Prix Europa Nostra Winner 2016 Jury Statement

Prehistoric Picture Project. Pitoti: Digital Rock-Art, Cambridge

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This project is a truly European one with researchers from Cambridge University and contributors from the Centro Camuno di Studi Preistorici, St Pölten University of Applied Sciences and the Bauhaus University Weimar setting to work on the Rock Engravings in Valcamonica, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Italian Alps. The research project was led by Cambridge University. In using film, photography, animation and state-of-the-art 3D scanning technology the team was able to render the rock engravings with literal depth. "While the technical aspect of this research was of immense worth and serves as an example of best practice for the recording of this priceless rock art internationally, the newly developed methods of presenting the rock art to an audience and of encouraging visitor interaction is commendable", the jury said.

Using the 3D images of the engravings, the team produced participatory exhibits and videos which aimed to make sense of the cinematic elements of this art, offering a new interpretation of the engravings which included movement, light and sound. The exhibition element was in itself part of the research, the objective being the discovery of how these engravings could be understood by a modern audience. "The quality of the research is highly original and we found the combination of the oldest and newest forms of human graphic art captivating. We appreciated the Prehistoric Picture Project's exploration of the boundaries between classic research and the performing arts", the jury stated.

Europa Nostra Awards



This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.

This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained there in.


The PITOTI exhibition comes to Cambridge. 

will open from the 6th to the 23rd of March at the University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology,
Downing Street, Cambridge. England.

Following the great success of the Pitoti exhibition at the Triennale in Milan, (over 20.000 visitors in a month), the PITOTI project continues to England as part of the "Cambridge Science Festival".

Pixel meets Pexel in a pioneering international collaboration, between film-makers, games designers and archaeologists.


Public opening from the 6th to the 24th of March 2013

Trailer...  | 



Temporary schedule of the exhibition and the events linked to it:


7th March 2013

Digital rock art Conference: “Digital Heritage Pitoti - Digital Art meets Rock Art Research”

Coordinator: Dr Frederick Baker, McDonald Institute, University of Cambridge & ICMT, St Pölten University of Applied Science, St Pölten, Austria.

12th March 2013
Seminar with the title: ”Ten thousand years etched in rock

In the Italian Alps, archeologists found more 300,000 rock engravings that show how a small hunter-gathers clan became part of the Roman Empire”.

Mila Simões de Abreu - Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal  / Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge

19th March 2012
Seminar with the title: “ Elaboration through technology: the engraved timber-framed dwellings of the Valcamonica”

Around 1,500 years before the first medieval timber-framed buildings in England were being constructed; elaborate timber-framed buildings were being depicted on the rocks of Valcamonica. Why?

Dr George Nash, University of Bristol / Grupo Quaternário e Pré-História do Centro de Geociências (uI&D 73 - FCT), Portugal.


• P • I • T • O • T • I •

Digital Art meets Rock Art Research 

An exhibition about Archaeology, Digital Heritage and Rock Art as part of Science week: “Pitoti: Digital rock-art from Ancient Europe” 6th March – 23rd March 2013.Pitoti is a multimedia digital rock art exhibition showing at the South Lecture Room, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA), Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3DZ.

• P • I • T • O • T • I • I - grew from years of research by Dr Christopher Chippindale and Dr Frederick Baker’s, Cambridge University Prehistoric Picture Project. The word “Pitoti” is Lombard dialect, it describes rock-art figures as “small puppets”. Chippindale and Baker use the word to Pitoti to describe their approach to rock art. It is a strategy of interdisciplinary digital humanities and arts based research, by which rock art figures are recorded, analysed and animated.

This exhibition is EU funded and is a joint venture between archaeologists from Cambridge University (UK), the local research institute which has been studying the Valcamonica figures for 50 years, the Centro Camuno di Studi Preistorici (I), and digital graphics specialists from the University of Applied Sciences in St Pölten, (A). The show also includes a contribution from the Bauhaus Universität in Weimar (D).

The aim of this exhibition is to explore the boundaries and build bridges between the world of Archaeology and the world of film, digital humanities and computer vision. The Pitoti rock-art figures from Valcamonica in the Lombard Alps are UNESCO world heritage and were conceived between the Copper Age and the Iron Age, after an interregnum in the Roman period, the reappeared in the Middle Ages.  The rock engravings are now being filmed, photographed, animated, and re-presented in the 21st century with new digital graphic technologies. These include animations by Mike Kren, interactive panoramas, by Thomas Bredenfeld, Photographs by Hamish Park, an “Ambient Cinema” film installation by Frederick Baker and Gery Herlbauer, an interactive gaming table supervised by Markus Seidl and Peter Judmeier, 3D Rock art prints, by Marcel Karnapke and Archaeoacoustiscs by Hannes Raffeseder, Albin Paulus and Astrid Drechsler. Exhibition architecture is by Tiziana Cittadini and Claudio Gasparotti.

Pitoti catalogue by Christopher Chippindale and Frederick Baker. Skira 25 Euros

Rock Art in Valcamonica

Although scattered all across Europe, rock-art survives in concentrations where there are only certain kinds of rock. The prehistoric site of Valcamonica is situated in the Province of Brescia, Northern Italy, and contains some of the best rock-art anywhere in the world – over 100,000 individual images engraved on more than 2,000 natural rock surfaces spread over an entire valley, 70 kilometres long.

