is related to Naples
Roccamonfina & The
the north of Naples, in the province of
Caserta, is the Roccamonfina Regional Park. It
is in the hills just north of the Campanian
plain and the Volturno
river and bounded on the other side by
the Garigliano river
valley. The area contains the towns of
Roccamonfina, Sessa Aurunca, and Teano, among
others. The area is rich in history, from the
"cyclopean" (very large) walls of pre-Roman Italic
peoples to Roman ruins to medieval towns
and churches, to Teano (where Garibaldi and
King Victor Emanuel met and shook hands in
1861 to seal the future of the new Italy) all
the way up to WWII—the area borders on the
Liri valley, called "Death Valley" by soldiers
of the Allied armies advancing on the
defenses at Monte Cassino in 1943.
The Roccamonfina park, itself, is an
area of some 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres).
The most prominent part of the park is the
Roccamonfina volcano, the oldest volcanic
complex in the Campania region of Italy. The
geological history of the Roccamonfina volcano
had three main eruptive periods: (1) 630,000 -
400,000 years ago; (2) 385,000 and 230,000
years ago); (3) a period that ended 50,000
years ago, just as the better known eruptions
to the south, i.e. the Archiflegrean
caldera and, later, Mt. Vesuvius were
about to start.
The most remarkable thing
within the Roccamonfina park is the presence
of early "human" footprints—or at least
footprints made by our hominid ancestors.
There are 56 such impressions on the slopes of
the volcano—footprints laid down between
325,000 and 385,000 years ago, during the
second eruptive period of the volcano. The
prints display raised arches and ball and heel
impressions; they were left by a small band of
individuals, from 3-6 persons. The prints and
length of stride indicate that they were under
five-feet tall. The individuals belonged to a
pre-human species, probably to the hominid
heidelbergensis, the direct ancestor of
neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens.
If these assessments are correct, they are the
oldest prints of the Homo genus ever found.
Although the prints were first reported
reliably and scientifically just a few years
ago in 2003, the prints have been known to
locals for centuries and have earned the name
in folklore as the Ciampate del Diavolo—the
Devil's footprints. After all, who else could
run through molten lava?
If the estimates of the size of the
individuals are correct, they were somewhat
shorter than the typical adult
heidelbergensis. Maybe anomalous
a group of children.
Whoever they were, they were
running and scrambling downhill (there are
also hand prints to indicate that they reached
down to steady themselves on the steep
terrain). Most likely they were fleeing an
eruption. Think about it—they ran for their
lives through lava still hot enough to take
the imprints of their feet. We don't know if
they made it.
to main index
portal to Ancient World portal