Much has happened in Nuragic studies in the last twenty years, thanks to new excavations and archaeological discoveries and reviews of previous records of excavations, which have provided a more defined chronology to the Nuragic era. The timeframe is now defined between the XVII Century B.C. and the VI Century B.C., subdivided into two sub-phases of Middle and Recent Bronze Age (XVII B.C. – 1150 B.C.) and Final Bronze Age - Early Iron Age (1150 B.C.-500 B.C.).
Starting from the Final Bronze Age we witness a profound social change, bound with the emergence of dominant hegemonic groups which are however in continuity with the architectural styles of the previous period; such social changes innovate the architectural and cultural features in terms of military contexts (ante-murals), religious contexts (community sanctuaries, wells and Megaron temples), settlements (villages with meeting huts, squares and paved alleys), and funerary contexts (inhumation in isodomic structures without exedra, and individual burials, some of them showing colossal statues and stone models of Nuraghi).
What we are proposing is a site composed by several monumental evidence, among which is included the first Sardinian UNESCO site, Su Nuraxi of Barumini.
On the 6th of December 1997, Su Nuraxi was inscribed on the World Heritage List with the following statement: “The Nuraghi of Sardinia, of which Su Nuraxi is the pre-eminent example, represent an exceptional response to political and social conditions, making an imaginative and innovative use of the materials and techniques available to a prehistoric island community”. This affirmation gave justice not only to the most famous of the Nuraghi of Sardinia, but also recognizes the function of the excavations undertaken by Giovanni Lilliu for the understanding of the different phases of Nuragic civilization.
In the wake of a renewed historiographical context, Su Nuraxi is now included into a wider and articulated system of a further 30 sites and monuments of different typological classes, carefully chosen because of their representative features typical of the Nuragic civilization – as it’s defined today – expressed by over 12.000 pieces of original and memorial evidence, composed by Nuraghi, villages, monumental temples and tombs which dot the island landscape.
Nuragic cultural heritage of Bronze Age (XVII/X Century B.C.) and Early Iron Age (X/VI Century B.C.) is expression of an historical continuity that saw local populations build monuments which “surpass, for evidence, for size, for density and for number, the surviving pre-classic and extra classic constructions of any other region of the Western and Central Mediterranean sea, including Greece” (M.Pallotino, La Sardegna Nuragica, Rome – 1950).
Today, a Century after the systematic organization of the pre-historical antiquities of Sardinia undertaken by Taramelli, and after the studies of Lilliu and Contu (1950-1990) it is possible to appreciate with further clarity and precision all of the following aspects:
Furthermore, it comes to a new light the dimension of the extraordinary historical role (commercial, political and military) of Sardinian communities during the Bronze Age (XVII – X Century B.C.), centuries when Mycenaean civilization, along with the New Kingdom of Egypt and the Kingdom of Hattusa flourished, as well as in the following centuries of the Early Iron Age, during the Phoenician and Greek colonial movements towards the Western Mediterranean. The island of Sardinia, junction between the central Mediterranean and the Far West, is placed within the main picture of Mediterranean routes, initially (XVI – half of XIV) with major intensity towards the Western regions, and later (XIV – X) towards the Near East and at last, between the X and VI Century B.C. with the whole main sea (Please see Infra for comparison).
Pseudo Aristotle and Diodorus Siculus already noticed that the island was dotted by many massive buildings (megala kai pollà) called daidaleia, name derived from their legendary builder and built with the “ancient style of the Greeks”, as well as the “Tholoi rithmois perissois”, built by Iolaus from the times before the war of Troy sang by Homer.
On the basis of material culture and the relations which the island undertakes with the other regions in the timespan comprised between 1700/1600 B.C. to 500 B.C., the proto-historic civilization develops into two different macro phases.
The first one coincides with the age of construction of the Nuraghi and Giant’s tombs, developing between the Middle Bronze Age (1600 B.C. to 1350 B.C.) and the Recent Bronze Age (1350 B.C. to 1150 B.C.), temporal framework in which towers of different complexity together with settlements of structures mainly circular are built.
It regards to a sudden phenomenon only in appearance, strongly connected with the construction knowledge developed by the prehistoric communities of the Neolithic, the Eneolithic and in the Early Bronze Age on the construction of mainly monumental funerary edifices: dolmen, allées couvertes, circular tombs with jutting rows, menhir and anthropomorphic menhir, all expression of the megalithic characterization of the island prehistoric phases. These constructions, together with the hypogeal tradition that represents the cultural background on which the Nuragic cultural aspects are crafted, are a unique and original expression of an extraordinary prehistoric architecture.
