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Art and Architecture in the Prehistory of Sardinia. The domus de janas.

Date of Submission: 09/04/2021
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Italy to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Regione Autonoma Sardegna, Province di Sassari, Nuoro, Oristano e Sud Sardegna
Ref.: 6523
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  1. Necropolis of Santu Pedru in Alghero: 40°37’23”N - 8° 24’ 10”E
  2. Necropolis of Anghelu Ruju in Alghero: 40°37’57”N - 8° 19’ 36”E
  3. Necropolis of Puttu Codinu in Villanova Monteleone: 40°29’14”N - 8° 31’ 8”E
  4. Necropolis of Pubusattile in Villanova Monteleone 40° 32’ 25’’ N- 8° 30’ 20” E
  5. Necropolis of Monte Siseri/ S’Incantu in Putifigari: 40°36’23”N - 8°25’48”E
  6. Fortified complex of Monte Baranta in Olmedo: 40°37'55'' N - 8°23'50''E
  7. Necropolis of Mesu ‘e Montes in Ossi: 40°37’51”N - 8°37’5”E
  8. Necropolis of S’Adde ‘e Asile in Ossi: 40°38’38”N - 8°37’56”E
  9. Archaeological complex with the Altar of Monte d’Accoddi in Sassari: 40°15'26'' N - 8°26'56''E
  10. Necropolis of Su Crucifissu Mannu in Porto Torres: 40°48’39” N - 8°26’34”E 
  11. Necropolis of Montalè in Sassari: 40°44’53”N - 8° 30’40”E
  12. Domus de janas of the Orto del Beneficio Parrocchiale in Sennori: 40°47’20” N - 8°35’40”E
  13. Elefant Domus de janas in Castel Sardo: 40°53’22”N - 8°44’46”E
  14. Necropolis of Li Muri in Arzachena: 41°04'13''N - 9°19'18''E
  15. Necropolis of Su Murrone in Chiaramonti: 40°46’49”N - 8°52’30”E
  16. Necropolis of Mandra Antine in Thiesi: 40°30’50”N -8°38’1’’E
  17. Parc of the petroglyphs in Cheremule: 40°29’11’’N – 8°48’86’’E
  18. Dolmen of Sa Coveccada in Mores: 40°30'29'' N - 8°52'00''E
  19. Shelter of Luzzanas in Ozieri: 40°38’58’’ N– 8°53’27’’E
  20. Necropolis of Sant’Andrea Priu in Bonorva : 40°25’18 N – 8°50’50’’E
  21. Necropolis of Sa Pala Larga in Bonorva (SS); 40° 24’ 37”N -8° 52’ 18” E
  22. Necropolis of Molia in Illorai: 40°18’20’’N – 9°01’56’’E
  23. Necropolis of Sos Furrighesos in Anela: 40° 28’ 53”N - 8° 58’ 17”E
  24. Necropolis of the Tomba del Labirinto in Benetutti: 40°26’15’’N – 9°07’31’’E
  25. The settlement of Serra Linta in Sedilo: 40°8'35"N - 8°54'20"E
  26. Necropolis of Ispiluncas in Sedilo: 40°09’30’’N – 8°54’09’’E
  27. Necropolis of Mrangias/Mandras in Ardauli: 40° 5' 31" N - 8° 56' 0.7" E
  28. Necropolis of Sas Arzolas de goi in Nughedu Santa Vittoria: 40° 5’ 52”N - 8 °56’ 50”E
  29. Necropolis of Brodu in Oniferi: 40°19’19”N - 9°10’ 24”E
  30. Necropolis of Istevene, in Mamoiada: 40° 11’ 36”N- 9° 17’ 30’’E
  31. Corbeddu Cave in Oliena: 40°15'19'' N - 9°29'10''E
  32. Lithics workshops of Sennisceddu-Pau: 39°48’08’’N-8°46’12’’E
  33. Archaeological Parc of Pranu Mutteddu in  Goni: 39°34'06'' N - 9°16'08''E
  34. Domus de janas of Corongiu in Pimentel: 39°29’52’’N – 9°03’33’’E
  35. Necropoli of Montessu in Villaperuccio: 38° 8’ 1”N - 8° 40’ 6”E