Rock Art and Archaeology

“Ancient rock-art occurs in most European countries as an important, often overlooked part of our cultural heritage. Rock-art is made by marking natural rock surfaces, whether in caves or in the open air, with one or other of two techniques, either by painting pigment onto the rock (‘rock-painting’) or by cutting into the rock surface (‘rock-engraving’; in American English, ‘petroglyph’). Its earliest examples in Europe include the celebrated rock-paintings from the Ice Age. But far more varied, and occurring far more often and in most European countries, is the other art of the rock-engravings, pictures and geometric shapes cut into rock, and on open-air surfaces exposed to the weather rather than inside caves. However, inaccessibility and inaccurate recording has meant that several thousand years of European art history, after cave paintings and before classical traditions, is largely missing from historical records.  This wealth of Europe’s cultural heritage provides autobiographical stories from our ancient past.  What European rock-art gives us is the world of prehistoric Europeans, as they themselves experienced it and understood it.  Our prehistoric ancestors chose to make engravings of animals (but few of plants), many of deer (but few of sheep) and vast numbers of armed warriors in opposed pairs. Why? – because those aspects of their lives were vital and central to them. No other common archaeological evidence gives that kind of direct insight into prehistoric European minds”

Dr Christopher Chippindale, Prehistoric Picture Project. Department of Archaeology, Cambridge University.

Film and Digital Humanities

“Some of the humans and animals in the art are made in rather rigid forms, as if unmoving objects. Others look to be in lively, animated motion – frozen at a certain moment as if they were stills from an animated cartoon film. The Alpine valley where they are found is enclosed by high mountains – as if it were a supersized auditorium. So we have a contemporary metaphor for these images in a landscape: they are stills from films presented within a natural-world pitoti cinema.

In normal cinema the image is projected from the front onto the screen. In Pitoti cinema the light is oblique. The sun projects from the side, and the shadow formed when the sunlight hits the artistic incisions and creates an image. This is a form of proto-cinema. When the sun is high the shadows are short and the images almost invisible, when the sun is low the shadows are long and the pitoti seem to come alive and are even 3D. The whole valley is like a multiplex, with a schedule of ‘pictures’ appearing and disappearing the timing of the sunrise and sunset in a particular season.

What the figures cannot do and do not do is to move: there were no film cameras or animation studios in prehistoric times. But today we have film and cameras and animation, so we can in this way take the metaphor literally. If these figures are like stills from a cartoon, we can animate them and create now a cartoon film. If they are moments frozen from a narrative, we can tell a story with them. We can ourselves choose to make the figures come alive, as we re-make the figures in digital still and movie photography. So much the ancient artists could not do – working only with hammer and stone against tough resistant rock – our new digital technologies can do.

Film is 3-dimensional now. So are the figures, not painted as a layer of infinitesimal thickness onto a flat rock surface, but cut, often deeply, into curving rock surfaces. They are not on a flat plain but in the steep slopes of a mountain valley. Let us photograph them, analyse them, animate them, conceive of them in 3 dimensions – not limit ourselves to the conventional 2 dimensions”.

Dr Frederick Baker, McDonald Institute of Archaeological Research Cambridge University & Institute of Creative Media Technology, St Pölten University of Applied Sciences, Austria.

Cultural Heritage

“The rock art of Valcamonica is a treasure that takes us back to a time before Lombardy or Italy existed. What existed were the Alps and the cycles of nature. In most of prehistory we have a wealth of artefacts and bones and a dearth of images. In Valcamonica we have the opposite. The level of excavated finds is low compared to the huge wealth of images cut into the broad flanks of the valley. It is the breadth of this canvas that astonishes. All of the major changes that took humans from hunting and gathering to the city life are depicted. All the innovations from the east are recorded. Horses appear, as do ploughs and carts. Their wheels are a huge innovation which leads later to chariots. Helmets, tools and weapons of all forms, show the changing options the Alpine dwellers had at their disposal when it came to housing, defending and feeding themselves. The engravings of musical instruments remind us that the arts were also part of prehistoric life.

In the Pitoti exhibition it is the artists of today, who are bringing this world to life in the new discipline of digital heritage. The world of film and computer graphics combine with the skill of the field archaeologists, to turn the camera and the laser scanner into the trowel of the 21st century. This research project is innovative because the tools of digital technology are being used to uncover, investigate, record and then re-present the rock art with a level of precision and creativity that was impossible even 10 years ago. Yet again Valcamonica is providing a broad canvas for science, creativity and imagination”.

Prof. Graeme Barker, Director, McDonald Institute of Archaeological Research, Cambridge University


The European Initiative on Cultural Heritage and Global Change highlighted the importance of preserving the “uniqueness and irreplaceable value of historic and archaeological sites, and cultural landscapes, both for their tangible and intangible value” recognising that cultural heritage is a key factor of European identity and the new concept of European citizenship. It states that “we owe present and future generations to protect and conserve it as a symbol of culture and history”.  Moreover increasing technological advancements should be applied to the way cultural heritage is recorded, protected, and presented to citizens to enrich their understanding, enjoyment and appreciation of it.


Press review • P • I • T • O • T • I •


RAI 3 - TGR Lombardia 22.05.2012


DialogoTV 22.05.2012


Teleboario 27.05.2012



Corriere della Sera (Cronaca di Brescia) 22.05.2012


QUIBrescia 22.05.2012


Brescia Oggi 23.05.2012


Der Standard (Austria) 27.05.2012