During the Middle Bronze Age, the architectural evolution of the building in height will lead from flat internal vaults of the proto Nuraghi to the development, towards the end of the Middle Bronze Age and Recent Bronze Age (XIV to XIII Century B.C.), of more “classical” Nuraghi, with ogival vault composed by one or more towers, becoming exceptional and unique structures for plan complexity and height.
The second phase comprises the Final Bronze Age (1150 to 950 B.C.) and the Early Iron Age (950 to 500 B.C.)
New discoveries have clarified how the construction period of the Nuraghi stops at the end of the Recent Bronze Age (XIII Century B.C.), perhaps caused as well by climate changes which concerned the Mediterranean and determined a substantial change in the aspects of Sardinian communities, reshaped with new forms of social organization.
The most representative archaeological evidences of the cultural aspect, characteristic of the Final Bronze Age and the early Iron Age (XII to VI Century B.C.) are indeed the settlements and cult edifices.
Cultural continuity of the Nuragic Civilization between the Bronze and Iron Ages is documented both through the continuity in settlement occupation, by funerary and cult practices and by the material culture that testify the continuity in social, religious and funerary contexts. Examples that testify the use of sacred areas between the XII Century and the VI Century B.C. are the sanctuary of S’Arcu is Forros (Villanova Strisaili), Santa Vittoria (Serri), and Nuraghe Su Mulinu (Villanovafranca). In the latter, sacred internal spaces such as altars are still well preserved, with votive objects dating from the X Century B.C. to imperial Roman age.
The progressive weakening of the significance of the Nuraghe as a focal point of the society reflects a real transformation in the simultaneous affirmation, with new and consolidated shapes, of the villages’ settlement system.
Settlements belonging to this new phase are composed, other than by circular huts, by rooms of different shape accessible through a central courtyard connecting them. In the village is now also present a larger circular hut with a built-in circular stone bench called “Meeting hut”. Inside it, it is frequent to find stone models of Nuraghi that testify the glorification and cult of the Nuraghe as an ancestor’s ingenuity.
In the new territorial organization that follows the rise of the village as a primary role, the presence of community cult buildings seems to gain particular importance (wells, springs and other rectangular and circular edifices), built on the wave of an already consolidated architectural tradition which imply the use of the tholos.
It is therefore in this period (XII to VI Century B.C.) that specific dedicated cult edifices are built: Sacred springs and wells, Megaron temples, circular structures etc., all of them monumental structures of major architectural importance proven by the particular attention for the masonry and the sculptural and chromatic decorative elements.
The rich and articulated record of monumental buildings, constructed with the only purpose of cult and with peculiar architectural features, is unique in the Italian Protohistory.
Hamlets that seem to be temporary or in close relation to the conduct of community celebrations start to develop around the temples. In the context of these changes, the new settlements layout do not exclude the Nuraghi, which instead appear to be perfectly integrated and included into the new territorial systems. In fact, preferentially, the large villages belonging to this phase develop around a multi-towered Nuraghe, such as Su Nuraxi of Barumini, in which is well summarized the development of a settlement in these phases.
Settlements are no longer consisting of circular huts, but also by multi room enclosures, sometimes articulated around a central courtyard.
The Nuraghi, far from being damaged or destroyed, are readapted to the new needs, no longer for residential purposes but as places of worship, as indicated by the findings linked to these eras, such as weapons, food, valuable artefacts and sacred shrines.
The new society shows more evidence of social class differentiation compared to the people who built the Nuraghi. Although renewed and altered compared to the past, Nuragic society seems to maintain a continuum to the past, placing its roots into the ancestors’ memory and into the great works of the past: the Nuragic towers.
New burial practices take hold, such as individual burials (Pit-type tombs) and megalithic corridor burials with no exedra, in line with the changes of Sardinian society. These are evidence of social distinction, like the increasing use of votive objects consisting often by valuable goods or other distinctive elements connected to the status of the deceased (weapons and ornaments). However, the reuse of collective megalithic tombs is largely documented, testifying the still existing connection with the places and the ancestors’ tombs.
Towards the end of the VI Century B.C. the military conquest of Sardinia places the island within the boundaries of the maritime empire of Carthage, marking the end of Sardinian Protohistory.
Description of the property
There are no less than 12 thousand monumental and architectural structures in Sardinia: over 800 megalithic burials known as “Giant’s Tombs”, sometimes highlighted by baetyls and other funerary buildings; over 7000 Nuraghi, around 2500 villages, characterized by over 150 water and Megaron temples, other than large circular enclosures with stone seats, metalworking facilities, circular huts and complex households with central courtyard, great porticos for festivals, thermal buildings and even small amphitheatres.
