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5,000-year-old 'cenotaph' unearthed in northwestern Italy

A Neolithic cist grave dating back 5,000 years has been found during the first excavation campaign at the BC2 site, in the locality of Barma Cotze, in the Adret of the Municipality of Donnas  in the Adret of the Municipality of Donnas, on the slope overlooking the medieval village. The excavation was jointly undertaken by the Region (Cultural Heritage, Tourism, Sport and Commerce Department and Superintendence Department for Cultural Heritage and Activities) and Ferrara University (Humanities Department) for prehistoric archaeological research in the Valle d'Aosta area.

5,000-year-old 'cenotaph' unearthed in northwestern Italy
Credit: Gazzetta Matin

The excavations began in late August and the findings are exceptional. The research, which involved Professor Fontana and Dr Davide Visentin together with some PhD students and students from the University of Ferrara, as well as staff from the Archaeological Heritage Department, revealed a layer attributable to the first pastoralists-farmers and a surface layer attributed to Mesolithic hunter-gatherers.

In addition, in the layers attributable to the Early and Middle Neolithic Copper Age, the researchers uncovered a stone lined cist grave of considerable importance. It is in fact the first burial in Valle d'Aosta identified under a rock shelter. This burial site is believed to belong to the same prehistoric groups that frequented the megalithic area of Saint-Martin-de-Corleans in Aosta.

5,000-year-old 'cenotaph' unearthed in northwestern Italy
Credit: La Stampa

When the archaeologists excavated the grave they found that it contained no grave goods or the skeleton of the deceased, "which is just as important as having found it," explains Luca Raiteri, archaeologist at the Regional Superintendency for Cultural Heritage and Activities. "There are many hypotheses being examined by the researchers, one of which is the possible presence of a tomb that was never used. Archaeology reconstructs the history of people and this time too, with a multidisciplinary study, it will try answer these many questions."

The discovery has inevitably aroused great interest and enriches the rich historical and monumental heritage of Donnas with a further precious testimony.

Source: La Stampa [trsl. TANN; October 13, 2021]

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