    Prehistory is the age of human history before the invention of writing; therefore, archaeological data are the only source of information to reconstruct human habits at that time. In Sardinia, prehistory coincides with the pre-Nuragic age, which includes a large chronological period up to the beginning of the Nuragic civilization. Researchers divide this long period of time into chronological phases, each of which is divided into sub-phases, characterized by further cultural aspects. Our application takes into account the period from the Neolithic of ceramics, through the Copper Age, up to the Early Bronze Age, the last pre-Nuragic phase, which anticipates the development of the Nuragic civilization (from the 5th to the end of the 3rd millennium B.C.). After this moment, the techniques, skills, social models, and habits of life have merged into a new society, which is the expression of the cultural change that has taken place. The research conducted in the last forty years by various archaeologists (Atzeni 2005, Contu 2006, Lilliu 2011, Tanda 2015a, 2017; etc.), has allowed us to reconstruct the cultural system of prehistoric Sardinia in this period, characterized by a remarkable cultural continuity, consisting of a variety of components (cultures/facies) characterized, above all, by the different forms and styles of artifacts. These "cultures" are named from the place where they were originally found:

    Pottery Neolithic A

    V millennium




    Prenuragic Civilization

    Culture of Bonu Ighinu

    Culture of San Ciriaco

    Pottery Neolithic B

    IV millennium

    Culture of Ozieri I

    Culture of Ozieri II

    Copper age

    III millennium

    Culture of Filigosa

    Culture of Abealzu

    Culture of Monte Claro

    Culture of Bell- Shaped Vase

    The reconstruction of the different functions of the investigated cultural contexts (civil, funerary, and magical-religious) is the result of the in-depth and integrated analysis of the archaeological finds and archaeological sites: caves, natural shelters, monuments, and monumental complexes. The movable artifacts are host in local museums, where they are effectively protected and vallorized: the National Museum of Sassari (National Museum "Giovanni Antonio Sanna"), the Archaeological Museum of Cagliari (National Archaeological Museum), the National Museum of Nuoro (National Museum "Giorgio Asproni") and the community museums of Alghero, Cabras, Ozieri, Santadi, and Sedilo are worthy of mention.

    Among lithic materials, obsidian, one of the most sought-after raw materials in Prehistory, used for procurement and trade is worthy of mention. In Monte Arci, in Sardinia, there are extensive deposits and workshops for processing this material, traded across the whole Mediterranean. Small statuaries are also noteworthy, documented by approximately 120 figurines made between the Pottery Neolithic and the Copper Age (V-III millennium B.C.).

    Our application proposal identifies the main monumental archaeological evidence, documenting the Sardinian cultural system between the end of the V and the III millennium B.C., with a general and exhaustive scientific approach aimed at reconstructing the daily life of prehistoric communities, considering both regional and Euro-Mediterranean contexts. This evidence, being considered within the general framework, refers to art, architecture, and functional categories and, in turn, it includes the paradigms of civil, funerary, and magical-religious buildings. These monuments, distinguished by function, structurally differ by age, cultural affiliation, and the above-mentioned cultures/facies.

    These pre-Nuragic monuments, excavated or built, are characterized by two significant cultural phenomena documented along the coasts of the Mediterranean and in continental Europe: hypogeism and megalithism, both attested in the island roughly at the same time, although the former seems to be slightly more ancient that the latter, dating back to the first half of the fifth millennium B.C. Hypogea, widely spread in the islands and along the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, but also in continental Europe (rarely though), were first built in Sardinia. We, therefore, hypothesized "a scattered origin" and, in some cases, typical of the island, mostly as far as the funerary type is concerned (Tanda 2015a): the chamber tombs called domus de janas, which characterized the entire prehistoric period explored by this application.

    The hypogea phenomenon continued also in the Early Bronze Age (1800-1600, Tanda 1998: 51-520 B.C.) with caves excavated from scratch (rather than being re-adapted) imitating the stelae of the tombs of giants (the typical tomb structures of the following Nuragic age) on the façade This is a sign both of the strong hypogea tradition and the cultural change that took place with the advent of the Nuragic civilization, as well as of the passage from a hypogea funerary ideology to gallery tomb types typical of the Nuragic age (tombe dei giganti).