Many are the stylistic and formal varieties of Sardinian proto-historic buildings, numbers almost unbelievable for a land of 24090 km2 with a unit every 2 km2. Sardinia is the only Italian region where we can still find monumental stone buildings of high elevation belonging to proto-historic ages with a good state of preservation.
Nuraghi, Giant’s tombs, sacred springs, and sacred wells with temples, Megaron temples and villages represent the height of construction techniques with megalithic stones in the Mediterranean.
The 31 Nuragic monuments/monumental sites, included in the property, have been selected for their significant representation considering the following features:
For what concerns the last aspect, the considerable concentration of sites in the region of Bargagie and in the agricultural region of Marmilla is due to the fact that these two areas have been largely interested by archaeological research and initiatives for the fruition of the monuments. Moreover, the Barbagie and Marmilla are also outstanding examples for their naturalistic, linguistic, ethnographic and anthropologic values.
Nuraghi differ from other buildings first for their elevation, consisting at least of two stories. The simplest appear to be as isolated towers (single tower), whereas the more complex show massive residential fortifications, comparable to “castles”, articulated and with different sizes.
Two fundamental types of Nuraghi are known, similar regarding the construction technique of rows of cyclopean stones, but different in the shape and solutions adopted on internal spaces: the archaic Nuraghe or proto Nuraghe between 1600 B.C. and 1350 B.C., the classic Nuraghe with ogival tholos between 1350 B.C. and 1150 B.C.
Some 400 archaic Nuraghi have been counted until present, but it is estimated that there could be approximately 1500. Proto Nuraghi have sub circular or elliptic plans and, in the case of corridor Nuraghi, they lack proper rooms at ground level. They have instead a corridor that goes across, covered by flat slabs, from where an upper surface is accessible through stairs.
On a secondary stage they have developed progressively towards a regular cut row of masonry together with the attempt to enlarge the interior living space (transitional Nuraghi or at boat-shaped room); rooms are present on two levels, as in the Nuraghe Cuccurada of Mogoro (23), a proto Nuraghe later rebuilt as a multi towered Nuraghe.
More complex proto Nuraghi have the plan of a two-towered or three-towered bastion with central courtyard, with larger elliptical rooms, now ogival vaulted (Cugui of Arbus, Sa Fogaia of Siddi). Some of the edifices of this typological class show an external boulder wall, which gives the aspect of massive fortresses. It stands out the structural masonry with a concave- convex profile of the three-towered proto Nuraghe Su Mulinu of Villanovafranca (25), restored in two different phases of the Recent Bronze Age and which in the Early Iron Age became a cult place later visited until the Middle Age.
Another building that testifies as a milestone in the architectural evolution of the first Nuragic edifices from the Middle Bronze Age to the Recent Bronze Age, through the fusion of spaces with irregular ogival shape with lofty vaulted first floor and a Tholos chamber on the upper level, is the Nuraghe Majori of Tempio Pausania (2), placed in a suggestive natural setting.
Nuraghi with ogival vault
At the end of the Middle Bronze Age (c.1350 B.C.), the Nuraghi change deeply their structure. During an extraordinary phenomenon of construction, over 7000 of the so called classic Nuraghi or Tholos Nuraghi are built, characterized by high towers of circular plan and conical shape, with circular chambers arranged even on two or three levels, realized with the progressive overhanging of the stone rows towards the top, forming the ogival vault. Classic Nuraghe can have a single tower or be made from 2 to 5 towers, connected by curtain walls next or around the central tower which stands higher than the lateral ones. Lateral towers, with their relative curtain, make two-towered, three-towered, four-towered or five-towered bastions. There are thousands of two-towered (Arresi of Sant’Anna Arresi (31) and three-towered Nuraghi (Santu Antine of Torralba (6), Orolo di Bortigali (10), Diana of Quartu (30); over 50 Nuraghi show a four-towered bastion (Nuraghe Appiu of Villanova Monteleone (7), Genna Maria of Villanovaforru (24) and Su Nuraxi and Casa Zapata of Barumini (19)), mostly located on the agricultural plateaus of the central-southern areas of the island. Fewer are the five-towered Nuraghi, of which Nuraghe Arrubiu of Orroli (22) stands out.
