The Metal Ages

Occupying the mountain ranges: “castellari”- hill-top defences of the Bronze and Iron Ages

From the 4th millennium BCE, humans gradually learned to work metal ores, and thereby added to their existing technological skills by way of highly sophisticated workmanship and manufacturing processes.

Archaeologists generally distinguish between three different periods, each named after the relevant metal: the Copper Age, which in Liguria developed between 3600 and 2200 BCE, the Bronze Age (2200-900 BCE) and the Iron Age (900-180 BCE).

THE METAL AGES – 3600 – 180 BCE

The Metal Ages are characterised by human settlements, known as castellari, or hill-top forts protected by dry-stone stockades built in places with natural defences.

Finale is dotted by both Bronze Age sites, such as Sant’Antonino in Perti and Bric Reseghe and Iron Age  “castellari”,  such as Verezzi – as yet little investigated – and Villaggio delle Anime (Italian: Village of Souls)  atop Rocca di Perti (Italian: the Rock of Perti).

Once metallurgy developed, communities started exercising greater control over any resources available on their territory, and individuals, who had mastered new knowledge, started taking on leading roles. This, in turn, led to a significantly more complex social organization, with defined hierarchies, where different ethnic identities became more clearly linked to specific geographical areas.

On the Italian peninsula, the so-called pre-Roman peoples came about during the Iron Age and a new people, known as Ancient Ligurians, settled in modern-day Liguria, Piedmont, western Lombardy and Emilia as well as in southern France between the Middle Bronze Age (1600 BCE ca.) and the beginning of the Iron Age (900 BCE ca.).

The Museo Archeologico del Finale at Finalborgo houses some of the most fascinating period findings from the area. Among others are a number of earthenware pots and Bronze Age metalware from the Grotta Pollera (Italian: Pollera Cave) and Sant’Antonino in Perti, and a 5th-century BCE bronze helmet belonging to a Ligurian warrior, which was found inside a cave in the hills behind the town of Pietra Ligure.

Mysterious rock carvings partly dating back to this period are to be found on large slabs of Finale Stone – locally called “ciappi” [t.n. pronounced /chapi:/ and meaning slate slabs]. These petroglyphs are often associated with small basin-shaped cavities and raceways [etched into the “ciappi” themselves]. As yet, there is no consensus regarding the reasons for or use of such artifacts.

Villaggio delle Anime (Italian: Village of Souls) is a proto-historic castellaro hillfort, dating between the late Bronze and the early Iron Ages which stands on top of the Rocca di Perti (Italian: Perti Rock), 397 metres above sea level. The site was discovered in 1959 by the Research Group of the Finalese Section of the International Institute of Ligurian Studies and explored through a series of excavations led by Oscar Giuggiola.
The rock carvings of Ciappo delle Conche, like most of the graffiti from Finale, are carved in Finale stone, scientifically called Finale Ligure Limestone, datable to the oligo-miocene age...
The territory of Finale preserves wide open rock surfaces that are characterised by numerous rock carvings that were made over a long period of time, between the Metal ages (3rd -1st millennium B.C.) and the 19th century. In the local dialect the large stone slabs with graffiti are called “ciappi”.
The Arma della Moretta is a small cave at the feet of the Finale stone San Bernardino mountain, just above the locality called “Tirassegno”. This archaeological site is unique in Finale and is considerably important in the field of cave etchings.
The complex of rock carvings of Ciappo del Sale is of notable interest, in particular for the subjects represented. After Ciappu de Conche, already known by scholars since the late 19th century, that represents the main complex of prehistoric “art” in Finale.
In Finale there is the presence of megalithic structures that could be referred to the same cultures of the late prehistoric period that produced the series of cave etchings that are present on various rocky surfaces, locally called “ciappi” (Ciappu de Cunche, Ciappu del Sale, Ciappu dei Ceci).
Very much like Sant’Antonino di Perti, Bric Reseghe in Finale Ligure is an especially well-preserved specimen of a small Middle and Recent Bronze Age settlement entrenched in an easily-defensible area. In archaeology, the word castellaro is used to define such hill-top Bronze- and Iron-Age sites, including those that are not equipped with clearly-visible defences.

Map of 3600 – 180 BCE