Calò is an expert of Apulian megaliths. He's not a professional
archaeologist, but his love and dedication to the ancient monuments
of Apulia makes him a stand-out figure. As a photographer, he
spent the last seven years visiting, imaging and checking the
Apulian sites, ranging from dolmens to standing stones, to the
mysterious cairns locally known as "specchie". The result
of his work in the field is a wondeful book called "Pietre
- Architetture Megalitiche di Puglia" (Stones - Megalithic
Architectures of Apulia). It is the most complete and up-to-date
guide to Apulian ancient monuments; it contains breathtaking photographs
and the essential in-depth descriptions on how to get to the most
Toti has been our
indispensable guide for three days: we couldn't have visited so
many megalithic sites in so little time without his help. As he's
a real local expert, we asked him some questions about Apulian
What are the
main differences between Apulian standing stones and dolmens and
the same monuments you can find in other parts of Europe?
It is a complex matter, but, in short... First of all we must
consider our different lithology: the local soft limestone didn't
allow the stones builders to build complex/huge structures as
in the Northern countries, so our stones - particularly dolmens
- are smaller. On the other hand, our limestone is easy to work,
so our standing stones are taller and nearly perfectly squared:
a relatively easy task even using stone tools. Then we must consider
that our land now looks completely different from the one of the
stone-builders age; until the 17th century Salento was completely
covered by dense oak woods, so it wasn't probably so easy to build
complex structures. As for lithology, the same goes in Malta,
our megalithic "twin" area.
In the last 300
years many of the Apulian sites have been destroyed. Why?
There are lots of good (!) reasons:
1) Just about
the oak wood: it was uprooted during the 18th century so as to
make the land available for pasture and for arable farming, so
it seems likely that along with pine trees and holm-oaks other
things may have yielded to the blow of the workman's axes.
2) We cannot forget that there has been a sort of historical hostility
towards these relics from the past which has strongly contributed
to their decimation; the reason for this lies in the fact that
they aren't of Christian origin, and we have imperial edicts (Charlemagne
789) and Papal bulls to prove it. Even the top ecclesiastical
authority expressed its opinion on the matter, with two Vatican
Councils (Arles 452, Tours 567), and the opinion was: "Knock down
those stones!". Of course, here in Southern Italy, Pope's opinion
was not just an opinion: it was THE opinion.
3) Even the secular world has not been (and still isn't) particularly
generous towards them. Here are some "modern" reasons: (impossible)
treasures (stupid) hunters; making room for properties; industrial
development; removing impediments to the flow of traffic (yep!);
the traffic itself; the violent "desire" to commit acts of
vandalism... I could go on and on.
In your opinion,
what's the general state of conservation of Apulian megalithic
Hmmm... my natural politeness doesn't allow me to properly answer
to this question, sorry.
(Diego & Paola note: We understand Toti's politeness, but
we have proof that the state of conservation of these monuments
is generally dreadful, and the Soprintendenza Archeologica - organization
for the Italian archaeological heritage - is largely responsible
for this situation).
Do you know if
there are any local traditions attached to these ancient stones?
The catholic religion has "blown away" any reminiscence of ancient
cultures here, so, all the possible "links" we can find are those
with that culture/tradition.
How do you think
the awareness of Italian people about these ancient monuments
could be raised?
Thanks to Paola Arosio & Diego Meozzi, of course! Ok, joking
aside (I was not only kidding, anyway), a new "wind" of interest
is recently blowing around our heritage (not only megaliths).
But first of all I think that the "official care takers" must
learn to see the private initiative as a resource and not as a
competitor. The best way to hit this target would consist in letting
people know how precious are the "things" they own; people must
know, people do want to know... But they don't! Ignorance is a
fatal foe. So we, as professionals, must look beyond our personal
interest if we want to save this heritage, and... boys, am I going
too "politic"? Good grief... I'm just a photographer!