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Paolo Melis

The nuragic civilization

Carlo Delfino editore

Contents

The origins........................................................ Protonuraghi ..................................................... Tholos nuraghi .................................................. The settlements .................................................. The giants tombs .............................................. Temples and other religious sites ....................... Art .................................................................
Stone objects .............................................. Bronze objects ............................................ Pottery .......................................................

7 9 10 25 29 38 44 47 52 61 63 71 75 83 95

Society and economy ....................................... Decline of the nuragic civilization .....................


Bibliography ..................................................... Glossary ........................................................... Sources of illustrations ......................................

CHRONOLOGY OF THE NURAGIC CIVILIZATION


1700-1500 1500 1350 1350 1200 1200 900 900 730 730 600 600 510 510 238 238 BC 476 AD Historical Age Iron Age Bronze Age Middle 1 Middle 2 Late Final I Iron 1 I Iron 2 I Iron 3 II Iron Nuragic IA Nuragic IB Nuragic II Nuragic III Nuragic IVA Nuragic IVB Nuragic IVC Nuragic VA Nuragic VB Sa Turricula (Bonnanaro III) San Cosimo, chessboard pottery combed pottery, grey pottery pre-geometric pottery Geometric pottery Middle-Eastern influence Archaic Punic Roman

The origins
The nuragic civilization arose in the Early Bronze Age, in approximately the 18th century BC; the name derives from its most characteristic monument: the nuraghe. We have no idea of how the people who lived in those times referred to themselves since no written evidence has come down to us and it is thought that they had no written language. References to the people of Sardinia by other peoples (mostly the Romans) all date from much later times and are of little help. They are composite citations, perhaps based on ancient legends handed down from generation to generation, and compiled when the nuragic civilization and its characteristic features had ceased to exist for several centuries. On the origins of the nuragic peoples, scholars appear to be in fairly good agreement in believing that these peoples did not come from abroad but were the indigenous Sardinians who had in previous ages (the Neolithic and Chalcolithic) created the great prenuragic cultures and who now, following the social and economic transformations made possible by the discovery and use of metals, especially bronze, had evolved towards more complex forms of social organization which led to the creation of an original form of architecture: it is the period which in Western and Mediterranean Europe is known as proto-history. Already in the Chalcolithic, or Copper, Age, at the time of the Monte Claro culture (around the middle of the 3rd millennium BC) the need to protect settlements had arisen, especially in northern Sardinia. They were thus built on rugged highlands and defended on their weakest sides by huge megalithic walls; in some cases, small turreted walls were built as well. These were sometimes semicircular (Monte Baranta, Olmedo) or squared-off (Fraigata, Bortigiadas) with entrances. They enclosed the areas on the edges of plateaus and represented a sort of last line of defence. It was perhaps from this type of building that the idea of the nuraghe evolved in later centuries. The nuragic civilization proper began developing in the final period of the so-called Bonnannaro Phase, the cultural aspect of the ear-

The origins

liest Bronze Age (in the first half of the 2nd millennium BC) mostly characterized by the development of megalithic graves. It was this period that saw the ancient dolmens of the end of the Neolithic evolve first into gallery dolmens (or alle couverte), and then into the typical nuragic megalithic grave: the tomba di giganti, or giants tomb. The first phase, known as Nuragic I (1700-1500 BC), saw the emerging of the main features of this civilization; between the end of the Early Bronze Age and the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age (18th-15th centuries BC) the first proto-nuraghi, also known as corridor nuraghi, were built.

Figure 1 Plans of protonuraghi: a Cnculu, Scano Montiferru (OR); b Peppe Gallu, Uri (SS); c Corongiu e Maria, Nurri (NU); d Conchedda, Ghilarza (OR); e Serbassi, Sadali (NU); f Scalorza, Sedilo (OR); g Friorosu, Mogorella (OR); h Sneghe, Suni (NU); i Tsari, Bortigali (NU); l Aidu Arbu, Bortigali (NU); m Serra Crastula, Bonrcado (OR); n Mulineddu, Sagama (NU); o Lighedu, Suni (NU); p Izzana, Tempio Pausania (SS); q Budas Tempio Pausania (SS); r Tanca Manna, Tempio Pausania (SS); s Fronte Mola, Thiesi (SS).

Protonuraghi

Protonuraghi
Proto-nuraghi differ significantly from classic nuraghi: more squat and usually with an irregular floor plan, on the inside we do not find the large circular chamber typical of nuraghi, but one or more corridors and rarely small cells with a corbelled roof. Proto-nuraghi appear not to have risen to more than ten metres in height (compared to the more than twenty metres of some tholos nuraghi). On the other hand, the area they enclose is almost always far greater than that of classic nuraghi (an average of 245 square metres found in the Marghine-Planargia region, while the tower of a tholos nuraghe rarely covers more than 100 square metres). In these constructions, characterized by massive walls exploited only minimally, with few and small spaces within, the most func-

tional part must have been the terrace at the top where dwellings, some with wooden roofs, could be erected. The entire proto-nuraghe was often crossed by a long corridor covered with horizontal slabs laid side by side which ended at a secondary entrance (proto-nuraghi with a through corridor). The most widespread type was, however, characterized by a closed corridor which could have niches along it or be intersected by one or

Figure 2 Brunku Mdugui protonuraghe, Gesturi (CA).

Tholos nuraghi

more transverse corridors, and along which there was also access to the stairway leading to the top of the building. In some cases, there were small, corbelled chambers (tholos) and in some protonuraghi (Friarosu, Mogorella in the province of Oristano) the walls did not contain corridors but only small cells with independent entrances. One variation of the latter proto-nuraghi is represented by a kind of building in which the corridor, after an initial narrow, low part with a flat roof, widens and becomes higher with an arched roof with the typical mules back or upside-down keel shape (proto-nuraghe with keel-shaped chamber). This is the prelude to the building of corbelled (tholos) chambers which were to characterize the nuraghe proper. The number of proto-nuraghi ascertained up to now is about three hundred. A decidedly low number when compared to the overall number of more than six thousand five hundred monuments (including proto- and tholos nuraghi), although others could be included among the many buildings mentioned generically as nuraghi but which have not yet been investigated. Proto-nuraghi were probably still in use, perhaps for special purposes, when the more sophisticated architecture of the tholos nuraghe was already widespread.

Tholos nuraghi
In the Middle Bronze Age, around the 16th-15th centuries BC (in the so-called Nuragic IB phase), the tholos nuraghe or nuraghe tout court made its appearance. As mentioned previously, recent estimates place the number of nuraghi that have been reported to date at approximately six thousand five hundred. Most are in ruins and many have disappeared altogether, especially in the last one hundred and fifty years due to two causes: the Enclosure Law passed in the middle of the 19th century, which led to the dismantling of many nuraghi to use the stones to enclose pastures, and the development of the road network (starting with the main Carlo Felice highway between Cagliari and Sassari) which

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Tholos nuraghi

saw the demolition of many nuragic towers, here too for reuse of the stones in the roadbed. What is a nuraghe? In its simplest form, it is a flat-topped conical tower built with stones of varying size laid without grout (dry walls). The masonry consists of courses of stones laid in more or less orderly fashion. In many cases the stones were laid as they were, but more often they were dressed to facilitate their laying: in the upper part of the towers the part most exposed to wear the stones are usually dressed with care (in the characteristic tail and T shapes) to ensure a perfect fit between the different elements and thus improve stability. The presence of stone corbels, in some cases found still in place on the walls, but more often where they had fallen, and most of all the numerous extant stone and bronze figures representing nuragic towers, lend weight to the hypothesis that the nuraghi (but

Figure 3 Plans of simple nuraghi (or keeps of complex nuraghi): 1 Orrbiu, Arzana (NU); 2 SIscala e Pedra, Semstene (SS); 3 Baiolu, Osilo (SS); 4 Mindeddu, Barisardo (NU); 5 Genna Masoni, Gairo (NU); 6 Sa Domo e sOrku, Ittireddu (SS); 7 Nuraddo, Suni (NU); 8 Marosini, Tertenia (NU); 9 Muru de sa Figu, Santulussurgiu (OR); 10 - SAttentu, Orani (NU); 11 Molaf, Sassari; 12 SOmu e sOrku, San Basilio (CA); 13 Karcina, Orroli (NU); 14 Gurti Aqua, Nurri (NU); 15 Sa Pedra Longa, Nuoro; 16 Su Frale, Burgos (SS); 17 Giannas, Flusso (NU); 18 Madrone o Orolo, Silanus (NU); 19 Tittirriola, Bolotana (NU); 20 Abbaddi, Scano Montiferru (OR); 21 - Sa Figu Rnchida, Scano Montiferru (OR); 22 Sa Cuguttada, Mores (SS); 23 Murartu, Silanus (NU); 24 Leortinas, Sennariolo (OR); 25 Santu Antine, Torralba (SS).

