Can we change prehistory? In 1999, 30,000 dinosaur footprints were found in the suburbs of Altamura, the city of my grandparents. After the discovery of The Neanderthal “Man of Altamura” (1993), we already knew that the past is always knocking at the doors of this city.
The latest discovery exposes us to a history and a geography which has not yet been written, by changing our knowledge of paleographic aspects of Apulia and the prehistory of the Mediterranean region. Following these new findings, we can imagine the rock-strewn Murgia of 85 million years ago as a lagoon with a tropical climate, no longer an archipelago of islands, as thought until ’99, but a soft substrate where dinosaurs peacefully roamed in the era of the late Cretaceous. Possessing a very rich biodiversity, these unexpected remains of ‘”Apulian foreland” represent Europe’s richest and most important site, where you can even see the folds of the skin of over two hundred animals belonging to at least five different groups of dinosaurs. The owner of the valley is the former Escopi Company, which had built a quarry for the extraction of aggregates that is no longer active in this apparently insignificant land. Struck by nostalgia, the company now calls itself “Valley of the Dinosaurs Srl”, but it’s not ready to give that piece of our prehistory to the State, at least not until it not receives other “building lands” in exchange, to be divided up among the much more affable sheep of Anthropocene.
For so many years the Italian State could have expropriated the land for public use, a necessary action to begin the work of proper storage of fingerprints and later allow for public use. Citizens of Altamura are persistently asking the reasons for the waiting. It is not clear why the administration, instead of proceeding with the expropriation, has started an exhausting, never-ending negotiation with the owners. They complain about the state of abandonment of the rough valley, a very bizarre place where there are currently no restrictions.
Obviously, we hope that the footprints will be protected from adverse the weather conditions of modern times. However, after having been fascinated by this place, we suggest you visit Cava Pontrelli before it becomes a City of Science or a Museum of Prehistory in order to admire the footprints along the quarry, the giant carnivore resting next to the cement extractors, their sharp teeth lying soft, upon hearing of the suspension of the real estate investment. You can even climb down into the abandoned quarry to analyze the mysterious process of mining or the excessive colors of the rust. Taking advantage of the excellent acoustics of the valley, you can also listen to a lesson from the local geologist, or you can wait for the red sky at night, a good opportunity to hope for a better past.

 

Altamura / August 2012 / black & white film

 

Thanks to Antonio Patella, Eugenia Ricciardelli and Scott Stuart.
Testo in italiano, reportage a colori

 

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ROMA B1                                                      St. PETERSBOURG I & II


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