In the impressive three-towered bastion of Nuraghe Santu Antine of Torralba (6), perimeter towers are connected by curtain walls of tall and harmonious roofed corridors, arranged on two levels. The central tower, today still standing at over 12 to 14 meters (for example at the Nuraghi of Santu Antine of Torralba (6), Su Nuraxi of Barumini (19) and Arrubiu of Orroli (22), once stood close or even exceeded on same cases 23 to 25 meters in height, whereas the towers on the side could reach 18 meters. The central tower sometimes features three overlapping chambers, with false vaulted roofs, connected by a daring spiral mural stairwell (Santu Antine of Torralba (6) and Su Nuraxi of Barumini (19)). In the first level, the harmonious tholoi of the chambers are not less than 7 meters in height, and sometimes they can reach 12 meters (Is Paras of Isili (17); Arrubiu of Orroli (22)).
The most imposing complex Nuraghi, about thirty in number, show as well as the bastion, an external multi towered antemural, composed by 5 to 10 towers with only one chamber, connected together by linear curtain walls, originally varying between 8 to 12 meters in height. Other than the already mentioned Arrubiu of Orroli (22), Su Mulinu of Villanovafranca (25), Is Paras of Isili (17) and Su Nuraxi of Barumini (19), among the castle of heavy multi-towered antemural we have: Palmavera of Alghero (4), Losa of Abbasanta (12), Genna Maria of Villanovaforru (24), Serucci of Gonnesa (28), all of them with connected villages of stone huts.
During the final Bronze Age and the beginning of the Early Iron Age, several Nuraghi (Su Mulinu of Villanovafranca (25); Nurdole of Orani) became temples: here is worshipped, other than the lunar female divinity to whom a large number of alighted oil lamps are offered, the sculptural conical image of the towered Nuraghe, identified possibly with the symbol of the ancestor Norax (Nuraghe) mentioned by Pausania.
Villages and temples
No less important is the architecture of the Nuragic villages, often very well preserved, definitely original in plan and in the many construction techniques, parts in elevation and materials adopted. Throughout the investigations undertaken in representative samples of territories, it has been calculated that, at around 1300 B.C. to 1100 B.C., there were around 2500 – 3000 villages.
In the villages at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age (XVII- XV Century B.C.) at first appear rectangular and quadrangular huts with short and rounded sides (for example as in the site of Sa Turricola of Muros) followed later on by elliptical shapes like the ones in Nuraghe Talei of Sorgono and Nuraghe Asua of Isili. Later, towards the end of the Middle Bronze Age and the Recent Bronze Age (second half of XV century – XIII Century B.C.), huts have a circular plan, like the ones at Serra Orrios in Dorgali (9), showing again a stone basement, whereas for the roofs we should think of a conical wooden structure with radial patterns of poles and thatch, similar ideally in fashion to the pinnettas, huts of Sardinian pastoral tradition.
In the later stages of the Final Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, villages tend to resemble higher urban complexity, with high status dwellings, formed by more rooms enclosing a central courtyard with multifunctional spaces. Sometimes a circular thermal space, exceptional for the time and remarkable for the architectonical solutions, is composed by surrounding benches, pipelines dispensing water through zoomorphic spouts, a big cup shaped basin, a kiln to warm up the water and a bath to stir it (Sedda Sos Carros of Oliena (11)).
During the Early Iron Age, some villages, in particular in the southern Campidano valley, assume a remarkable size in relation with urban and structural complexity (Monastir, San Sperate, Villagreca, Furtei, Senorbì and Villanovafranca-Tuppedili). These sites could have dimensions of over 10 hectares.
Public buildings are also present, particularly large circular huts with internal seats used for elderly council meetings (ex. S. Vittoria of Serri (20), Palmavera of Alghero (4)), but also wide areas with stone seats (“amphitheatres”) able to host hundreds of spectators (ex. Romanzesu of Bitti (5), S’Arcu is Forros of Villagrande Strisaili (15)). In the villages, especially on those with sacred function, well temples and spring temples, as well as “Megaron” or “in antis” temples start to appear.
Water temples appear already at the end of the Recent Bronze Age, as testified by pottery of this period connected with the well temples of Sant’ Anastasia of Sardara (26) and Cuccuru Nuraxi of Settimo San Pietro, built with polygonal masonry and Funtana Coberta of Ballao (27), built using fine squared stones. Other sacred edifices of spring water date back to the Final Bronze Age and Early Iron Age. The sophisticated architectures of water temples consist of vestibules with lateral stone benches, a staircase of well-cut stones stretching in depth towards the water source, enclosed within a hypogeal chamber covered by an ogival sectioned Tholos.
At times were put in place extremely complex systems of water collection, especially after heavy rain. Extraordinary pipeline systems are still preserved in Predio Canopoli of Perfugas (3), Romanzesu of Bitti (5), Santa Vittoria of Serri (20), Nurdole of Orani, which used the ground water and the water springs of Su Tempiesu di Orune (8) and Noddule of Nuoro.
