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Among the dance scenes from the Bronze Age, the one engraved on Cemmo Stele n. 3 has a paradigmatic value as it opens the discussion on some of the ways in which the image is used. My hypothesis is that the scenes represented on Cemmo Stele 3 are the description of the ritual procedure that took place in the ceremonial space around the Boulder itself. So, on the one hand, the engraved boulder, object of cult, placed at the center of the ceremonial space, had the function of cosmic axis around which the ritual took place; on the other hand the two distinct dancing moments, which occurred around the boulder, were added to the support, to make the depicted ceremony “act” forever.

In every archaic community gesture and dance accomplished two main purposes: the first one consisted of reinforcing the conditions of a participated social life in common. This goal was reached, on occasion of feasts and ceremonies, precisely thanks to the rhythmical timing of the dance movements. Also during the dances that are performed nowadays in local feasts, we witness the fact that, little by little, each dancer’s movements are synchronized with those of the other participants and on the one hand the individual is gradually cancelled; on the other hand, this reduction of consciousness gives rise to a profound sense of sharing, of joint well-being, which produces the strengthening of interpersonal relationships. The dancing group then becomes the concrete and whole expression of group unity. The second purpose, which comes right out of the first one, is that all the dancers, once they have reached their internal balance, turn into a sort of machine, a powerful energy generator which is activated only during some important yearly occasions (the coming of spring, the time of sowing, the day of solstice or of the equinox, etc.) in keeping with the most delicate moments of the community. The energy produced during a collective dance was thus put in the universe and pushed the cosmic process toward the accomplishment of the human community’s expectations. If then the dance – the danced one – was given a social and cosmological function of maximum importance for the community’s survival, why turn all this into an image, a medium totally unsuited to reproduce its basic components, that is the rhythmical accompaniment, the movement, the melody, the singing?

Reconstruction of the ceremony described in the image engraved in the Cemmo stele 3 (drawing by A. Gosio)

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