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Tholos nuraghi

also the proto-nuraghi) terminated at the top with a terrace and an overhanging parapet walk, the outer edge of which was perpendicular to the base of the tower. Inside the simple nuragic tower there were one or more superimposed chambers with corbelled (or tholos) ceilings formed by
Figure 4 Nuraghe Succoronis, Macomer (NU).

laying each successive course of stones so as to oversail those below until a small opening remained, which was covered by a single capstone. The stones thus laid were stable thanks to the weight and thrust of the walls on the mass that did not overhang. In general, the two sides of the walls were faced with large stones. Smaller stones were used to fill in the gaps between the larger ones. The term tholos stands for a beehive-shaped chamber with a corbelled roof and refers to similar buildings in the Aegean area, especially to the large Mycenaean graves (for example the famous Treasure of Atreus) of which, however, the nuraghe shares the building technique only partly: in the case of Mycenaean tholoi,

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Tholos nuraghi

Figure 5 Nuraghe Arrubiu, Orroli (NU); tholos of central tower.

they were erected inside a tumulus of earth or an artificial hill, while nuraghi are entirely above ground (subaerial). Access to the tower is almost always through an entrance at ground level, but in some cases it is slightly raised; no traces of doors, which were supposedly wooden (but some believe they might have been of stone), have ever been found. On entering, one is in a more or less long passage leading to the ground-floor chamber: in one of the walls (usually the one on the left) we find the beginning of the spiral stairway within the wall (Santu Antine nuraghe, Torralba, Province of Sassari) leading up to the terrace or the upper chambers. However, in a large number of nuraghi (those considered to be the oldest ones), instead of starting from the passage at the entrance, the stairway originates inside a chamber (Su Nuraxi nuraghe, Barumini, Province of Cagliari), and almost never starts at ground level. In some cases it is raised six metres (Is Paras nuraghe, Isili, Province of Nuoro), thus we must suppose that a wooden ladder was used to reach it. There are nuraghi, even quite imposing ones, in which the internal stairway appears to be totally lacking (nuraghe Arrubiu, Orroli, Province of Nuoro, nuraghe Piscu, Suelli, Province of Cagliari). In these cases we must imagine that access to the upper parts from the outside must have been by means of wooden ladders or, rarely,

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Figure 6 Nuraghe Santu Antine, Torralba (SS); spiral stairway of keep.

Tholos nuraghi

by means of beams inserted in holes in the walls at short intervals. Besides the actual chambers, inside a nuragic tower we can find many other kinds of spaces. Around the circumference of the main chambers other smaller spaces, called niches, were often left. These could even extend laterally to form ring-like passages around the main chamber: in the Santu Antine nuraghe at Torralba, such a passage communicates with the chamber through three different doorways. In the entrance corridor, in most cases facing the stairway, we often find another niche which, owing to its position with respect to the entrance, has often been improperly called the sentry box: in some nuraghi with stairways originating in the chamber there is a second niche in front of the so-called sentry box. Other cells are sometimes found within the walls, often above the entranceway and communicating with it by means of shafts or acoustic channels within the walls. These cells could be reached by means of narrow stairs originating in the ground floor chamber (from a niche or directly from a raised opening in the wall of the chamber) or from the upstairs chamber, in which case the cell was reached directly by means of a wooden ladder through a small
Figure 7 Nuraghe Santu Antine, Torralba (SS); spiral stairway of keep.

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Tholos nuraghi

Figure 8 Nuraghe Santa Barbara, Macomer (NU); detail of faade with first-floor window.

window opening onto the inside chamber, as in the Santu Antine nuraghe at Torralba. In some nuraghi, wells or silos for storing liquids or foodstuffs were dug in the floors of chambers; other smaller places for storage were sometimes built into the masonry, usually in the floor of the terrace or an upper floor, but sometimes even along the stairways. Besides these, there were many other architectonic solutions open to and used by nuragic peoples in building their towers to satisfy the need to create as much space as possible: solutions for which the only limit was represented by the technical possibility of increasing the number of empty spaces within the mass of masonry without compromising the stability of the building. When a nuraghe had more than one floor (up to a maximum of three, including the ground floor), the upper chambers usually became progressively smaller since the diameter of the tower de-

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Tholos nuraghi

creased with its height; the stairway, whether it starts from the entrance or from the ground-floor chamber, finishes with a landing, usually in correspondence with the underlying entranceway (but this is often not the case, as in the Nuraddeo nuraghe at Suni, Province of Nuoro), which is illuminated by a large window and which provides access to the upper chamber. These chambers could also contain niches and other secondary spaces: in the Santu Antine nuraghe we find exceptionally in the chamber above the ground floor a bench at the base of the walls, perhaps having the same purpose as the bench to be found in the meeting huts in the villages (more about this later): this detail is found on the ground floor of many nuraghi, but at Santu Antine the presence of the entrances to the ring corridor in the large ground floor chamber made it practically impossible to place the bench there and so it was built on the upper floor. Besides from the door and windows in correspondence to the entrances to the upper chambers, the nuraghe could also receive light from other small apertures, conventionally known as embrasures: small rectangular openings formed by leaving a space between two stones in the same course. They usually communicate with the stairway or a subsidiary space (cell or silo) and only in exceptional cases with a niche in a chamber. What we have described thus far is a typical simple, or single-tower, tholos nuraghe as perhaps were the earliest ones. At a later time, presumably in Nuragic Phase II-III (Late and Final Bronze Age, between the 14th and 9th centuries BC), the extant single-tower nuraghi were reinforced with the addition of other towers around them. They were joined together by curtain walls to form a bastion: these additions became more and more elaborate and imposing with the passing of time. However, in many cases it can be supposed that the building of complex nuraghi was planned as a single project, with no lapse of time between the erection of the main tower, known as the keep, a term borrowed from medieval castle architecture, and that of the other structures. The degree of complexity of nuragic constructions varied greatly, probably depending on the function and importance of the buildings within the territorial system; it goes from the addition of a single small lateral tower to the creation of a regular fortress with a

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Figure 9 Nuraghe Santu Antine, Torralba (SS); aerial view.

Figure 10 Nuraghe Su Nuraxi, Barumini (CA); aerial view.

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Tholos nuraghi

bastion having towers at the corners (three at Santu Antine and Losa, four at Su Nuraxi and Santa Barbara and even five at Arrubiu), often provided with an internal courtyard containing a well for the supplying of water. The bastion towers were in communication with the courtyard (or directly with the entranceway) and with one another by means of long corridors; in some cases they had independent entrances from the outside, usually quite narrow, perhaps used as escape routes (as the posterns of the citadels of Mycenae and Tiryns). Both
Figure 11 Nuraghe Losa, Abbasanta (OR); aerial view.

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Tholos nuraghi

the towers and, in some cases, the connecting corridors, were provided with high-up embrasures giving air and light, which in the opinion of some were also loopholes for archers, but this appears rather unlikely. Even in the thickness of the walls of the bastions small sub-

Figure 12 Nuraghe Arrubiu, Orroli (NU); embrasures in a tower of the bastion.

sidiary spaces were created: raised niches opening directly on the courtyard, silos and storage rooms accessible from the tower battlements and terraces, small niches along the stairways and so on. In the Su Nuraxi nuraghe at Barumini, the secondary towers of the bastion had a wooden intermediate floor within the ground-floor tholos: an expedient also used in the main tower of a small number of nuraghi, in which the intermediate floor was supported by offsets in the walls of the chamber (Oes nuraghe, Giave, Province of Sassari) or beams inserted in holes left in the walls for this purpose. In some cases other walls further outside, the so-called antemurals, sometimes with turrets, surrounded the bastions and formed

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Tholos nuraghi

Figure 13 Plans of complex nuraghi: a Giba e Skorka, Barisardo (NU); b Su Nuraxi di Sisini, Senorb (CA); c Su Cvunu, Gesico (CA); d Su Sensu, Turri (CA); e Monte sOrku Turi, Perdasdefogu (CA); f Su Sensu di Pompu, Simala (OR); g Nrgius, Bonarcado (OR); h Palmavera Alghero (SS); i Frida, Illorai (SS); l Sa Mura e Mazzala, Scano Montiferru (OR); m Attentu, Ploaghe (SS); n Nuracce Deu, Gsturi (CA); o Su Konkali, Tertenia (NU); p Mudegu, Mgoro (OR); q Santa Sofia, Gspini (CA); r Noddle, Nuoro.

an advanced line of defence. When the antemurals were placed at a short distance from the profile of the fortress walls, the space thus formed could be divided into different courtyards: in rare cases the antemurals walled in quite large areas around the nuraghe (Losa at Abbasanta, Province of Oristano). Besides defending complex bastions, the antemurals, with or without turrets, were also erected to defend simple, single-tower nuraghi. What is the function of these constructions? After a long series of hypotheses, advanced for the most part in the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th (it is to be kept in mind that at that time archaeology was in its infancy and little or nothing was known about

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Tholos nuraghi

Figure 14 Plans of complex nuraghi: a Asoru, San Vito (CA); b Is Paras, Isili (NU); c - Longu, Cglieri (OR); d Pranu Nuracci, Siris (OR); e Nuraddeo, Suni (NU); f Losa, Abbasanta (OR); g Lugherras, Paulilatino (OR); h Coa Perdosa, Sneghe (OR); i Santa Barbara, Macomer (NU); l Su Nuraxi, Barumini (CA); m Santu Antine Torralba; n Arrubiu, Orroli (NU).

the nuragic civilization), archaeologists now agree that nuraghi were buildings of a civil and military nature, destined in particular for the control and defence of the land and the resources on it. They certainly had different functions, as can be seen from the differing complexity of their plans and where they were built. From the tower placed at the top of an isolated hill, a simple lookout tower on the

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Tholos nuraghi

Figure 15 Nuraghe Losa, Abbasanta (OR); overall plan with antemural.

