The Riserva Regionale delle Incisioni Rupestri di Ceto, Cimbergo Paspardo (lit., “Regional Reserve of Rock Engravings of Ceto, Cimbergo, and Paspardo”), covering some 300 hectares and encompassing the three villages of Nadro (Ceto), Cimbergo, and Paspardo, forms the largest protected archaeological area in Valcamonica (Northern Italy). Its engraved rocks are immersed in a natural mountain environment, which preserves traces of human intervention over time.
Over millennia, our ancestors left intellectual messages on the rocks, in the form of symbols and images: a sort of “writing”, often symbolic but never gratuitous or purely aesthetic, that gives us an insight into notions from Europe’s past. Archaeology, environment, and ethnography are strictly linked to this unique setting, giving back a distinct view of Alpine life throughout the past 10,000 years.
The territory of the Reserve lies on the left bank of Middle Valcamonica, with its lowest point at 360 metres above sea level — in the locality of Zurla — and the highest in the village of Paspardo, at roughly 1,000 metres a.s.l. In 1983, guided by the proposals presented by the local research centre on Prehistory Centro Camuno di Studi Preistorici (CCSP), which had been laeding systematic researches in this area since the 1960s, the Regional Reserve of Rock Engravings of Ceto, Cimbergo and Paspardo was established by the three municipalities on whose territory the reserve would be, jointly with the Department of Ecology of the Region of Lombardy and the Province of Brescia. The aim of this project was to protect a large rock art area, plus its important ethnographic and environmental characteristics: its ancient paths, rock shelters, megalithic walls, remains of prehistoric hillforts, medieval farmsteads, and agricultural terraces are evidence of the evolution of the Alpine human and natural environment over thousands of years.
The Reserve spreads over some 300 hectares, mostly forested by chestnut and birch, and is entirely crossed by roads that connect the three villages of Nadro di Ceto, Cimbergo, and Paspardo, whose age-old historical centers remain intact. Many pathways to assorted vistas lead off from the encircling circuit.
The archaeological sites in the Reserve include around 500 engraved rock surfaces, from prehistoric and medieval times. This substantial assemblage of rock-art made on outcrops occurs in clusters of varying density, starting in the territory of Nadro (Ceto), going through the area of Cimbergo (Campanine) and beyond the stream called Ré, in the municipality of Paspardo.
The landscapes and environments change with altitude: at low altitude there are terracing with horticulture and vineyard, more uncommon are the clearing for pasture, chestnut forest (from 500 to 1,000 m a.s.l.), and conifer and pastures at high altitudes.
Researches have brought to light more than 20 sites with engravings, both from prehistoric and historic times. The areas that are equipped for visitors are: Foppe di Nadro in Ceto, Campanine in Cimbergo and a few areas in Paspardo. Among these, the area of Sottolaiolo (Paspardo) is a small archaeological site, equipped for the visit of people with reduced mobility and partially-sighted and sightless people.