Ancient Apulia Tour
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Interview with Toti Calò

Chianca dolmen Toti 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 remote sites.

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 megaliths.

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 monuments?
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!


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