    Sardinian megalithism instead stemmed from Western megalithism, which developed between 5000 and 2000 B.C., an original and specific phenomenon of Neolithic communities of West Mediterranean area. Megalithism in Sardinia has been divided into four stages: 1) proto-megalithism (Pottery Neolithic A); 2) monolith megalithism (Pottery Neolithic B, Copper Age); 3) trilith megalithism (Pottery Neolithic B, Copper Age); 4) the age of the megalithic walls (Copper Age, Monte Claro culture).

    The distinctive monuments of the two strands are differently widespread on the island. Domus de janas, typical of hypogeism, are distributed in central-northern Sardinia and, marginally, in the central-western area of the island; “megalithic walls", fortified enclosures, are instead found in the central-northern area; other megalithic archaeological evidence (menhirs, circles, dolmens, and allée couvertes) is found in inland areas and, mainly, in the Nuoro area, along the eastern part of the island. However, in inland areas, domus de janas and dolmen/allée couverte partially coincide.

    Civil structures in the period from the Pottery Neolithic A to the Copper Age, up to the beginning of the Bronze Age (between the V and the end of the III millennium B.C.) are caves and natural shelters, residential settlements, and lithic workshops, such as those of Monte Arci where communities lived and worked in a subsistence regime. Among the latter, particularly significant and attractive are those of Sennisceddu-Pau, the subject of high-level scientific studies (Luglié 2014) and carefully valued, in a wide and varied educational offer, at various levels of knowledge and experimentation.

    Caves and natural shelters used by prehistoric communities are numerous and of considerable interest. Thanks to the findings, it has been possible to reconstruct to a great extent the historical processes of the pre-Nuragic age cultural system. The following is worthy of mention: the Green cave in Alghero (Tanda 1980), the caves of Sa Ucca de su Tintirriolu and Filiestru in Mara (Loria and Trump 1978; Trump 1983), Monte Maiore cave in Thiesi (Foschi 1987) ; Su Coloru cave in Perfugas (Martini), Guano cave (Castaldi 1980), Su Carroppu di Sirri cave in Carbonia (Atzeni 2005, Lugliè 2014) and Corbeddu cave in Oliena (Klein Hofmeijer 1987), used during Neolithic (V and IV millennium B.C.), but also retaining traces of attendance referable to the Upper Paleolithic. In some caves, for example in Sa Ucca de su Tintirriolu cave, grave burials are documented. Traces of funerary use were also found in some rock shelters, such as, presumably, in the Riparo Luzzanas in Ozieri.

    The most widespread and best-documented housing structures, in addition to caves and shelters, were open-air villages. Although very frequent in the Campidano plains (Atzeni 2007 a and b, Atzori 1987), there is poor archaeological evidence of these villages as they were made of perishable materials. Among few exceptions, there is the settlement of Serra Linta in Sedilo, attributed to middle Neolithic II / recent Neolithic, characterized by huts remains, distinguished by double rows of small size stones, consisting of a semi-circular environment followed by a rectangular one. Excavations of this site have not been carried out yet therefore there is no chronological and functional documentation of its specific function (houses of the élites? Huts for "extended families"? Multifunctional structures?).

    However, it is possible to reconstruct graphically some housing structures of this period, thanks to details and/or plans carved, engraved, or painted in some domus de janas. In Sant’Andrea Priu necropolis – in Bonorva - we can see the plan and the elevation of a circular hut. Through the painted figures in the Ardauli necropolis, we know the Yurt-type hut. In the hypogeum of Molia-Illorai, where there is also a fireplace with a diameter of 1.15 m, we can recognize the Serra Linta hut type. The plan of the Serra Linta huts is also found at the necropolis of Santu Pedru I-Alghero. In Puttu Codinu-Villanova Monteleone in tomb VIII, the structure of a hut is engraved with two rectangular rooms with a double-sloping roof. In the domus de janas II, in Ispiluncas–Sedilo, we can recognize the semi-circular structure of a sloping hut. In the necropolis of Sas Arzolas de goi -Nughedu Santa Vittoria, in the domus de janas II, we can see a portico painted in red, also visible in the Tomb of the House in Ossi.