Rocks of volcanic origins, among all basalt and trachyte, were used to build the isodomic structures of sacred wells, such as Santa Cristina of Paulilatino (14). They were also used in the internal areas of Barbagia and Ogliastra where rocks of these characteristics are absent. The segments are perfectly worked in a T and wedged shape, prepared for the installation using an alternating interlocking technique that kept them in perfect adherence with rods and castings of lead coming from the large Sardinian deposits of galena. In the refined temple of Predio Canopoli of Perfugas (3), segments, of a very light colour stone, are ashlared.
Around temples and sanctuaries huge economic profits were linked to the control of wealth that was accumulated in these worship sites through ex-voto donations and other offers from the pilgrims. Among the offers, other than the anthropomorphic Bronzetti, of high importance were the votive weapons, sometimes anchored in stacks into the acroterion, on top of the vestibule’s roof, and in altars and basements, such as in those of Abini of Teti, Santa Vittoria of Serri (20), Su Tempiesu of Orune (8), and Puntanarcu of Sedilo.
The wide crescent carved into a large altar, crowned with swords and used as a sacellum in the fortress of Su Mulinu of Villanovafranca (25), indicates that, starting from the Early Iron Age, the cult of worshipping the moon was practiced, whereas other zoomorphic sculptures of deities in Santa Vittoria of Serri (20), Gremanu of Fonni, S’Arcu e is Forros of Villagrande Strisaili (15) and Sa Sedda’e sos Carros of Oliena (11), lead to the assumption of heroic ancestor’s cults.
Compared to the well temples and the sacred springs, Megaron temples are present in small numbers and in mountainous or strategic places, near the Sardinian villages that were founded in the vicinity of the main ways of transhumance (such is the case of Domu de Orgia of Esterzili (18)) or near rivers and springs like at Gremanu of Fonni, S’Arcu ’e is Forros of Villagrande Strisaili (15), and Romanzesu of Bitti (5). At Villagrande Strisaili, inside the Megaron temples of Sa Carcaredda and S’Arcu ‘e is Forros (15), the altar with the shape of a Nuragic tower, with its ritual hearth, is easily recognizable. This is a strong symbol of ethnicity, recorded in other cult places, in council houses and in funerary monuments (Monte Prama). Another distinctive element is the presence of swain heads sculpted both in the altars and in proximity of large rectangular or circular terraced baths: those are seen at Romanzesu of Bitti (5), at Gremaru of Fonni, at Sa Sedd’e Sos Carros (11) and, in a miniaturised version at Monte Sant’Antonio of Siligo.
In some villages, like in Santa Vittoria of Serri (20), there is a peculiar building with rectangular atrium and circular tower-shaped chamber.
During the Bronze Age, Sardinians preferred monumental collective tombs. The most famous are the so called “Giant’s tombs”, which sometimes reach 30 meters in length (this is the case of San Cosimo of Gonnosfanadiga and Li Lolghi of Arzachena) and surpass 4 meters in height (Coddu Ecchju of Arzachena (1)). They can sometimes constitute groups of four or five tombs, such in Is Lapideddas of Gonnosnò and in Madau of Fonni (13) and contain hundreds of deceased. They have a concave façade (exedra), made by stone slabs embedded vertically or with coursed masonry which delimitate a semi-circular open forecourt, and an internal burial corridor chamber.
Construction methods appear to be in continuity with the Eneolithic allée couverte tombs, and with those of older dolmenic long cists sometimes included in Giant’s tombs (Li Lolghi of Arzachena). The oldest of them, contemporary to the archaic corridor Nuraghi, date the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age and are built using vertical slabs covered by horizontal slabs, following dolmen’s style (Thomes of Dorgali, Coddu Ecchju of Arzachena (1)). At the centre of the exedra was embedded the monolithic, or sometimes made of two pieces, stele with a rounded upper part known as “Stele centinata”. At the centre of the stele opens a small access to the burial corridor. In the most evolved tombs, with coursed masonry, a block with three cavities was present at the façade’s top.
The later tombs belonging to a second stage of the Middle Bronze Age are bigger, built with coursed masonry, showing a corridor-chamber covered by a conical ogival vault, like that of San Cosimo of Gonnosfanadiga and Domu ’e s’Orcu of Siddi (21), which have unravelled materials from the XV –XIV Century B.C. Other coursed masonry tombs with ogival corridors (Perd’Accuzzai of Villa San Pietro, Is Concias of Quartucciu (29) and one from the group of Madau of Fonni (13)), were built during the Recent Bronze Age.