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Tholos nuraghi

tribal boundary (the so-called canton: later we shall speak of the social and political organization of the nuragic peoples) or in defence of strategic positions (entrances to valleys, paths leading up to plateaus, water courses, fords, springs and so on), we arrive at the complex monuments consisting of up to seventeen towers (Arrubiu nuraghe, Orroli, Province of Nuoro) with walls several metres thick, located at the centre of the area of common interest and undoubtedly the fortified residences of political, civil and military (probably also religious) authorities of the region. Other theories continue to be advanced even today by some authors (especially by those who consider nuraghi to be religious buildings) totally outside the sphere of archaeological research usFigure 16 Reconstruction of Nuraghe Santu Antine, Torralba (SS).

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The settlements

ing methodologies for the most part sketchy and sometimes decidedly unscientific. In some cases they are encouraged by publishers who are often indifferent to the content of the works they publish. On the origins of nuraghi, it is to be stated that they are not present in any other area of the Mediterranean, except for more or less far-removed cousins like the Mycenaean tholoi or the Corsican Torre, the Talajots of the Balearic Isles, the Sesi of Pantelleria, the Brochs of Scotland and so on. These are usually simpler constructions and are even later than the nuraghi perhaps with the sole exception of the Corsican torre and it is therefore quite probable that their creation was influenced by the nuraghi: in other cases (the Balearic Isles) the opposite may have taken place. All these architectural forms have their origins from a common cultural matrix widespread in the Mediterranean, but in Sardinia there was an original and grandiose development that is not to be found elsewhere.

The settlements
Every nuragic community conducted its life within the confines of its own cantonal lands, which were guarded and defended by a closeknit system of nuraghi against the raids or perhaps the expansionFigure 17 Talajot de Trepuc, Mahon (Minorca).

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The settlements

istic aims of neighbouring tribes. However, relations with other groups must have been fairly close, not only because of issues connected with trade and the circulation of goods (especially metals), but also for religious reasons, as we shall see later on while dealing with sanctuary villages. Except for the nuraghi, which were used by a few hegemonic families within the community in the case of the more or less large and important fortresses, depending on the social class of the occupants, or by families having specific duties (lookouts, custodians of stores and so on), most nuragic people lived in the villages of more or less simple and numerous huts: in some cases, up to several hundred, but the very few nuragic settlements excavated up to now (Su Nuraxi, Barumini, Province of Cagliari, Palmavera, Alghero, Province of Sassari to mention two) give us the erroneous idea that they were of fairly modest size owing to the partial nature of the excavations and the total destruction of large areas over the centuries. Daily life took place within the huts: these were modest dwellings made of stone with a roof usually made of trunks and branches. The walls inside were often plastered with mud or clay and
Figure 18 Su Nuraxi nuragic settlement, Barumini (CA); overall plan.

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The settlements

sometimes insulated with cork. There was usually a hearth at the centre (but not always) and along the walls were the beds and areas for attending to household chores, sometimes marked by stone slabs fixed in the ground. When the thickness of the walls allowed, niches were left, sometimes above floor level; foodstuffs (cereals, but also water and other liquids) were often stored in large vases buried in the floor with just the lips showing and covered with a stone slab. The final stages of the nuragic civilization saw the developFigure 19 Palmavera nuragic settlement, Alghero (SS); reconstruction of the meeting hut.

ment of a more sophisticated type of hut which was indicative of a greater variety of activities: these are the so-called sector huts, which sometimes reach the size of a regular block, that is, a complex of small rooms opening onto a courtyard and often provided with an oven for baking bread. A special area often found inside these sector huts, consisting of a small circular room (the so-called rotunda) built with great care and containing a bench against the wall and a stone basin in the centre, was surely set aside for domestic religious rites. Within the village, the huts are arranged haphazardly and no large public square (an agora) or any sort of common area has ever been found. At most there could have been a sort of patio for the dwellings of a single family group or clan. There are no main or sec-

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Figure 20 Su Nuraxi nuragic settlement, Barumini (CA); detail of a rotunda in sector hut no. 20.

ondary streets, but simply the paths leading to the houses, often made tortuous by the haphazard proliferation of the dwellings; no common wells or springs, no watering troughs or gutters have been found, with the exception of those belonging to the final stage, which Giovanni Lilliu has defined as post-nuragic; each hut had a space for animals, although in some villages we cannot exclude the presence of a common pen, perhaps used for trading. The only public buildings characterizing the villages (with the exception of the sanctuary villages about which we shall speak later) were the nuraghi themselves and the so-called meeting huts. Besides being the residence of the village authorities, nuraghi, very often present in the village (usually not in the centre, but there are many cases of villages without nuraghi), must also have been the seat of public activities connected with the exercise of political, administrative, juridical, military and certainly also religious authority. However, many of these activities must also have taken place within large huts, usually with a bench against the walls, which have been interpreted as meeting huts where it is supposed that meetings of the heads of families or with the chiefs of neighbouring tribes took place, and where in general, during solemn assemblies, important decisions concerning the community were made.

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The giants tombs

These huts almost always contain a stone basin placed against the wall which certainly contained the water used in the purification rites that must have preceded both civil and religious meetings. The meeting hut was also where symbolic objects, like the tower-betyls, about which we shall speak further on in discussing nuragic sculpture, were kept.

The giants tombs


Mortuary architecture is represented by the megalithic corridor graves, better known as giants tombs, which are uniformly spread throughout Sardinia, albeit with some differences, but they are strongly concentrated in the centre of the island. No other kinds of
Figure 21 Palmavera nuragic settlement, Alghero (SS); the meeting hut.

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The giants tombs

graves are known in the nuragic period, with the exception of burials in Galluras tafoni, in some unique single tombs such as those near the Antas temple (Fluminimaggiore, Province of Cagliari), in the monumental tomb of Monti Prama (Cabras, Province of Oristano) and in a few corridor graves quite different from the giants graves proper (polyandrous or collective burials) and the hypogeic version of the giants tombs themselves (the so-called domus with an architectonic faade). The giants tomb (this is the name assigned to it by the common people and now conventionally used in archaeology) owes its name most of all to the noteworthy size of its body (27 metres at Li Lolghi, Arzachena, Province of Sassari) and burial chamber (about 18 metres in Goronna tomb I, Paulilatino, Province of Oristano). Such dimensions were determined by the fact that giants tombs
Figure 22 Plans of giants tombs: a Coddu Vecchiu, Arzachena (SS); b Li Lolghi, Arzachena (SS); c Su Monte de sApe, Olbia (SS); d Goronna, Paulilatino (OR); e Li Mizzani, Palau (SS); f Lassia, Birori (NU); g Noddule, Nuoro; h Sos Ozzastros, Abbasanta (OR); i Biristeddi, Dorgali (NU); l Pedras Doladas, Scano Montiferru (OR); m SOmu e Nannis, Esterzili (NU); n Domu sOrku, Siddi (CA); o Muraguada, Paulilatino (OR); p Is Concias, Quartu S. Elena (CA).

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The giants tombs

were undoubtedly collective graves capable of containing several dozen, and in some cases several hundred, corpses. A giants tomb is composed of an elongated burial chamber made of stone slabs set vertically in the ground (in the oldest, or dolmenic type), or by courses of stones laid in orderly fashion like the corridors in nuraghi; the cover is also analogous, sometimes tabular, with horizontal slabs, or with corbelled walls. Between those of the oldest kind with a dolmenic corridor and the later ones with walls made of perfectly dressed stones with the face in view and slanted (the Madau tomb, Fonni, Province of Nuoro), there is a variety of intermediate types marking a progressive evolution. In some cases, at the end of the burial corridor there is a bench for the placing of votive offerings, while along the side walls there may be some niches (from one to four), perhaps for the same purpose. The chamber was enclosed within a sort of elongated tumulus, which on the outside must have appeared as a mound with its highest point at the entrance and lowest point at the back: the latter was almost always curved to form a sort of apse. At the front, the tomb body opened into two curving wings delimiting a semicircular area: this is the so-called exedra or forecourt, an element of great
Figure 23 Giants tomb at SEna e Thomes, Dorgali (NU); detail of burial corridor.

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The giants tombs

importance in rituals connected with the tomb. The two wings were composed of upright stones (in the type with a stele rounded at the top) or courses of stones, the height of which decreased from the centre to the sides. The forecourt was often provided with a stone seat at the base of the wall, and in some cases the area could be completely enclosed with a low curving wall starting from the ends of the two wings. Here took place the complex funerary rites in honour of the deceased, which probably occured not only at the time of burial, but which were repeated at determined times or anniversaries: indeed, in nuragic religious beliefs great importance was attached to the cult of ancestors, transformed into heroes and gods, as reported by several classic authors of antiquity who mentioned the Sardinian custom of sleeping near the graves of their ancestors for magical and therapeutic reasons. It was in the forecourt of the giants tombs that we find the place where these ritual incubations were practiced. The front of many tombs (especially in the centre north of the island) often has a long slab of dressed and modelled stone: the soFigure 24 Reconstruction of a giants tomb.

