The NURAGIC CIVILIZATION was a civilisation in Sardinia , the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea , which lasted from the 18th century BC ( Bronze Age ) to the 2nd century AD. The civilization's name derives from its most characteristic monument, the nuraghe , a tower-fortress type of construction built in numerous exemplars starting from about 1800 BC. Today some 7,000 nuraghes dot the Sardinian landscape.
No written records of this civilization have been discovered, apart from a few possible short epigraphic documents belonging to the last stages of the Nuragic civilization. The only written information there is comes from classical literature of the Greeks and Romans , and may be considered more mythological than historical.
* 1 History
* 1.2 Nuragic era
* 1.2.1 Early Bronze Age
* 1.2.2 Middle and Late Bronze Age
* 22.214.171.124 Sea Peoples connection
* 1.2.3 Iron Age
* 1.3 Carthaginian and Roman conquest
* 2 Society
* 2.1 Tribes
* 3 Culture
* 3.1 Religion
* 3.1.1 Holy wells * 3.1.2 Roundhouses with basin * 3.1.3 Megaron temples * 3.1.4 Giant\'s graves
* 3.2 Art
* 3.2.1 Bronze statuettes * 3.2.2 Giants of Mont\'e Prama * 3.2.3 Ceramics
* 4 Language * 5 Economy * 6 See also * 7 Notes * 8 References
Stone Age the island was inhabited by people who had arrived
there in the
Neolithic ages from several parts of
The most ancient settlements have been discovered both in central
Anglona . Later several cultures developed on the island,
such as the
Remains from this period include hundreds of menhirs (called perdas
fittas) and dolmens , more than 2400 hypogeum tombs called domus de
Janas , the statue menhirs , representing warriors or female figures,
and the stepped pyramid of Monte d\'Accoddi , near
The altar of Monte d\'Accoddi fell out of use starting from c. 2000
BC, when the
Early Bronze Age
New peoples coming from the mainland arrived on the island at that time, bringing with them new religious philosophies, new technologies and new ways of life, making obsolete the previous ones or reinterpreting them. The widespread diffusion of bronze brought numerous improvements to the tools used in agriculture, hunting and warfare.
From this period dates the construction of the so-called proto-nuraghe , a platformlike structure that marks the first phase of the Nuragic Age.
Middle And Late Bronze Age
Dating to the middle of the 2nd millennium BC, the nuraghe, which evolved from the previous proto-nuraghe, are megalithic towers with a truncated cone shape; they are widespread in the whole of Sardinia, about one nuraghe every three square kilometers. There has long been controversy among scholars. Theories about their utilization have included social, military, religious, astronomical role, as furnaces or sepulture places, but the modern agreement is that they were defensible homesites that included barns and silos. In ancient times, Greek historians and geographers tried to solve the mystery of the nuraghe and their builders. They described the presence of fabulous edifices, called daidaleia, from the name of Daedalus , who, after building his labyrinth in Crete, would have moved to Sicily and then to Sardinia.
In the second half of the 2nd millennium BC, archaeological studies
have proved the increasing size of the settlements built around some
of these structures, which were often located at the summit of hills.
Perhaps for protection reasons, new towers were added to the original
ones, connected by walls provided with slits forming a complex
Among the most famous of the numerous existing nuraghe, are the Su
Santu Antine at Torralba ,
Soon Sardinia, a land rich in mines, notably copper and lead , saw
the construction of numerous furnaces for the production of alloys
which were traded across the
Sea Peoples Connection
Bronze Age (14th-13th-12th centuries BC) saw a vast
migration of the so-called
Sea Peoples , described in ancient Egyptian
sources. They destroyed Mycenaean and Hittite sites and also attacked
Recently the archaeologist
Archaeologists define the nuragic phase as ranging from 900 BC to 500 BC ( Iron Age ) the era of the aristocracies. Fine ceramics were produced along with more and more elaborate tools and the quality of weapons increased.
With the flourishing of trade, metallurgical products and other
manufactured goods were exported to every corner of the Mediterranean,
Near East to
But the real breakthrough of that period, according to archaeologist Giovanni Lilliu , was the political organization which revolved around the parliament of the village, composed by the heads and the most influential people, who gathered to discuss the most important issues.
CARTHAGINIAN AND ROMAN CONQUEST
The Roman historian Justin describes a Carthaginian expedition led by
Malco in 540 BC against a still strongly Nuragic Sardinia. The
expedition failed and this caused a political revolution in
In 238 BC the Carthaginians, as a result of their defeat by the
Romans in the first
Punic War , surrendered
Sardinia to Rome. Sardinia
Nuragic civilization was probably based on clans, each led by a
chief, who resided in the complex nuraghe, with common people living
in the nearby villages of roundhouses with straw roofs, similar to the
modern pinnettas of the
Water management was essential for the Nuragic people, most complex
Nuraghi were provided with at least a well;
Religion had a strong role in Nuragic society, which has led scholars to the hypothesis that the Nuragic civilization was a theocracy .