During the Middle and Recent Bronze Age, the forecourt formed by the hemicycle of the Giant’s tombs was used for the celebrations of the burial rites, as shown also by the low stone bench around the inside of the hemicycle. In the vicinity of the tombs, anthropomorphic baetyls mark the presence of divine images, likely to recall to ancestor’s cult.
Inland of Tharros developed, between the X and the VIII Century B.C. the extraordinary sacred-funerary complex of Monte Prama of Cabras (16), with its 150 inhumation tombs, individual pit type tombs, included in a funerary alleyway at least 100 meters long. In relation to the burials, exclusively of male individuals, were erected massive beatyls, at least 50 models of Nuraghe, and around 50 statues ranging between 2 /2.30 meters in height. The statues have been identified as warriors with long shields, archers and warriors with sword and bow, dating back to c.800 B.C. and represent the most ancient monumental all-around statuary of the Western and Northern Mediterranean.
Two buildings, one circular and the second polygonal, were likely to be linked to ceremonial context, whereas on the North West section of the Monte Prama area a monumental wall, covered by squared blocks of sandstone seem to constitute a temenos which should direct towards a defined rectangular space highlighted by geophysical investigations, which will be confirmed with the already scheduled excavations.
Recent studies on the proto-historic civilization of Sardinia and on the monumental masterpieces represented by the Nuraghi have shed new light on the historical events which took place between the Middle Bronze Age (XVII Century B.C.) and the Early Iron Age (VI Century B.C.).
Especially the Nuraghi, in their long life and monumental persistence, become almost one thing with the natural aspects of the landscape and prove to be the major representative components of the Nuragic civilization as well as being elements deeply characteristics of the Sardinian landscape.
The serial site is composed by remains that show all the cultural aspects of Sardinian people throughout Protohistory: settlements, religion, burials and social practices.
Sardinian different architectonic features, which find comparison with other building techniques, however limited, in chronological and geographical contexts of the Mediterranean basin, show a singularity not only in the shape and layout of the structures, but particularly in their widespread distribution through the island and in their close interaction with the surrounding environment.
Criterion (iii): The serial site comprises the most significant and best preserved evidences of Sardinian Protohistory, all belonging to the same cultural-historical context. As a whole they represent the exceptional testimony of the Nuragic civilization, flourished in the island between the XVII Century B.C. and the VI Century B.C.
At the start of the Middle Bronze Age, the Nuragic civilization is the most striking and amongst the most fascinating cultural expressions on the Central and Western Mediterranean basin.
Nuragic people express themselves through the adoption of extraordinary architectonic and monumental solutions, referred by Sardinian tradition as work of a giant population.
The progressive architectural development of the monuments of the proto-historic culture of Sardinia (Nuraghi, settlements, Giant’s tombs and sacred wells) comes hand in hand for over a thousand years with the long route of development of Sardinian communities, between the Middle Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age.
As a whole, the systematic territorial, coastal and highland occupation, indicates the precocity of the settlement vision, of control and use of the territory, linked with the ports and the internal high density settlements. With the Final Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age, the occupation system, now dominated by hegemonic classes standing next to the static communitarian society of the Recent and Final Bronze Age, is implemented with the architectural monumentalities of temples and articulated villages consisting of several multi-room houses with central courtyard, whereas the Nuraghe loses its primary function to become a sacred place. Consequently, Nuragic monuments are not only examples of outstanding architecture and art, but testify also the social changes occurred with the Sardinian people until the ages of the internal resistance against Carthage (end of the VI Century B.C.).
Criterion (iv): The Nuraghe is the most representative architecture of the Nuragic civilization, from which it takes its name.
The conditions for this architectural expression are to be found in the framework of megalithic cultures, a phenomenon testified already in the Mediterranean area since the 4th millennium B.C.
The replacement, around the half of the XV Century B.C. of the proto Nuraghi elliptical chamber towards the use of circular ones determined the introduction of slender tholoi; from this innovation followed the development in height of the towers (over 25m), in some cases made by up to three superimposed chambers.
Classic Nuraghe can be single-towered or multi-towered, connected by a curtained wall; large complex Nuraghi, appearing already at the end of the Middle Bronze Age, become the residential home for the chieftain, although still keeping their original defensive function. They are surrounded by villages with no protective walls.
In the field of sacred architecture, sacred wells and Megaron temples stand out for their elegance and accuracy of workmanship, often built using isodomic blocks. Of relevance are the stone altars, present, other than in temples, in council houses and in the funerary complex of Monte Prama. Concerning funerary buildings, noteworthy for its originality is the frontal exedra of the Giant’s tombs, which creates a ceremonial forecourt; the arched (centinata) stele stands out at the centre, reaching often over 4 meters of height.