    More evidence on the settlements can be found, dating back to the Copper Age when, at the end of the third millennium, numerous "megalithic walls" were built in strategic sites, which also enjoyed natural defense. They were fortified megalithic complexes built on uplands, such as Monte Baranta-Olmedo, Monte Ossoni-Castelsardo, Punta S'Arroccu-Chiaramonti, Punta Sa Zittade-Ottana, Pedra Oddetta-Macomer, Crastu-Soddì (Manca, Demurtas 1990), s'Albaredda-Tresnuraghes (Moravetti 2004: 101-140). The first two complexes are attributed to the culture of Monte Claro, the others can be referred to the same culture by analogy. They are built using the same construction technique: two polygonal walls filled with small stones.

    These monumental complexes all have the same characteristics: 1) the location on spurs or high locations, with cliffs; 2) the presence of a wall that integrates the natural defenses offered by the cliff; 3) control of communication routes; 4) the dominion of a vast surrounding territory, fertile and rich in water. Therefore, they are structures built on strategic points, with functions of territorial exploitation and, at the same time, control, and defense, presumably from probable internal enemies and from the threats of external groups perhaps linked to metallurgy.

    Among these complexes, the most important and best known is that of Monte Baranta in Olmedo (Moravetti 2004). This site includes a fortified horseshoe-shaped enclosure, 3.45 m high on average with a thickness ranging from 4.15 m (south) 6.50 m, with a walkway; a mighty wall with a single access, 97 m long, 3.75 m wide, 1.45/3 m high, which encloses and defends a village of rectangular huts, sometimes with apses and with several rooms. In the same fortified complex, there is also a sacred area consisting of a circle and menhirs. It, therefore, seems to have military, civil, and religious functions: hence its great importance. No other wall achieves the structural complexity, functional articulation, and grandeur of Monte Baranta.

    Sardinian walls, in their structure and location, predict and prepare the elevated buildings of the Bronze Age, the nuraghi. In the religious field, the only known monumental structure, of a specific religious nature, is the monumental complex of Monte D'Accoddi, presumably built during the recent Neolithic and then renovated in Copper Age, during Filigosa and Abealzu cultures, and reused up to the Ancient Bronze Age (Bonnannaro culture). It is a truncated pyramidal altar with a climbing ramp, near which a menhir and a statue-menhir were erected (the latter in its original form is showcased in the "G. A. Sanna" Archaeological Museum in Sassari); the complex also has a settlement of huts yet to be fully explored, possibly dating back to the Neolithic and the Copper Age.

    Being a unique monument in Sardinia and in the Mediterranean basin, the altar of Monte D'Accoddi, partially rebuilt in the years 1986 and 1989, appears as the fulcrum of the cultural system of central-northern Sardinia - and perhaps the entire island - around which several villages and four domus de janas necropolises developed: the homonymic necropolis with 4 hypogea, the necropolis of Ponte Secco with 6 tombs, Sant'Ambrogio with 4 tombs, Su Crucifissu Mannu with 22 tombs, Li Lioni with 4 tombs and, a few kilometers away, Li Curuneddi with 6 tombs, Calancoi with 6 tombs, and Montalè with 6 tombs, the dolmen and the menhir of Fradres Muros.

    Evidence of the cultural sphere is also the megalithic circles (see below), including Li Muri-Arzachena and those at the Archaeological Park of Pranu-Mutteddu and the menhirs, when aligned or, in any case, gathered in a way such as a Biru'e Concas in Sorgono and Sos Settiles in Oniferi (see below). With regard to the funerary environment, the chamber tombs carved into the rock, commonly known as domus de janas in the Sardinian language, meaning the "fairy houses", should first of all be highlighted. They are the most exceptional evidence of the phenomenon of hypogea in Sardinia. We know at least 3,500 of them, which document the richest and most complex funerary aspect that characterizes the entire chronological context explored in this work.

