Man has frequented the territory since prehistoric times. After the end of the last glaciation, this area slowly started to become covered by vegetation and the fauna became more abundant. Small groups of hunters, probably inhabitants in the surrounding hilly areas, began to frequent the mountain territory in search of wild game. Important traces have been found from this presence, in particular in the area of the Colbricon Lakes.
The discovery of the Mesolithic site of the Colbricon Lakes was the first evidence of human presence at high altitude after the Last Glacial Maximum and it opened up a new chapter in the study of the history of the settlement of the Mesolithic populations in the Alpine environment.
The discovery of the site took place in 1971 and, as often happens, it was unexpected and accidental. Gianluigi Secco, then in his twenties, that day had hiked to the Colbricon Lakes to go fishing, stopping at the first lake that he met climbing up from Malga Ces, the larger one. Here, once he positioned the fishing rod, he was attracted by a small stone that made its way over the surface of the water from time to time. It was a strange stone, different from those produced from the disintegration of the porphyries, which form the Cavalazza or the Colbricon. So he took it, brought it home and had asked his uncle Luigi Secco to take a look at it. His uncle realised that it was a flint with chipping and aware of the importance of the discovery, he informed the Director of the Tridentine Museum of Natural Sciences.
Here the flints were taken into consideration by Dr. Bernardino Bagolini of the Tridentine Museum of Natural Sciences, one of the greatest experts of prehistory, who recognised in the flints of the Colbricon the first evidence of Mesolithic hunters in high altitude. Bagolini attributed those first finds to the early Sauveterrian, about 10,500 years ago and he undertook an excavation campaign which lasted about ten years and opened the way to studies on the Alpine Mesolithic.
During the research in the area of the Colbricon traces of 12 sites of frequentation in the Mesolithic were found, nine of which were then subject to excavation. These showed a protracted frequentation of a small nuclei of hunters, which begun in the Preboreale era, more than 11,000 years ago, and ended at the end of the Borale peirod, about 8,500 years ago. Their lythic culture is substantially Sauveterrian. The oldest site dates back to the initial phase of this culture, but still presents epigravettian elements, i.e. of the previous culture, that is found also in Pian dei Laghetti at San Martino. The most recent site belongs instead to the final Sauveterrian period. In the complex you can recognise bivouacs connected with the treatment and use of the products of the hunt, areas where they prepared splinters of flint, microliths, with which they armed the thrown weapons and bivouacs in positions which are particularly favourable for observing several mountain slopes, probably related to the practice of hunting.
Numerous prospecting campaigns were carried out between 1972 and 1986 in areas adjacent to the Colbricon Lakes: so it was possible to document that from the end of the Late Glacial (about 11,600 years ago) to the Boreal (about 10,000 – 8,500 years ago) the Mesolithic hunters frequented the Valles Pass, the Rolle, the Cavalazza Lake, at an altitude of 2,141 metres, the Val Bonetta up to the basin of San Martino. In particular, five sites were identified in the area of Rolle Pass, at an altitude of 2,021, where an aqueduct is currently located, in the hill at an altitude of 2,003, along the trail that leads to Malga Costoncella, in proximity of the stream that descends from Campo Croce, just beyond the panoramic area and near Malga Rolle
To the Mesolithic sites of the Colbricon Lakes is dedicated a publication of the Park curated by Fabrizio Bizzarini. The booklet illustrates the investigation method which has helped us to understand the various phases of the frequentation of the site and allowed us to reconstruct the organisation of the bivouacs of the hunters and collectors who were present in these mountains for a very long period of time between the end of the Late Glacial, about 11,500 years ago and the Boreal, about 8,500 years ago. A specific chapter reconstructs the evolution of the Alpine landscape in that period, when environmental changes and those resulting from the prehistoric civilisation changed the relationship between man and the mountains, including those today safeguarded by the Paneveggio Pale di San Martino Natural Park. The publication also seeks to reconstruct, thanks to the petrographic studies conducted on the flints found on the site, the construction methods of the tools used by the Mesolithic hunters, as well as the trails they followed to rise from the valleys of the Adige or the Brenta Rivers until reaching the Alpine areas of San Martino and the Rolle Pass.
The publication, 24 pages, is on sale at the Visitor Centers in the Park and in the on-line shop, and it also includes a map for the visit of the site.