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The giants tombs

called arched stele with its characteristic rounded form with a bas relief frame and a listel in the middle dividing rounded top from rectangular bottom, in which the narrow port-hole entrance to the tomb was cut. Concerning the symbolism of the motif sculpted on the arched stele much has been said and much is still being said, but the most reliable hypothesis is the one that sees in it a representation of the door to the netherworld, heir to the tradition of the false entrances which in prenuragic hypogeic tombs (the domus de janas) must have symbolized the entrance to the world of the dead. In a fairly significant group of tombs, equally widespread in the centre-north of the island (the tombs at Iloi, Sedilo, Province of Oristano, Seleni and Lanusei, Province of Nuoro and others), in place of the rounded stele the faade presented courses of stones topped by a special trapezoidal stone (the so-called dentiled ashlar) with three notches (or three holes) in which small stone betyls were placed, perhaps to symbolize a trinity of divinities, or a divine principle repeated to reach a number full of magical and religious significance. In the south of the island the prevalent type of tomb is the one with a faade made of courses of stones apparently without the dentiled ashlar (Is Concias, Quartucciu and Domu e SOrku, Siddi, Province of Cagliari; Muraguada, Paulilatino, Province of Oristano and so on). The arched stele, the entire faade (including forecourt and bench) and the extrados of the giants tombs in the nuragic period were also sculpted in the live rock in correspondence to the opening of the hypogeic tombs similar to the neolithic domus de janas, but usually composed of a single more or less elongated cell. Not seldom, to save work, the old domus de janas, appropriately reworked on the inside to enlarge some rooms, were reutilized. These tombs, first called nuragic domus and later hypogeic tombs with an architectonic faade, are today more correctly defined as rock-cut giants tombs; their diffusion is limited to northwestern Sardinia (the regions of Sassari and Logudoro, with sporadic appearances in Goceano), in an area where megalithic giants tombs are certainly rare, but not entirely absent. Three holes, perhaps for the placing of small betyls, were commonly hollowed out in the tumulus immediately behind the upper edge of the arched stele, exactly like in the megalithic giants tombs with dentiled ashlars, while this datum singularly appears to

33

Figure 25 Giants tomb at Coddu Vecchiu, Arzachena (SS); detail of two-stone arched stele.

Figure 26 Dentiled ashlar in the giants tomb at SEna e sOlomo, Sindia (NU):

Figure 27 Giants tomb at Muraguada, Paulilatino (OR).

The giants tombs

be rare in tombs with arched steles, the model of which is even sculpted in the rock of hypogeic ones. It is possible, however, that in giants tombs with steles the three small betyls may have been placed in niches in the faade just behind the monolithic slab: the disappearance of the upper covering of the burial tumulus (which leaves in the open the tall stone slab, thus giving the erroneous impression of a stele erected above the grave (thus its name) has caused the disappearance of all traces of this element. Medium and large betyls (one to two metres in height) have been found near many giants tombs, especially in central-western Sardinia (Marghine, Planargia and the northern Oristano regions): they sometimes show mammary bosses (or cavities) and are often found together with other betyls with male attributes, perhaps representing the partner of the Mother Goddess (the Tamuli giants tomb, Macomer, Province of Nuoro). Betyls are stones vaguely conical or cylindrical in shape with rounded tops which were placed
Figure 28 Hypogeic tomb with architectural faade at Campu Lontanu, Florinas (SS).

36

The giants tombs

vertically in the ground; they are the heirs to the older menhirs (and in some giants tombs, especially in the forecourt, we find small menhirs rather than betyls). Conceptually, they should have had the function of small altars, a meeting place between the divinity and the devout (beth-el in Hebrew means in fact House of the Lord), but we cannot exclude the possibility that for the nuragic peoples this was an attempt to represent the divinity itself in an iconic image. Because of the profanation of the tombs at all times, it is rather difficult to find intact graves and so even today the ritual followed in laying the dead to rest is still a matter of debate. However, the secondary type of burial is considered the most likely: the bodies were first stripped of flesh by means of long exposure in the open in ceremonial areas (perhaps the forecourt itself) and then the bones were placed in the tomb. The hypothesis of primary deposition of the body in its entirety (inhumation) cannot, however, be completely ignored. Who was buried in the giants tombs?
Figure 29 Female betyl near the Tamuli giants tomb, Macomer (NU).

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Temples and other religious sites

The answer to this question is still being debated by scholars. The traditional hypothesis is that the giants tombs were collective graves for all members of the community, without social distinction and without there being any attempt at ostentation in grave goods. This may very well be true of the oldest tombs, which not by accident were the largest and capable of containing many bodies; however, it is reasonable to believe that in the course of their evolution the nuragic peoples saw the emergence of some family groups above the others in the tribe (aristocracies ante litteram), for whom we certainly cannot imagine the custom of an indistinct collective burial ritual: in these cases it is likely that the giants tombs became family or clan mausoleums, even though the doubt then arises as to where the common people were buried. The other kinds of tombs that we mentioned at the beginning represent exceptions and are isolated, either geographically or chronologically. The tafone graves are those found in small natural recesses (tafoni) formed by the natural erosion of granite, and are for the most part limited to the area of northern Gallura (mainly Arzachena and Santa Teresa di Gallura). The individual (monsome) tombs discovered near the temple of Antas, like those of Monti Prama, are instead graves dating from more recent times, in the full Iron Age (9th 6th centuries BC), at a time when it is perhaps arbitrary to continue speaking of a nuragic civilization.

Temples and other religious sites


As stated before, one of the main aspects of the nuragic religion was the cult of the dead and beliefs connected with life in the netherworld. However, religious architecture is represented mostly by sacred wells and springs: constructions connected with the animistic cult of water, an element at one and the same time precious for survival and pregnant with religious implications. The structural elements of these constructions, in accordance with an architectural module rigidly codified into a canonical design (as is to be expected with a temple), are at least three: 1) a vestibule, or atrium: a room that is generally rectangular

38

Temples and other religious sites

preceding the stairway or access to the spring, with stone benches at the sides where the devout left their offerings and performed their rites. Under the floor of the atrium there was often a small channel to gather any spilt water and lead it back into the well; 2) a stairway leading down to the floor of the tholos: this is true only of sacred wells; sacred springs, which emerged at ground level, obviously required no stairway, or at the most only a few steps; 3) a chamber covered with a corbelled roof of the kind found in nuraghi (tholos); most of these were underground to protect the vein of the spring. In some rare cases (Cuccuru Nuraxi, Settimo San Pietro and Fontana Coperta, Ballao, Province of Cagliari), the vein of water was
Figure 30 Nuragic sanctuary at Santa Cristina di Paulilatino (OR); aerial view.

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Temples and other religious sites

collected in a deep well the mouth of which was in the chamber. Another element present in a large number of sacred wells (but also in other religious buildings), was a sacred enclosure delimiting the area of worship around the temple (like the tmenos of Greek sanctuaries). On the special water cult, some classical writers report that in the waters of some springs in Sardinia a sort of ordeal, or divine judgement, was performed: those accused of theft (usually livestock) became blind on contact with the water if they were guilty and if innocent came out with their sight improved. In any case, water was venerated mostly as a precious liquid flowing from Mother Earth, the mother of all living creatures, no longer portrayed in the form of a woman as in prenuragic times, but still strongly present in the beliefs of nuragic peoples. Another mention of this female divinity, creator and wet nurse, can be seen in the betyls with mammalian bosses (or cavities), about which we spoke in connection with the giants tombs. The devotion of nuragic peoples to the water god is borne witness to by the large number of bronze statuettes (the well-known bronzetti nuragici: see below) which have been found in and around the temples where this divinity was worshipped: with these votive statuettes, worshippers thanked the gods for favours received or tried to ingratiate them before undertaking a difficult task or in a crucial moment of their existence (an illness, a bad harvest and so on). Thus the warrior donated a statuette with four eyes, four arms and two shields to have the maximum power in battle, and the hunter gave a swordstick with the statuette of a deer or mouflon embedded in it to gain the favour of an abundance of game. It was most of all in the vicinity of sacred wells that we find the main nuragic sanctuaries, often defined as pansardi because it is thought that in some cases people gathered there from all parts of the island: this is the case of Santa Vittoria, Serri, Province of Nuoro

Figure 31 Plans and sections of sacred wells: a Santa Anastasia, Sardara (CA); b Milis, Golfo Aranci (SS); c Funtana Coperta, Ballao (CA); d Cuccuru Nuraxi, Settimo San Pietro (Cagliari); e Su Putzu, Orroli (NU); f Sa Testa, Olbia (SS); g Predio Canopoli, Perfugas (SS); h Santa Vittoria, Serri (NU). Plans and sections of sacred springs: i Su Lumarzu, Bonorva (SS); l - Noddule, Nuoro; m Su Tempiesu, Orune (NU).

40

Temples and other religious sites

41

Figure 32 Sacred spring at Su Tempiesu, Orune (NU), detail of atrium.