Main article: List of Nuragic tribes Nuragic tribes
The most celebrated peoples of this island are the Ilienses, the Balari, and the Corsi... — Pliny the Elder , Natural History , Liber III
Throughout the second millennium and into the first part of the first millennium BC, Sardinia was inhabited by the single extensive and uniform cultural group represented by the Nuragic people.
Centuries later, Roman sources describe the island as inhabited by
numerous tribes which had gradually merged culturally. They however
maintained their political identities and the tribes often fought each
other for control of the most valuable land. The most important
Nuragic populations mentioned include the Balares, the Corsi and the
Ilienses, the latter defying the Romanization process and living in
what had been called Civitatas Barbarie (now
Ilienses or Iolaes (later Diagesbes), identified by ancient
writers as Greek colonists led by
Iolaus (nephew of
Bronze sculpture of a warrior with four eyes and four arms
The representations of animals, such as the bull , belong most likely
to pre-Nuragic civilizations, however they kept their importance among
A key element of the Nuragic religion was that of fertility, connected to the male power of the Bull-Sun and the female one of Water-Moon. According to the scholars' studies, there existed a Mediterranean-type Mother Goddess and a God-Father (Babai). An important role was that of mythological heroes such as Norax , Sardus , Iolaos and Aristeus , military leaders considered also as divinities.
The excavations have proved that the Nuragic people, in determinate
periods of the year, gathered in common holy places, usually
characterized by sitting steps and the presence of a holy pit. In some
holy areas, such as Gremanu at
Fonni , Serra Orrios at
S\'Arcu \'e Is Forros at
Some structures could have a "federal" Sardinian role, such as the sanctuary of Santa Vittoria near Serri (one of the biggest Nuragic sanctuaries, spanning over 20 hectares ), including both religious and civil buildings: here, according to Italian historian Giovanni Lilliu, the main clans of the central island held their assemblies to sign alliances, decide wars or to stipulate commercial agreements. Spaces for trades were also present. At least twenty of such multirole structures are known, including those of Santa Cristina at Paulilatino and of Siligo ; some have been re-used as Christian temples (such as the cumbessias of San Salvatore in Sinis at Cabras ).
The holy wells were structures dedicated to the cult of waters. Though initially assigned to the 8th to 6th centuries BC, due to their advanced buildings techniques, they most likely date to the earlier Bronze Age, when Sardinia had strong relationships with the Mycenaean kingdoms of Greece and Crete, around the 14-13th century BC .
The architecture of the Nuragic holy wells follows the same pattern as that of the nuraghe, the main part consisting of a circular room with a tholos vault with a hole at the summit. A monumental staircase connected the entrance to this subterranean (hypogeum ) room, whose main role is to collect the water of the sacred spring. The exterior walls feature stone benches where offerings and religious objects were placed by the faithful. Some sites also had sacrificial altars. Some scholars think that these could be dedicated to Sardus, one of the main Nuragic divinities.
Roundhouses With Basin
Starting from the late Bronze Age, a peculiar type of circular structure with a central basin and benches located all around the circumference of the room start to appear in Nuragic settlements, the best example of this type of structure is the ritual fountain of Sa Sedda e Sos Carros , near Oliena , where thanks to a hydraulic implant of lead pipes water was poured down from the ram shaped protomes inside the basin. Some archaeologists interpreted these buildings, with ritual and religious function , as thermal strucutrues .
Megaron temple of Malchittu
Located in various parts of the Island and dedicated to the cult of the healthy waters, these unique buildings are an architectural manifestation that reflects the cultural vitality of the nuragic peoples and their interaction with the coeval mediterranean civilizations. In fact, many scholars see in these buildings foreign Aegean influences.
They have a rectilinear form with the side walls that extend outwardly. Some, like that of Malchittu at Arzachena, are apsidal while others such as the temple of Sa Carcaredda at Villagrande Strisaili culminate with a circular room. They are surrounded by sacred precincts called temenos . Sometimes multiple temples are found in the same location, such as in the case of the huge sanctuary of S'Arcu e sos forros, where many megaron temples with a complex plant were excavated. The largest and best preserved Sardinian Mégara is that called Domu de Orgia at Esterzili .
Giant's grave at
The so-called "giant's graves" were funerary structures whose precise function is still unknown, and which perhaps evolved from elongated dolmens . They date to the whole Nuragic era up to the Iron Age , and are more frequent in the central sector of the island. Their plan was in the shape of the head of a bull.
Large stone sculptures known as betili (a kind of slender menhir, sometimes featuring crude depiction of male sexual organs, or of female breasts) were erected near the entrance. Sometimes the tombs were built with an "Opus isodomum" technique, where finely shaped stones were used, such as in the giant tombs of Madau or at Iloi.
Nuragic bronze statuettes, Museo nazionale archeologico ed etnografico G. A. Sanna (Sassari) Main article: Nuragic bronze statuettes
The so-called bronzetti (brunzittos or brunzittus in Sardinian language ) are small bronze statuettes obtained with the lost-wax casting technique; they can measure up to 39 cm and represent scenes of everyday life, characters from different social classes, animal figures, divinities, ships etc.
