Sovere: Area del Santuario della Madonna della Torre
In the last fifty years, this area, characterised by the presence of the beautiful sanctuary of Santa Maria della Torre, has been the scene of discoveries that can be traced back to a protohistoric settlement and structures from the Roman era, which testify to Sovere’s role as a transit hub from the Seriana Valley to Lake Iseo.
In the last fifty years, the area near the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Torre between the Capuchin convent and the eponymous sanctuary has been the scene of a number of archaeological discoveries, testifying to a human presence in this part of the Sovere area during the protohistoric period.
The first discoveries were made in 1969, during the works for the preparation of the access road to the sanctuary. The discovery of some ceramic shards at the foot of the hill was followed by others in different areas of the slope; unfortunately it was not possible to carry out an extensive stratigraphic excavation. The recovery of the material was carried out by local enthusiasts, assisted by the staff of the Centro Camuno di Studi Preistorici.
Finds from the Protohistoric period come from two main areas: the upper one located just at the foot of the Sanctuary and the lower one, just above the Capuchin Convent, at the beginning of the uphill route. Here a section of archaeological stratigraphy was exposed containing ceramic fragments and animal remains, probably slipped from a slightly higher point. In the area further upstream, between 1970 and 1971, two probable living structures (so-called ‘hut bottoms’) with dirt floors and at least one hearth were documented. The materials include containers for storing, cooking and eating food. The decorations and shapes of the artefacts allow a dating between the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age (end of the 10th – beginning of the 8th century BC). There are also stone tools for cereal processing (sandstone millstones) and bone and antler artefacts, including a deer antler handle, perhaps intended for the insertion of a metal blade, abandoned in the course of processing. The study of animal bones indicates that sheep and goats were consumed the most, followed by cattle; elements of a horse (equus caballus) of advanced age and small to medium size were also found.
We are not able to estimate the size of the settlement, but the presence of archaeological finds in quite distant places seems to suggest that it was not small, while its perched position ensured good exposure and excellent control of the passage routes through the Borlezza Valley.
Sovere’s role as a transit junction from the Seriana Valley to Lake Iseo seems to have persisted even in Roman times, as evidenced by some coins, brick fragments, vases and iron tools. In 1976, along the road that leads from the village of Sovere to the heights of the Madonna della Torre and almost at the mouth of the mule-track towards the hamlet of Piazza, numerous slags were recovered: it is assumed that an area dedicated to metallurgical activities was located here, also because of the presence of a waterfall nearby. This was confirmed by an archaeological excavation carried out by the Soprintendenza in 1992-1994, during which mortar-bonded stone walls from two rooms were found, in which, in addition to numerous ceramic artefacts, additional melting slag was collected.
Deer antler handler
The working of hard animal matter, bone and antler, was a very important activity in the daily life of pre-protohistoric societies. These raw materials were in fact essential for the manufacture of tools and decorative elements, as well as wood, which however rarely survives in time and of which we have only faint archaeological traces. Their malleability ensured easy processing, while the strength – especially of the deer antler – ensured long-lasting use. Inside the probable dwelling structure identified at the Madonna della Torre di Sovere, along with pottery from the Early Iron Age (9th-8th centuries BC), a deer antler instrument was found: an unfinished artefact, which was intended by the craftsman working on it to be used as a handle, perhaps for a cutting instrument such as a knife or dagger, or for an awl. At its end one can clearly see the signs of the initial rough-hewing process. Its workmanship was not completed, and we can assume that this is due to the conspicuous fracture that can be seen at the other end. Antler-making was a craft activity that was often practised in the domestic sphere, as shown by similar finished or semi-finished objects found in the contemporary settlement of Parre in Valseriana.
This artefact comes from the lower level of the structure, probably a dwelling, identified at the Madonna della Torre di Sovere. This vase is made of a rather coarse ceramic body and its irregular colour is due to firing imperfections. It is particularly well preserved, a rare condition for ancient residential contexts, where ceramic finds are more often found in minute fragments, almost impossible to reconstruct in their entirety. Its small size leads us to call it a ‘glass’, but it shares some formal details, in particular the short curved rim and the keeled shoulder, with larger vessels, which we call ‘situla-shaped jar’. These objects were very common in settlement contexts dating from the late Bronze Age to the early Iron Age (10th-9th centuries BC) throughout the Po Valley, and our small specimen is a probable heir to them, being dated to between the 9th and 8th centuries BC. Moreover, from a territorial point of view, the presence of this particular type of vase in Sovere, in the Borlezza Valley, is of some interest. The decoration with a double row of oval impressions, both on the rim and on the shoulder, betrays a special care in its realisation: we know that in many protohistoric cultures special attention was paid to the modelling and decoration of drinking vessels, glasses and mugs, and that these containers must also have had a special meaning for the people who used them.
for the visit
the hill whereon the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Torre stands is freely accessible all year round; the archaeological finds are not musealized. The sanctuary is open for religious services from April to September.
via Madonna della Torre, 24060 Sovere (BG). For information about sanctuary opening days and hours contact the parish: telephone 035.981008, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
the sanctuary is equipped with a wide parking and a refreshment point; for those wishing to reach the hill by foot is possible to park at Aldo Moro square or near the parish Church of San Martino.