Temples and other religious sites

and Santa Cristina, Paulilatino, Province of Oristano. In these places there were religious celebrations that lasted several days and, under the aegis of the divinity of the sanctuary, the different tribes, putting aside for the moment their disputes and resentments, met for religious celebrations, but also to reach important political agreements and exchange goods. Around these religious buildings fairly large settlements developed in which, side by side with huts used as homes for families, it is possible to recognize many other buildings connected with the sanctuary; among these the meeting hut was especially important: the one in the village of Santa Vittoria, Serri, defined by Taramelli as a curia or hut for federal assemblies, is quite large. Still at Santa Vittoria, Taramelli recognized a founders hut, a kitchen, the chiefs hut and especially the enclosure for feasts: a space bordered by huts, arcades where pilgrims could rest, small rooms with benches for the sale of goods or beverages. Other nuragic religious buildings, not as numerous as the wells and springs but still present throughout the island, are the socalled in antis temples or megaron temples composed of a rectangular structure, sometimes divided internally into different rooms and characterized by the projection of the side walls beyond the front, and in some cases the back, walls. These temples could be isoFigure 33 Village and sanctuary at Santa Vittoria di Serri (NU), overall plan.

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Art

lated or found together with other religious buildings (wells and springs among others); a unique case is represented by the Romanzesu sanctuary at Bitti in the Province of Nuoro, where at the same site we find, besides a singular sacred spring adjoined by a sort of small amphitheatre (perhaps for the reciting of religious plays, but more probably terraces for collective ritual ablutions), three or four megaron temples. In the Serra Orrios village at Dorgali in the Province of Nuoro, there are two temples (a large one and a smaller one with a large enclosure farther from the centre, perhaps reserved to pilgrims passing through) which represent the gathering places for an ample and complex settlement. In some cases there is evidence of rites connected with the water cult even where the association with a sacred spring is lacking: in such cases the liquid was contained in jars buried under the floor (SArcu de is Forros, Villagrande Strisaili, Province of Nuoro). A third kind of religious edifice, identified by scholars only following research performed in recent years, is composed of circular sacella, similar to the small rotundas already known for their presence in sector huts of numerous nuragic villages where it is supposed that domestic rites were performed. In this case, however, the dimensions are much larger and, in one such building (Sa Sedda e Sos Carros, Oliena, Province of Nuoro) we find, besides the bench at the base of the walls, a basin (twice as large as those found in the rotundas) which caught the water coming from gutters under drip spouts having the form of animals. In the other round sacella identified thus far the basin was not found, but we cannot exclude the presence of an altar or other object of worship in its place.

Art
The artistic manifestations (or high-quality handicraft products) expressed by the nuragic civilization are closely connected with the complex sphere of religion and its symbolism as is normal in prehistoric and proto-historic societies. Two main kinds of artistic artefacts have come down to us: sculpture, stone and bronze (the latter only small in size), and the designs on pottery or, in rare cases, on

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Art

Figure 34 Plans of small megaron temples: a Domu de Orgia, Esterzili (NU); b SArcu de is Forros, Villagrande Strisaili (NU); c Sos Nurattolos, Al dei Sardi (SS); d - Malchittu, Arzachena (SS); e Serra Orrios A, Dorgali (NU); f Serra Orrios B, Dorgali (NU); g Gremanu, Fonni (NU); h Romanzesu, Bitti (NU).

other objects such as the pintadera, a kind of stamp for the decoration of ritual bread (but they may also have been used in tattooing).

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Figure 35 Temple B at Serra Orrios, Dorgali (NU).

Figure 36 Small megaron temple at SArcu de is Forros, Villagrande Stisaili (NU); detail of inside.

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Art

Artistic merit must also be accorded to some architectural solutions, especially in the final nuragic period (mostly sacred wells and springs, but also giants tombs and other religious edifices built using the technique defined as isodomum: which is to
Figure 37 Detail of circular sacellum at Sa Sedda e Sos Carros, Oliena (NU).

say with the use of finely worked ashlars, often with notches and moulding or other ornamental elements. Among other objects with decorations, thus having artistic value, many such as razors, fibulas (a sort of safety pin for clothing), swords with richly decorated hilts and even blades are the fruit of imports from the Tyrrhenian area (Villanovian and later Etruscan); others are instead typical of nuragic production: this is the case of bronze bracelets with herring-bone decorations, or bronze buttons conical in shape (quite similar to those still in use with traditional Sardinian costumes) and often with miniature nuraghi or animals at the summit.

Stone objects
Stone statues, not very numerous, but spread throughout the island, are closely connected with nuragic religious beliefs: for the most part

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Art

Figure 38 Stone pintadera (stamp) from Nuraghe Santu Antine, Torralba (SS).

they come from the sanctuaries and usually portray animal protomes, especially the bull, perhaps a continuation of the cult of the male
Figure 39 Decorated ashlars from Nuraghe Nurdole, Orani (NU).

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Art

partner of the Mother Goddess who was worshipped in prenuragic times: the goddess herself on the contrary is not represented and can only be hinted at by the betyls with breasts in relief (or as bosses) which we spoke about in connection with the giants tombs. Another subject that is often portrayed in medium-sized as well as very small statues is the nuraghe itself, prevalently the single tower, consisting of a small pillar (this explains the frequent reference to them as betyl-towers, also in connection with the fact that they were habitually placed inside the meeting huts, almost always

Figure 40 Bronze bracelet with herring-bone decoration from Nuraghe Palmavera, Alghero (SS).

at the centre on a support on the floor): a kind of altar (thus a betyl) from which the divinity looked on and acted as guarantor for the decisions and agreements reached during the meetings. But there is no lack of representations, even partial, and also in small bronze statuettes, of complex nuraghi with a realistic representation of the keep rising above the turreted bastion, of the terraces on the corbels which crowned the top of the walls, and sometimes even the embrasures at the bottom. These figures are for us of the utmost importance since they

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Art

help us to understand how the nuragic towers appeared originally. Today all of them have lost their upper part. In the final stage of its development, which carried over into the Iron Age, the nuragic civilization also succeeded in producing a large anthropomorphous statue, an isolated case to be found inland of Tharros (in the funerary sanctuary of Monti Prama near Cabras in the Province of Oristano, which we mentioned while describing the graves), perhaps in a period in which the Sardinian-Phoenician aristocracies were developing and the splendour of the nuragic civilization was nothing more than a myth. The large statues
Figure 41 Stone model of a nuraghe, from Noragugume (NU).

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Art

found at Monti Prama, which substantially reproduce the warriors portrayed in the bronze statuettes, with their bows, horned helmets, shields, gloves and other pieces of armour to protect the limbs and body, would appear to refer to the myth of these ancestors, now elevated to the level of heroes and divinities. Still in stone, we can mention some figures with meanings that are sometimes clear, such as the stool in the Palmavera meeting hut, perhaps a sort of small throne, but often uncertain. There are also
Figure 42 Stone model of a complex nuraghe, from San Sperate (CA).

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Art

Figure 43 Bronze model of a quadrilobate nuraghe, from Olmedo (SS).

many stone slabs richly engraved with geometric patterns the magic and religious meaning of which we do not know today, but which surely must have adorned the faades of religious buildings.

Bronze objects
Bronze statuettes perhaps inspired by those coming from the Middle East, which were in circulation in Sardinia already in the 9th century BC constitute one of the characteristic and most visible elements not only of nuragic art, but more in general of the entire civilization: quite popular and appreciated by a vast public, they are on exhibition in many museums all over the world, starting from the prestigious British Museum in London.

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Art

Figure 44 Sandstone head of nuragic warrior, from Monti Prama, Cabras (OR).

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Art

They are for the most part statuettes of different sizes (from a few centimetres up to a maximum of 39 centimetres) prevalently representing men (the large majority) and women, animals, boat models, models of nuraghi, imaginary beings and small-scale reproductions of objects and furnishings. There are also ritual objects, such as insignia for processions and votive trophies, which are made of bronze. They were made using the lost-wax process: a figFigure 45 Sandstone seat, from the meeting hut of the Palmavera nuragic settlement, Alghero (SS).

ure was modelled with wax or tallow and then placed in a clay mould with a hole drilled at top and bottom; the molten metal was poured into the upper hole and took the place of the wax which melted and came out of the bottom hole. After removing the statuette from the mould, burrs were removed and details were finished. The bronzetti were generally employed as votive offerings: offers that the devout took to the sanctuary to be exhibited there (sometimes attaching them to a stone base with lead) for the purpose of currying the favour of the god before a difficult undertaking (for victory in battle but also for an abundant harvest) or in a time of crisis (an illness, a bad harvest) or in thanksgiving for a benefit

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Art

received. Not seldom the bronze figure represents the offerer in person who has himself portrayed by the artist in the act of carrying his offer (a loaf of bread, an animal for sacrifice, hides or other objects he has made and so on) to the sanctuary; in other cases the reason for the request (a mother with her sick child in her lap) or thanksgiving (a lame person who offers a crutch if it really is a crutch after being cured) is quite explicit. Among the men, warriors are particularly numerous. Their weaponry varies, perhaps in connection with the beginnings of social differentiation; the chiefs, or the most authoritative persons (the elders?) are usually easily recognizable, not only because of their
Figure 46 Nuragic bronze statuettes on a stone base, from the archaeological museum in Nuoro.