Most of them had been discovered in various sites of Sardinia;
however, a sizeable minority had also been found in Etruscan sites,
particularly tombs, of central Italy (
Giants Of Mont\'e Prama
Main article: Giants of Mont\'e Prama
The Giants of Mont\'e Prama are a group of 32 (or 40) statues with a height of up to 2.5 m, found in 1974 near Cabras , in the province of Oristano . They depict warriors, archers, wrestlers, models of nuraghe and boxers with shield and armed glove.
Depending on the different hypotheses, the dating of the Kolossoi –
the name that archaeologist
Giovanni Lilliu gave to the statues –
varies between the 11th and the 8th century BC. If this is further
confirmed by archaeologists, like the C-14 analysis already did, they
would be the most ancient anthropomorphic sculptures of the
They feature disc-shaped eyes and eastern-like garments. The statues probably depicted mythological heroes, guarding a sepulchre; according to another theory, they could be a sort of Pantheon of the typical Nuragic divinities.
Their finding proved that the Nuragic civilization had maintained its peculiarities, and introduced new ones across the centuries, well into the Phoenician colonization of part of Sardinia.
Nuragic vase from
In the ceramics, the skill and taste of the Sardinian artisans are manifested mainly in decorating the surfaces of vessels, certainly used for ritual purposes in the course of complex ceremonies, perhaps in some cases even to be crushed at the end of the rite, as the jugs found in the bottom of the sacred wells.
Ceramics also display geometric patterns in the lamps, in the
pear-shaped vessels (exclusive of Sardinia) and the askos . Imported
(eg. Mycenaeans) and local forms were found in several sites all over
the island. Also found in the Italian peninsula, Sicily, in
Main article: Paleo- Sardinian language
The language (or the languages) spoken in
Sardinia during the Bronze
Age is unknown since there are no written records of that period,
although recent researchs suggest that around the
8th century BC
According to Eduardo Blasco Ferrer the Proto- Sardinian language was akin to Proto-Basque and the ancient Iberian with faint Indoeuropean traces, while others believe it was related to Etruscan . Some scholars theorize that there were actually various linguistic areas (two or more) in Nuragic Sardinia, possibly Pre-Indoeuropeans and Indoeuropeans .
The Nuragic economy, at least at the origins, was mostly based on
agriculture (new studies suggest that they were the first to practice
viticulture in the western
Navigation had an important role: historian Pierluigi Montalbano
mentions the finding of nuragic anchors along the coast, some weighing
100 kg. This has suggested that the Nuragic people used efficient
ships, which could perhaps reach lengths up to 15 meters. These
allowed them to travel the whole Mediterranean, establishing
commercial links with the
Mycenaean civilization (attested by the
common tholos tomb shape, and the adoration of bulls), Spain, Italy,
Cyprus, Lebanon. Items such as Cyprus-type copper ingots have been
found in Sardinia, while bronze and early
Iron Age Nuragic ceramics
have been found in the
Aegean region , in
Sardinia was rich in metals such as lead and copper. Archaeological findings have proven the good quality of Nuragic metallurgy, including numerous bronze weapons. The so-called "golden age" of the Nuragic civilization (late 2nd millennium BC, early 1st millennium BC) coincided perhaps with the apex of the mining of metals in the island.
The widespread use of bronze, an alloy which used tin, a metal which
however was not present in
Sardinia if not in a single deposit,
further proves the capability of the Nuragic people to trade in the
resources they needed. A recent study (2013) of 71 ancient Swedish
bronze objects dated to Nordic
Bronze Age , revealed that most of
copper utilized at that time in
* ^ Giovanni Lilliu, Sardegna Nuragica, (Edizioni Maestrali) 2006
* ^ There is no complete census, but the figure of 7,000 in E.
Contu, "L'architettura nuraghica", in E. Atzeni et al., Ichnussa,
1985:5, is often repeated, and 'the Provincia di Cagliari website,
estimatesmore than 7,000.
* ^ Parole di segni, L'alba della scrittura in Sardegna, Sardegna
archeologica, Guide e Itinerari, M.Monoja, C.Cossu, M.Migaleddu, Carlo
Delfino Editore, Sassari, 2012
* ^ A B Giovanni Ugas, I segni numerali e di scrittura in Sardegna
tra l’Età del Bronzo e il i Ferro, In:
* A Prehistory of Sardinia 2300-500BC (Monographs in Mediterranean Archaeology), (1996), G.S.Webster, Sheffield Academic Press, ISBN 978-1850755081 * Atzeni Enrico (1981). Ichnussa. La Sardegna dalle origini all'età classica. Milan. * AA.VV (1967). La civiltà in Sardegna nei secoli. Turin: ERI. * Bernardini, Paolo (2010). Le torri, i metalli, il mare. Sassari: Carlo Delfino Editore. * Depalmas, Anna (2005). Le navicelle di bronzo della Sardegna nuragica. Cagliari: Gasperini. * Dyson Stephen L., Rowland Robert J. (2007). Shepherds, sailors, & conquerors - Archeology and History in Sardinia from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. ISBN 978-1-934536-02-5 . * Foddai, Lavinia (2008). Sculture zoomorfe. Studi sulla bronzistica figurata nuragica. Cargeghe: Biblioteca di Sardegna. * Laner, Franco