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Shepherds Who Write

Pastoral graffiti in the uplands of Europe from prehistory to the modern age

Marta Bazzanella and Giovanni Kezich
Publication Year:
256 pages, Illustrated throughout in colour and black and white. 7 tables, 228 figures.
BAR number:


In a number of significant sites of the vast ancient pasturelands of the Old World, generations of wandering shepherds have left their testimony in the form of graffiti drafted on the rocks, sometimes in their tens of thousands, over a period of hundreds of years from ancient to modern times. The phenomenon is a conspicuous one, and has considerable significance for two reasons. On the one hand, the study of such pastoral graffiti may convey fresh ethnoarchaeological information as to the circumstances of the pastoral activities and the pastoral economy of the past. On the other hand, these signs, which can be often fully alphabetic as well as drawing upon ancient symbolic repertoires, can be of some aid in the interpretation of rock art as a whole genre of human expression, and projected back, in their significance and their modes of appearance, the earliest times of prehistory.

Marta Bazzanella, ethnoarchaeologist, PhD in Prehistory, works at the Trentino Folklife Museum. Her major scientific interest is in the field of pastoralism of the ancient and traditional societies. Since 2006 she has coordinated the ethno-archaeological research on the shepherds’ writings of the Fiemme Valley and published several articles on this topic.

Giovanni Kezich, PhD read anthropology & archaeology in Siena and London (UCL), with a thesis on “The Peasant Poets”, under the supervision of M.J. Rowlands. Since 1991, he has been Director of the Trentino Folklife Museum, whence he has produced extensive ethnographic work in the Alpine sector and beyond..

List of contributors: Giovanni Barozzi, Marta Bazzanella, Gianfranco Bettega, Jessica Bezzi, Nicoletta Bianchi, Francesco Carrer, Fabio Cavulli, Giorgio Chelidonio, Desirée Chini, Fabio Copiatti, Vanya Delladio, Giacomo Fait, Cristina Gastaldi, Giovanni Kezich, Franziska Knoll, Nathalie Magnardi, Jules Masson Mourey, Edoardo Micati, Mara Migliavacca, Elena Poletti, Ausilio Priuli, Federico Troletti

‘Il volume, insieme alla ricchezza documentaria e all’approfondimento tematico che restituiscono un patrimonio culturale di imprescindibile valore territorial allo stesso tempo materiale e immateriale, evidenzia in maniera inequivocabile la capacità organizzativa e la vivacità di interessi che hanno caratterizzato con continuità la direzione museale di Giovanni Kezich, trasformando un museo locale in un centro di attività culturale e scientifica di livello internazionale.’ Voci, XVIII (2021)

‘This volume will be of great interest to researchers in many parts of the world, including rock-art specialists, ethnographers and ethnoarchaeologists.’ Michael C.A. Macdonald, University of Oxford

‘This volume is an important contribution to the study of iterative and dialogical forms of writing and drawing. It is the most comprehensive treatment of these types of graffiti to date.’ Professor Karen B. Stern Gabbay, Brooklyn College CUNY

Table of Contents (S2999_ToC.pdf, 277 Kb) [Download]

Introduction (S2999_Preface_Intro.pdf, 301 Kb) [Download]