particularly rich clothing but also for the presence of a sceptre in their hands. Among the warriors, we find a great many archers, often in the act of shooting. Their bows differ in size but, rather than indicating a different use as has been supposed, it is more logical to imagine that this difference is due to the liberties that the makers of these statues took in their work. Almost all the soldiers, no matter how they are armed, have the typical nuragic dagger (or stiletto) with a gamma-shaped hilt to protect the back of the hand, hung around their necks: such daggers, which have actually been found during excavations, were carried ostentatiously and perhaps indicated hierarchical position or

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Art

Figure 47 Bronze statuette representing two wrestlers, from Uta (CA).

social status, or more simply the reaching of adulthood. Small models of them were also produced and hung from or sewn onto clothing, perhaps in substitution for the real ones, the offensive effectiveness of which remains in doubt. Some figures representing imaginary beings (a man with the body of a quadruped, a warrior with four arms and four legs and so on) may in reality be representations of demons or creatures of a divine nature. Animals are quite common subjects in bronze statuettes: besides the statuettes devoted to them alone, they are also present in many others together with human beings (individuals riding on the back of oxen and in one case perhaps a horse, shepherds with lambs on their shoulders, an offerer leading a fox on a leash to the sanctuary as the victim of a sacrifice), we also find them on vessels (especially birds), embedded in the staffs of standards (the so-called hoplolatric or cult of weapons insignia) and trophies connected with magic hunting rituals. There are animals connected both with the agricultural and domestic world (cattle, sheep and goats, pigs, dogs) and wild animals (foxes, wild boars, mouflon, deer); in one absolutely unique

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Art

Figure 48 Bronze statuette of archer poised to shoot, with a Middle-Easterntype skirt, from Srdara (CA).

case there is even a monkey (an animal not found in Sardinia) aboard a nuragic vessel.

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Art

Sea-going craft represent one of the most interesting subjects to be found among nuragic bronze statuettes: there are some one hundred and twenty of what we could call scale models of boats produced in Sardinia up to the 6th century BC. They are found not only in Sardinia, but also on mainland Italy, prevalently in areas populated by the Etruscans and together with othFigure 49 Bronze statuette representing a demon with four eyes and four arms, from Abini, Teti (NU).

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Art

er statuettes. They were almost certainly used as oil lamps since all but a few of them have a ring to allow their suspension from something. The debate as to whether or not these small nuragic bronze vessels (or barchette small boats) represent real sea-going craft has led most scholars to consider favourably the hypothesis of the existence of a nuragic navy equipped with at least two kinds of large craft (plus a third type consisting of small boats for sailing on lagoons similar to fassonis, the rush boats still to be seen today in the Cabras lagoon): one with a flat bottom for navigating on inland waters (in the two variations of straight or convex sides), and the other probably with a convex keel for carrying cargo similar to the Phoenician hippos. The presence of ships especially designed for war, character-

Figure 50 Bronze statuette of a mouflon, from Olmedo (SS).

Figura 51 Bronzetto raffigurante un bue, da Laerru (SS).

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Art

ized by rostrums and tiers of oarsmen can apparently be excluded: in nuragic craft not only are the former lacking but there is hardly any indication of means for steerage, with the exception of the mast for a sail.

Figure 52 Bronze vessel with bovine protome, from Orroli (NU).

Figure 53 Bronze vessel with deer-like protome, from Bultei (SS).

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Art

Pottery
In pottery, the skill and taste of the nuragic craftsmen come to the fore in decorating the surfaces of the pottery that was used during complex rituals; perhaps in some cases it was destined to be shattered at the end of the rite, like the pitchers found at the bottom of sacred wells. The most ancient nuragic pottery to be decorated, which dates back to the first stage of the Middle Bronze Age, are the large containers with lids decorated with alternating squares a sort of chessboard pattern (metopale decoration): pyxides, used to hold precious objects or, more probably, ritual offerings which were often found among grave goods. At a later stage, between the Middle and Late Bronze Ages, the decorations, engraved and pressed into
Figure 54 Nuragic vessel known as the Sun Kings Boat, from Padria (SS).

the fresh clay in repeated rows of dots with the use of a toothed object (from which comes the term combed ornament) were concentrated mostly on the inner surfaces (sides and bottom) in low pans, baking pans and plates: all kitchenware for use in the preparation of bread rolls or ritual bread; the complex symbols engraved on the sides of the containers were thus impressed on the bread. Towards the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron

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Art

Age, through frequent contacts with peoples in the Tyrrhenian area, the pottery is instead characterized by decorations of a geometric nature, fairly embellished rich and refined, created through the impressing of concentric circles and the engraving of thin lines. The pottery thus decorated, which was made with fine clay and had sides smoothed to a lucid reddish finish, was used for the transportation and pouring of liquids: pitchers, in the two pear-shaped forms, with two or four handles, and the single-handled askos with mouth off-centre and curving downward, sometimes with an actual beak to facilitate pouring. These are two containers closely connected with water worship rites which took place at the sacred springs and wells or which were used for sacred libations.
Figure 55 Pan with comb decoration from Nuraghe Chesseddu di Uri (SS).

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Society and economy

Society and economy


The peoples of nuragic society, as stated in the premise, did not leave written records. Thus it is impossible to reconstruct their political and economic organization on the basis of documented evidence; we must therefore rely on indirect sources represented mainly (but not excluFigure 56 Askoid pitcher from Monte Cao, Sorso (SS).

Figure 57 Pear-shaped pots with geometric decoration, from the Santa Anastasia sacred well, Sardara (CA).

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Society and economy

sively) by what remains of their material culture found in the course of archaeological excavations, by careful examination of their architecture, by the figures represented in the bronze statuettes and stone sculptures and on a territorial analysis of their settlements. It is fairly plausible to believe that the nuragic society was organized as a chiefdom: a society in which the hegemony of a few families within the community had become consolidated and power, initially attributed to an elected chief only in times of need (a primus inter pares, like the power that Agamemnon received from the other Greek kings during the expedition against Troy), had become stable and hereditary. This is borne witness to by the nuraghi themselves: as was observed in describing the villages, at least the large complex fortresses would appear to be the place where power was exercised and thus the residence of the tribal chiefs. The nuraghe itself, especially when it assumes the dimensions of a complex fortress, is to be considered the result of the collective effort of an entire community: an effort requiring close coordination that only a chief could provide. Furthermore, some giants tombs of special architectural excellence would appear to indicate their being commissioned by persons of prestige and great authority; we must not neglect the problem of the building and management of the large sanctuaries and the fine religious edifices, which certainly presupposed someone of high lineage. The bronze statuettes offer a wide range of figures, among which it is possible to note significant differences: together with the ranks of simple hoplites (soldiers with extremely simple weapons) we find warriors with rich and complex weaponry; together with supplicants dressed in a modest loincloth we find personages elegantly dressed and in a solemn and hieratic attitude, who are often identified as tribal chiefs, not lastly because they often carry a sceptre as a symbol of command. The position of women within nuragic society must not have been a minor one: indeed, they are undoubtedly present among the bronze statuettes with figures of a certain prestige, rightly or wrongly often defined as priestesses, as well as a statuette of a maternal figure embracing a young warrior, perhaps wounded or dead (the

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Figure 58 Giants tomb no. 1 at Madau, Fonni (NU); detail of burial corridor built with the isodomum technique.

Society and economy

Madre dellucciso (mother of the killed) from the name of a famous statue by the sculptor Ciusa) for whom the mother and not the father as would be expected in a patriarchal society pleads with the divinity for vengeance, or at least this is one of the meanings that can be given to the vow connected with the donation of this unique statuette. Once again, we cannot overlook the fact that the presence of statuettes of women making votive offerings at the sanctuary shows that women had, at least in this case (and considering that the doFigure 59 Bronze statuette of tribal chief, from Monti Arcosu, Uta (CA).

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nation of a bronze statuette, at least in that period, must have represented a large expense for the family), equal rights with men. As concerns the economic organization, although the nuragic society was substantially based on agriculture and animal husbandry, we can also see signs of specialization in the arts and crafts, represented primarily by the works that have come down to us. The construction of nuraghi and other civil, funerary and religious buildings required workers skilled in dressing and laying stones as well as carpenters capable of erecting the necessary scaffolding. Nuragic carpenters, whose bronze tools have been unearthed, were capable of building ships and wagons for transporting goods as can be seen from the subjects of the bronze statuettes. These statuettes offer us a picture of a range of activities and crafts: besides the warriors, we can also see musicians, tanners, but most of all farmers and shepherds. As concerns farming, the main crops were wheat, barley, difFigure 60 Bronze statuette known as the mother of the slain, from Urzulei (NU).

