The Camunian Rose

with No Comments

The Camunian Rose is an ancient symbolism dated back to the Iron Age and frequently found among the rock carvings of the Val Camonica. Particularly, among the 300.000 petroglyphs of the various archaeological sites of the valley, there are 92 specimens of Camunian roses. It is a bequest of the Camuni, who lived there for eleven centuries, until the conquest of the Cisalpine Gaul by Romans (I century A.D.). 

 

Representation of the symbol 

The Camunian Rose is geometrically composed by a continuous line, that widens into four arms. These appendages have been found in three different forms: quadrilobate, swastika and asymmetric swastika. In any case, the four arms are spaced out by the presence of nine cup marks, that are positioned internally and externally with respect to the figure. The cup marks are concave depressions pecked into the rock, and typically they had the function of containing a votive offer.

 

Camunian Rose
A quadrilobate Camunian Rose: rock 101 of the Luine Archaeological Park, digitized photo.

 

 

Symbolism of the Camunian Rose 

The meaning of the Camunian Rose is still under study by archaeologists. The antiquity of the symbolism makes the interpretation much difficult, since it is not simply to reconstruct the cultural context where it affirmed. Nevertheless, it is possible to raise some hypothesis, deriving from two evidences of the engravings. Firstly, the presence of the cup marks suggests that the Camunian Rose was linked to a propitiatory rite. Hence, it could be a particular symbolic knowledge connected to a sacral cult.

Typically, the cup marks could contain votive offers to propitiate the goodwill of divinities linked to the water or soil fertility, as the female figure of the Mother Goddess. Moreover, the geometry of the Camunian Rose is also significant. As for similar symbolisms, like the ancient swastika, it would recall the solar representation. In particular, the Camunian Rose could illustrate the celestial movements of the sun throughout the day or the seasons, as in the cases of equinoxes. 

In fact, as suggested by the rock carving of the Val Camonica, the Camuni lived by hunting and donations of the soil. An example is the representation of the “horned-god” Cernunnos, whose figure symbolized hunting, the sexual power and the soil fertility.

 

 

The Cernunnos God in Capo di Ponte, Val Camonica. Photo by Luca Giarelli – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4879965

 

In this sense, it is not a surprise that the symbolic knowledge of the Camuni could be addressed to the fertility and the Mother Goddess’ cults. 

Samuele Corrente Naso

(Translation by Daniela Campus)