Criterion (v): Sardinia is an island of rock, articulated onto a saxosum dorsum (Silius Italicus, Punica, XII, 372) which constituted a landscape dominated still today by thousands of stone towers and other monuments of Nuragic civilization, which dot the entire island as if a population of giants would have wanted to build a complex of monuments aere perennius. In particular, the series of simple and complex Nuraghi allows an extraordinary and detailed understanding of the settlements and the internal organizations of the island proto-historic communities, which used their environmental resources in a unique way.
Nuraghi, tombs and sacred architectures are perfectly integrated into a landscape rich in outstanding natural monuments: canyons and calcareous sinkholes of the Supramonte, guarded by the Nuraghe Mereu, are among the deepest in Europe; absolutely unique rock formations like those in Ogliastra (Tacchi); caves, forests, enormous coastlines, which alternate white sandy beaches to steep cliffs and are sometimes still visible from Nuragic towers. On top of that, it must be added the presence of several ecosystems and habitats rich in biodiversity, such as thousand-year-old trees.
This integration between nature and proto-historic monuments is still recognizable today in the peculiar cultural landscape of Sardinia, dotted by the slender shapes of the Nuraghi.
The series of monuments /monumental complexes proposed meet the conditions of integrity and authenticity.
The shapes of the Nuragic buildings are multiple and already well documented, described and illustrated with drawings and images on the archaeological literature, included in a wide bibliography. The exceptionality of the Nuraghi is represented by their typology, which makes them illustrative of different monumental categories.
All the monuments of the archaeological areas are, in their wholeness, original, exception made for limited conservation works.
Different forms and technologies show the internal development process of the Nuragic architecture and enhance the exceptional accuracy of the makers regarding the work and choice of material. The rocks used for the construction of the monuments are various and resemble the lithic types of the sub layer on where they have been built and they are integrated into the landscape of Sardinia. In the Nuraghi, megalithic stones are put in place using a polygonal technique and subsequently using sub-squared or isodomic blocks placed in rows.
The more tightly integrated masonry of coursed blocks (a filari) is also used to build Giant’s tombs, apart from the most ancient (Coddu Ecchiu, Thomes), where are noticeable the trilithic orthostats in the dolmenic tradition. The extraordinary attention given to the architecture of cult places is testified especially by the isodomic blocks of these building structures.
Many construction typologies of the Protohistory of Sardinia are linked to the various functions, at times being sacred, funerary, residential, or for fortification. Often the edifices kept the same primary function for some centuries, but they have survived essentially to the present day with different purposes of reuse.
The development of the use and function of the Nuraghi is extraordinarily unique. Plan, height and location indicate the original defensive purpose of the building. The investigations carried out at Su Mulinu (Villanovafranca) and Nurdole (Orani) revealed that only starting from the Final Bronze Age (XII-X Century B.C.) and the Early Iron age (X-VI Century B.C.) a number of Nuraghi were used as sacred places. Starting from the Iron Age, the Nuraghe itself became sacred in hundreds of towered stone and bronze models seen in place of worship and political contexts (meeting houses) throughout the island and only exceptionally in funerary contexts (Monte Prama).
Above all the Nuraghi, built uphill in strategic position due to their original defensive purpose, maintain unchanged their relation with the surrounding territorial context.
Today, in Sardinian consciousness, the very ancient landscape of the Nuragic people is strongly rooted to their spirit of identity. Of the heroic ages of the island, that intertwine inescapably with the Nuraghi, have been dedicated in the recent past works of literature and songs. Today are very frequent the references on websites, social media, names of public places, businesses, events, romances, movies and products of any kind much appreciated by the youngsters. The Nuraghe is without a doubt the real Icon of Sardinia. It is not by chance that the unforgettable great sculptor Pinuccio Sciola, who made resonate his stone sculptures, would have wanted the Nuraghe as a symbol of identity on the Sardinian flag instead of the Quattro Mori, which referred to the Catalan-Aragonese fights against the Arabs into the Iberian Peninsula.
The authenticity of Nuragic monuments is detected by the use of terms such as Nurachi, Nuraxi etc., in the different varieties of spoken Sardinian, from the Middle Age up to today. The term nurac (from an I Century A.D. inscription of Aidu Entos in Mulargia (Année épigraphique 1992, 890), is interpreted as the Paleo Sardinian proto-historic term of the Nuraghe.
The tradition of the Nuraghi existence dates back to Greek culture. Already Pseudo Aristotle and Diodorus Siculus noticed that the island was dotted by many massive buildings (megala kai pollà) called daidaleia, name derived from their legendary architect Daedalus and built with the “ancient style of the Greeks”, as well as the “tholoi rithmois perissois”, built by Iolaus from the times before the war of Troy sang by Homer.
