extent trout, grayling, and pike - led to presume fishing activities in the river Brenta, with subsequent transport of whole fish to the shelter.

The inhabitants of the shelter were nomadic: they spent their summer on the mountains and the winter at lower latitudes.

During the excavations several striking discoveries were made, including what was probably a hut. It is a circular, 4m diameter building, enclosed by a string of stones mixed with lithic finds and fauna remainders. 

The remarkable discovery of as many as 265 stones painted with red ochre, occurred between 2001 and 2007, brought the site into consideration also from an artistic and religious perspective.

The ochre paintings, realized on local stone, embrace different figurative types such as anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, phytomorphic, and schematic representations or symbolisms, hand imprints and, mostly, surfaces with color traces.

A few dozen stones carry some sort of "recognition mark" on the side opposite to the painting. This feature suggests a recurrent ritual, as the possibility to identify and collect the same stone again is considered. This could indicate a sort of renovation or reactivation of the same - maybe propitiating - ritual consisting into recognizing, manipulating, and flipping the same object over in sequence. The same act of painting them might in itself have been a ritual gesture.

During the summer, Riparo Dalmeri opens to visitors with a schedule of activities to experience an immersive adventure in the nature and history of 13,000 years ago. Guided tours, archaeological workshops and prehistorical demonstrations (in Italian language) make a unique experience towards the discovery of life, art and spirituality of our prehistoric ancestors.