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ferent legumes (known since the Neolithic) such as broad beans, peas and lentils; moreover, archaeological evidence has revealed the appearance for the first time of the grape and the almond, but acorns were certainly important as food. Among the domestic animals raised there was obviously a prevalence of pigs and cattle; the latter were also used for a long period of time as means of transportation, since the introduction of the horse (the presence of which is shown by the finding during excavations of bones and bronze harnesses and perhaps also by a statuette) is to be considered a late development. One activity connected with animal husbandry was that of the working and commerce of hides, which are clearly portrayed in a bronze statuette found in the sanctuary at Serri. But hunting continued to play an important role in the economy: from remains found and the statuettes we know that deer, hare, wild boar, fallow deer, mouflon, foxes and so on were hunted. The nuragic peoples must also have been skilled in weaving vegetable fibres and tanning hides, from which they made clothing but also shields and armature for the warriors: clothing was, however, prevalently woven with wool, felt and linen. Womens tunics, as we can see from the statuettes, went down to the ankles while those of the menfolk stopped above the knee. The production of pottery in the nuragic period, with the partial introduction of the potters wheel, is fairly rich and complex: together with the normal containers for foods, liquids and for cooking, we have the appearance of special forms such as warming pans, cookers, pots for distilling alcoholic beverages, etc. Among the most flourishing activities we must not forget the production of metals, especially the mining and commerce of copper, a basic ingredient in the production of bronze. Copper ingots, both in the form of lenticular pigs and in the characteristic ox-hide shape, widespread throughout the Mediterranean, Cyprus and in the Aegean area, have been found in many different Sardinian localities. It was in fact the trade in precious metals, which were abundant in Sardinia, that brought the nuragic peoples in contact with other Mediterranean civilizations, starting with the Mycenaean in the 14th and 13th centuries BC and continuing with the Phoenicians

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and Carthaginians (perhaps as early as the 11th and 10th centuries), the Villanovians and the Etruscans, those of the Aegean area and so on. Some even advance the hypothesis that the first smelters came from Cyprus to teach the nuragic peoples the art of smelting
Figure 61 Bronze statuettes depicting three bulls and a sow, from Nuraghe Nurdole at Orani (NU).

Figure 62 Jar with one handle (milk warmer) on stone brazier, from the Palmavera nuragic settlement, Alghero (SS).

69

Society and economy

Figure 63 Milk-warming pot (still for alcoholoc drinks?) from Nuraghe Nastasi, Tertenia (NU).

bronze: on some ox-hide ingots found in Sardinia some letters of the ancient Aegean alphabet appear, perhaps indicating the unit of measurement.

Figure 64 Axes, bracelets and pigs of copper, from the store-room of Nuraghe Flumenlongu, Alghero (SS).

70

Decline of the nuragic civilization

Decline of the nuragic civilization


The Mycenaeans, at the height of their power and dominion over the Mediterranean basin, established one of their bases in the Gulf of Cagliari (near the town of Sarrok, on the rock where we find the Antigori nuraghe: it was a sort of agency perfectly inserted in a nuragic settlement, perhaps for the bartering of goods produced in
Figure 65 Copper ox-hide ingot, with signs of the Aegean alphabet, from Nuragus (NU).

Sardinia (especially metals) with manufactured goods. Perhaps Sardinians (Shardana) and Mycenaeans (or Achaeans) fought together in the ranks of the so-called Peoples of the Sea who in the 13th century BC fought many battles against Egypt. It was at the time of its maximum social and cultural development that the nuragic civilization received a devastating blow, with the conquest of the island by the Carthaginians (second half of the 6th century BC); there is, however, debate concerning what society the Punic conquerors found on their arrival in Sardinia. It now appears certain that the political and military organization based on the nuraghe had come to an end a long time before: the nuraghi,

71

Decline of the nuragic civilization

Figure 66 Mycenaean pottery from the Antigori nuragic settlement, Sarrok (CA).

or what remained of them, were incorporated in the villages in the final period, and the walls still standing were used as a support in the building of new huts; some fortresses underwent a radical transformation, becoming sanctuaries ((Nurdole nuraghe, Orani, Province of Nuoro) destined to last into the Phoenician-Punic (Genna Maria nuraghe, Villanovaforru, Province of Cagliari) and Roman periods (Lugherras nuraghe, Paulilatino, Province of Oristano). The two Carthaginian expeditions to Sardinia (the first ended in a defeat, the second with the conquest) were conducted not against the nuragic Sardinians proper, but against Phoenician Sardinians or in any case indigenous peoples by then integrated into a system of relations with the Phoenician towns along the coasts.

72

Decline of the nuragic civilization

Some nuragic communities probably continued to enjoy independence, especially in the mountainous centre of the island known as Barbagia, but at the survival level which G. Lilliu identified with the Nuragic V phase. But by then, the cultural, social and political institutions of a people which some, rightly or wrongly, do not hesitate to call the nuragic nation, had disappeared.

73

Bibliography

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185-197. A. MORAVETTI, Serra Orrios e i monumenti archeologici di Dorgali, Sardegna Archeologica, Guide e Itinerari, n. 26, Carlo Delfino editore, Sassari, 1998. A. MORAVETTI, Ricerche archeologiche nel Marghine-Planargia, Sardegna Archeologica, Studi e Monumenti, n. 5, voll. I e II, Carlo Delfino editore, Sassari, 1998-2000. V. SANTONI, Tharros. Il villaggio nuragico di Su Muru Mannu, Rivista di Studi Fenici, XIII-1, 1985, pp. 33-140. V. SANTONI, I templi di et nuragica, in Various authors., La Civilt Nuragica, Electa, Milano 19902, pp. 169-193. V. SANTONI, Il nuraghe Losa di Abbasanta, Soprintendenza Archeologica per le Provincie di Cagliari e Oristano, Quaderni didattici, n. 4/1990, STEF, Cagliari. M. SEQUI, Nuraghi, Multigrafic, Como, 1985. G. TANDA, Il carro in et nuragica, in Atti del II Convegno di Studi di Selargius: La Sardegna nel Mediterraneo tra il II e il I millennio a.C., Cagliari, 1987, pp. 63-80. A. TARAMELLI, Il nuraghe Palmavera presso Alghero, in Monumenti Antichi dei Lincei, XIX, 1909, pp. 225-304. A. TARAMELLI, Il tempio nuragico ed i monumenti primitivi di Santa Vittoria di Serri (Cagliari), in Monumenti Antichi dei Lincei, vol. XXIII, 1914, coll. 313-440. A. TARAMELLI, Il tempio nuragico di S. Anastasia di Sardara (Prov. di Cagliari), Monumenti Antichi dei Lincei, XXV, 1918, coll. 36136. A. TARAMELLI, Nuove ricerche nel santuario nuragico di Santa Vittoria di Serri, Monumenti Antichi dei Lincei, XXXIV, 1931, coll. 5-122. A. TARAMELLI, Santu Antine in territorio di Torralba (Sassari), in Monumenti Antichi dei Lincei, vol. XXXVIII, 1939, coll. 9-70. D. TRUMP, Nuraghe Noeddos and the Bonu Ighinu Valley. Excavation and Survey in Sardinia, Oxbow Books, Oxford, 1990. G. UGAS, La tomba megalitica di S. Cosimo-Gonosfanadiga, Archeologia Sarda, 1, Cagliari 1981, pp. 7-20. G. UGAS, Archittetura e cultura materiale nuragico: il tempo dei Protonuraghi, SarEdit, Cagliari, 1999. R. ZUCCA, Il santuario nuragico di S. Vittoria di Serri, Sardegna Archeologica. Guide e Itinerari, n. 7, Carlo Delfino editore, 1988.

81

Glossar y

Glossar y

Polyandrous (tomb)

A Bronze Age collective tomb characterized by a long gallery or corridor of stones set upright. Similar to the giants tomb, but without the exedra or mound destined to cover the burial chamber. In a nuraghe, a vertical shaft left in walls to allow communication between upper and lower floors. The outer wall of nuragic fortifications enclosing the keep and the bastion. In nuragic architecture, the adjective indicates the curvature of the outer wall of the final part of a giants tomb or other buildings. In giants tombs, a large slab (a single stone, but sometimes composed of two) which stands at the front of a grave at the centre of the exedra. It is characterized by an ogival upper section (lunette) and a square or rectangular bottom section. The two sections are divided by a horizontal slab. It is also found sculpted on the faade of the architectonic domus. See Domus faade. with architectonic

Acoustic shaft

Antemural

Apsidal

Arched stele

Architectonic faade
(hypogeic tomb having a)

Ashlar

A stone dressed for use in erecting walls.

85

Glossary

Askoid

Vase with a closed form (pitcher) imitating an askos (see). Pitcher for pouring a liquid from a spout or narrow neck, the latter usually off-centre with respect to the body of the pitcher. In complex nuraghi, this term indicates the complex of towers and courtyards adjacent to the main tower. A stone, usually dressed, having the form of a cone with the point cut off, placed upright and held to be the home of the god. A culture that characterizes the Early Bronze Age in Sardinia (18001500 BC). Period in prehistory that follows the Chalcolithic. In Sardinia it corresponds to the second and first millennia BC. Synonym for bronze statuette. The prehistoric period, also known as the Copper Age, following the Neolithic; in Sardinia it corresponds to the third and second millennia BC. Nuragic pottery of the Middle and Late Bronze Age, the decoration of which is characterized by geometric patterns impressed with a toothed instrument (comb) on the fresh clay.