The serial site proposed, composed by an accurate selection of monuments and monumental complexes include all the elements needed to express its Outstanding Universal Value. It offers a complete representation of all the features and processes linked to the development of the Nuragic civilization.
The state of preservation of the proposed properties is good and the deteriorating processes are all being monitored. Their safeguard is guaranteed by several protection measures, both for high archaeological interest and important cultural interest under the Italian protection law (D. lgs. 42/2004), of which adds up to indirect preservation and landscape conservation regulations defined by the Regional landscape Plan (PPR) and other local measures such as the urban plans (PRG).
Regarding the procedures of conservation, they all are carried out either by the direct intervention of the Ministry of Culture territorial offices or under the supervision of them, according to the most advanced restoration standards. All the monuments are under constant monitoring and maintenance surveillance.
Comparison analyses between Nuragic monuments and other similar architectural typologies highlight the exceptional feature of Nuragic monuments for type, shape and architectural audaciousness, perfectly integrated into the millenary landscape of the island.
Dry laid cyclopean stone buildings built in prehistoric and proto-historic times are located in a wide geographic area comprising the whole Europe and the Mediterranean basin.
In the archaeological literature, it is frequent to find comparison between the Nuragic edifices, or parts of them, to laid-up structures in other geographic areas. Such is the case with the Torri from Corsica, the Talaitots and the Navetas from the Balearic Islands or the Mycenaean architecture. Thanks to the more thorough knowledge regarding techniques and other typological aspects of these architectures, much of these references are now evaluated with a more critical view compared to the past. If some of the archaic examples of talaiots and torri are indeed comparable to proto-Nuraghi with passing corridor, the same cannot be said to the Tholos Nuraghi which are with no doubt different for technique and plan from the classical Talaitots.
In addition, Giant’s tombs differ considerably compared to the Navetas, not only for the presence of the hemicycle of the exedra and the absence of the second floor, but also for the more ancient origins of the Sardinian monuments.
A second examination of the already known comparison between the corridors of Nuraghe Santu Antine of Torralba and the ones inside the walls of Tiryns reveal also in this case a generic similarity and a missing conformity of structural details. The ogival section, which in the Sardinian Nuraghe starts from the bottom, in the Mycenaean building is limited to the only higher part of the vault.
Comparison with other cyclopean walls, such as those located in other parts of the Italian peninsula (Latium area, Sicily and Apulia) is limited to a generic similarity of the overlaying cyclopean technique used to lay the stones.
In the context of funerary Nuragic architecture from the Middle and Recent Bronze Age, Giant’s tombs find a generic similarity with the Navetas from Minorca, whereas pit burials (although dedicated to individual inhumations) of Monte Prama, Muras (Cabras) and Antas (Fluminimaggiore) are closely related to sepulchres of the Final Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Villanovan area and Latium region of Italy.
The tholos vaulted chambers characteristic of the inhumation tombs of Populonia, disseminated through Northern Tuscany, are a further partial aspect of comparison. These tholoi are usually linked to the Sardinian tholoi of Nuraghi and sacred wells (but also to the Late-Minoan and Sub-Minoan tholos tombs of Crete), whereas it is questionable the only potentially Sardinian example of Early Iron Age tholos tomb (?) with accompanying bronze figurines found in Sorgono.
Regarding sacred architecture, worth mentioning is the Sacred well temple of Gâlo (Breznik) in Bulgaria, consisting of a tholos and a lowering staircase, whereas the archaic gossan well in Palatino (Rome), excavated by Giacomo Boni, composed by a tholos of isodomic blocks, doesn’t appear to be chronologically related to Sardinian well temples.
More relevant for comparison is the relation between Megaron temples of Sardinia and the wide record of Mycenaean megara. They not only had a residential function in Mycenaean palatial contexts, but were also used as cult edifices in Aegean contexts through the II millennium B.C.
The Sardinian monuments are therefore within a wide context of stone buildings constructed in distant geographic areas and throughout different Ages. They are the Eneolithic towered walls of Midi in France (ex. Boussargues in the Hérault valley), the concentric walls and the towers from the Early Bronze Age settlement of Los Millares in Almeria, the Portuguese fortified walls (ex. Zambujal, Torres Vedras) or the ones of Lerna in the Argolid.
Despite a generic similarity regarding the material deployed and some of the fundamental techniques, the missing comparison regarding the other architectural examples of dry-laid technique elsewhere confirms the originality and autonomous development of Nuragic architecture.