Askos

Bastion

Betyl

Bonnanaro (Culture of)

Bronze Age

Bronzetto
Chacolithic Age

Combed pottery

86

Glossary

Corbels

Also called mensoloni (corbel pieces), in nuraghi these are the protruding stones at the top of the construction supporting the overhang of the terraces of the towers and curtain walls. In nuragic bastions, the wall connecting two secondary towers. In some giants tombs, a trapezoidal crowning stone with notches (usually three) alternating with dentils; on placing it adjacent to another ashlar, the three notches become holes for the placing of small betyls. Referring to a megalithic chamber tomb with walls made of stone slabs placed vertically and covered by one or more slabs laid horizontally. In giants tombs, the burial corridor with vertical walls and a flat arch roof is referred to as dolmenic. Literally homes of the fairies, this term is applied to Neolithic and Copper Age rock-cut tombs. They often consist of two or more communicating cells. A hypogeic tomb with a bas relief sculpted on the outside depicting the typical elements of giants tombs: an arched stele and exedra, or forecourt. A narrow, vertical aperture in a wall which in nuraghi widens towards the inside; its purpose was to provide

Curtain wall Dentiled ashlar

Dolmenic

Domus de janas

Domus with architectonic faade

Embrasure

87

Glossary

light and air for corridors, chambers and so on. It could also be used in defence of the nuraghe. Exedra In giants tombs, this is the semicircular area (delimited by upright stone slabs or walls) in front of the tomb. The curving walls or upright slabs start on both sides of the entrance to the tomb. The form of the exedra, or forecourt, is sculpted in the rock of the so-called domus with an architectonic faade. The upper, outside part of an arched roof. In the domus with an architectonic faade it is synonymous with a mound in the rock. In the domus de janas, a door frame sculpted in relief (or engraved or painted) on the walls of some ceremonial cells in imitation of a real door. It probably represented the entrance to the world of the dead. In nuragic architecture, the roof of protonuraghe corridors, nuraghi and giants tombs consisting of horizontal flat slabs laid side by side. Typical megalithic tomb of the nuragic period. It consists of a long burial chamber (formed by upright stone slabs or courses of stones) with the back rounded (apsidal) and preceded in the front by a semicircular ceremonial area (exedra) at the centre of which could be erected a high rising slab of semi-ogival stone: the

Extrados

False entrance

Flat arch (roof with)

Giants tomb

88

Glossary

so-called arched stele. Hoplolatrous Hypogeum Relating to the cult of arms. An underground chamber. It is often used as a synomym for domus de janas. In nuragic architecture, this term is applied to a building erected with carefully-laid, well-dressed stones. In nuragic architecture this indicates the central tower of a complex nuraghe. It usually rises above the surrounding bastion. This stands for the arched (a cntina) upper part of an arched stele, separated from the usually rectangular base by a horizontal slab. A shaft left in the wall of the nuraghe allowing communication between two chambers placed one over the other. It is similar to the acoustic shaft but is larger in diameter. A rectangular building consisting of a main chamber preceded by a vestibule. This kind of building appeared in Greece during the Neolithic. A monolith that assumes different shapes, often elongated, and stuck in the round vertically. It has a religious or funerary purpose. Sardinian menhirs are pre-nuragic.

Isodomum

Keep

Lunette

Machicolation

Megaron

Menhir

89

Glossary

Metopale (decoration)

A decoration characteristic of nuragic pottery of the Middle Bronze Age consisting of squares scratched on the surface with solid lines or strokes and alternatively filled in like a chessboard. Consisting of a single block of stone. Relating to tombs for the burial of a single person. The culture characterizing the final phase of the Chalcolithic in Sardinia. Literally, New Stone Age. It marks the passage from an economy based on hunting and gathering to one of production: its characteristic features are the birth of agriculture and animal husbandry, the working of stone and the production of pottery. In Sardinia the Neolithic dates from the VI to the III millennia BC. A small space in the walls of a larger room. It is quite common in both prenuragic (domus de janas) and nuragic architecture (chambers and corridors of nuraghi, huts, giants tombs and so on). An edifice characteristic of Sardinia. In its simplest form it consists of a flattopped conical tower with circular chambers (tholos) arranged one above the other and covered with a corbelled roof obtained by placing the stones in courses that partially

Monolithic

Monosome
(lit. single body)

Monte Claro (Culture of)

Neolithic

Niche

Nuraghe

90

Glossary

over-sail the courses below them. In the most highly developed form, the chambers communicate by means of a spiral stairway within the walls. The most complex nuraghi are composed of a series of towers (from two to five) placed around a simple tower (keep) and joined to one another by straight or concave-convex curtain walls. Ordeal Overhang Gods judgement invoked by means of fire or water. A system for roofing a tholos by laying each subsequent course of stones closer to the centre so that they oversail the lower courses. Copper ingots weighing about 30 kg used in the Mediterranean during the Bronze Age. Their shape, with concave sides and protruding extremities appears to have been inspired by the tanned and stretched hide of an ox. A terracotta stamp used in decorating ceremonial bread. It is a secondary entrance to a nuraghe or castle, usually smaller than the main entrance. Relating to the period in Sardinia preceding the nuragic period: it goes from the Early Neolithic to Early Bronze I. A building consisting mainly of variously laid out corridors, often cov-

Ox-hide (ingots)

Pintadera
Postern

Prenuragic

Protonuraghe

91

Glossary

ered with horizontally laid stone slabs placed side by side. There are also niches and small rooms, sometimes covered with a flat arch. A synonym for corridor nuraghe. Pyxis Jar with lid, normally used to contain precious objects. In Middle Bronze Age nuragic pottery, pyxides were pots with the lip turned inwards and decorated with a chessboard pattern. They have often (but not always) been found in burial contexts. In nuraghi, a corridor surrounding a cell. In nuragic villages, a small, circular room with a bench around a centrally-placed stone basin, usually inside a sector hut (see). A nuragic religious edifice, similar to the sacred well, from which it differs in lacking a stairway, since springs are normally found at ground level. Also called water temple. It is a nuragic construction for use in the water cult composed of an atrium, a stairway and an underground chamber often covered with an overhang. In nuragic villages, a building having different rooms opening onto a small, unroofed central courtyard where there is an entrance from the outside.

Ring corridor Rotunda

Sacred spring

Sacred well

Sector hut

92

Glossary

Sentry box

This term (which indicates the structure protecting a sentry) is sometimes used to define, incorrectly, the niche that is often found near the entrance to a nuraghe. Nuraghe made up of a single tower. A synonym for simple nuraghe. A nuragic religious edifice characterized by a rectangular floor plan and the extension of the side walls beyond the faade (in antis) and sometimes also beyond the rear (doubly in antis). A synonym for a megaron temple (see). A term of Corsican origin indicating a natural cavity sculpted in granite by erosion. Wall surrounding the temple dividing the sacred from the lay area. Chamber or construction with a roof consisting of a corbelled roof or false cupola obtained by the laying of successive stone courses so that each course overhangs the previous one and is thus smaller in diameter. A pillar of stone sculpted in such a way as to resemble a nuragic tower. It is thought to have the same function as the betyl. A heap of earth and stone, often held together with a course of large stones (peristalite), which covered megalithic tombs at ground level

Single-tower Small in antis temples

Tafone

Tmenos
Tholos

Tower betyl

Tumulus

93

Glossary

(dolmens, alles couvertes, etc.) forming a low hill. In giants tombs it indicates the roof of the burial room: it was often reproduced in the rock above the bank in the architectonic domus (what is defined as a mound in the rock).

94

Sources of Illustrations

Paolo Melis: 2, 12, 17, 22 (lucido Lavinia Foddai), 28, 31, 34, 36, 37, 58. Lavinia Foddai: 1, 13, 14. ESIT Nuoro: 29.

From the volumes A. MORAVETTI, Il complesso nuragico di Palmavera, 1992: 19, 40. G. LILLIU, La Civilt Nuragica, 1982: 3, 11, 15, 21, 24, 26, 27, 30, 33, 42, 43, 44, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 55, 56, 57, 60, 62, 63, 65, 66. F. LO SCHIAVO, M. SANGES, Il nuraghe Arrubiu di Orroli, 1994: 5. E. CONTU, Il nuraghe Santu Antine, 1988: 6, 9, 16. G. LILLIU, R. ZUCCA, Il nuraghe Su Nuraxi di Barumini, 1988: 7, 10, 18, 20. A. MORAVETTI, Serra Orrios e i monumenti di Dorgali, 1998: 23, 35. A. MORAVETTI, Ricerche archeologiche nel Marghine-Planargia, 1998: 4, 8. A. ANTONA, M.L. FERRARESE CERUTI, Il nuraghe Albucciu e i monumenti di Arzachena, 1992: 25. M.A. FADDA, La fonte sacra di Su Tempiesu, 1988: 32. A. MORAVETTI, Il nuraghe Santu Antine nel Logudoro-Mejlogu, 1988: 38. M.A. FADDA, Il museo speleo-archeologico di Nuoro, 1991: 39, 41, 46, 61. F. LO SCHIAVO, Il museo archeologico G.A. Sanna di Sassari, 1991: 54, 64.

95

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