    Being scattered across most of the region, they are an expression of Sardinian identity in its landscape (Contu 2000). The location follows some long-recognized morphological models, embedded in different geo-pedological contexts; the definition of the eight funeral types is as follows: I, Sub-flat; II, Outcrop; III, Light slope; IV, Steep slope; V, Hill; VI, ridge; VII Spuntone; VIII, Isolated Boulder. Domus de janas date back to the fifth millennium B.C., but the tomb type continued to be excavated even in the Copper Age, sometimes incorporating the influences of megalithism and, in particular, of the tombs called allèes couvertes (types 6 and 7: Tanda 2015 to: 111-112).

    The domus de janas were used for millennia, as evidence of their identity and "political" value, also linked to the function of a sign of possession and territorial brand of the social group that excavated and used them. In this regard, we mention, for example, two tombs used from the fifth or fourth to the second millennium B.C.: the tomb IV of Molia-Illorai (Tanda 2015 a) and the domus I of Santu Pedru-Alghero (Contu 1964b). The use of the domus de janas continued for a long time (Tanda 2015a: 80-84). The plans of the hypogea sometimes develop in a complex way, gradually enriching, up to 20 rooms, as in the Domus II or Tomba Maggiore of S’Adde Asile-Ossi. The complexity of the ichonographies does not follow a predetermined design but it is the result of renovations and additions over the long period of time when the hypogea were used, for example in Tomb I of the necropolis of Su Crucifissu Mannu in Porto Torres

    The type described here is divided into a hierarchical scheme organized according to Class, Type, Subtype, Variety. Based on the type of entrance and the excavation route, two Classes are identified: Class I, calatoia entrance, with vertical projection development; Class II, entrance on the ground or raised level, with or without dromos or pavilion, horizontal development. There are 8 planimetric types; as said before, types 6 to 8 are influenced by megalithism. At least 220 specimens also fall into the category of decorated domus de janas. Due to their quality and the value of the artistic expression showcased in them, those tombs are part of the historical, cultural, and artistic heritage of the highest value, almost unique in the world, with only one similar type in Malta, the prehistoric hypogeum of Hal Saflieni, a monument included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

    There are seven techniques used in the execution of decorative motifs: sculpture: hammer engraving, direct or indirect; the linear or graffiti technique; the "a polissoir" technique; the "dotted" technique; painting directly on the wall or on plaster; the use of plastic strips for the creation of figures. Among the techniques, sculpture prevails in the 120 hypogea, followed by the painting in 112 tombs and engraving in 54 of them. In only one tomb, plastic strips were found. However, often the techniques - sculpture, engraving, painting - are used in association. The analyses conducted on figurative motifs led to the identification of 5 categories, following the subdivisions known internationally in the specific field of studies: Protomes or horn-shaped or bucrane motifs; II Pectiniform motifs; III, Anthropomorphic motifs; IV, Weapons and Tools; V, Geometric figures. The motifs are mostly made in the pavilion, in the anteroom, and in the main cell of the hypogea.

    The internal analysis of the figurative motifs made it possible to identify a process of formal evolution, that is, a progressive stylization and simplification, likely to be connected with cultural events and funerary ideology. This idea is based on the belief in the afterlife and on a funerary ritual with a propitiatory character of fertility, with magical representations even of apotropaic content. The representations having the character of decorative-cultic motifs are linked to this ritual.

    Furthermore, in 89 specimens, individual architectural elements are imitated or, in some cases, the plan of housing models, for which, as already mentioned, no archaeological traces are available, since the huts were built with perishable materials (Tanda 1984). The domus de janas, therefore, are an important and significant part of Sardinian archaeological heritage, essential for the reconstruction not only of funerary ideology, but also the housing structures between the fifth and third millennium B.C. For the associated presence in the same hypogeum of several decorative-cultic patterns and documentary elements of the living quarters, as well as for the refinement of the architecture, we can mention the Sa Pala Larga VII domus de janas in the necropolis of Bonorva, Monte Siseri, or S 'Incantu in Putifigari, Mandra Antine III in Thiesi, Mesu' and Montes II in Ossi, Sos Furrighesos VI in Anela, all of them being works of exceptional artistic value.

    The domus de janas, decorated or not, reveal an in-depth knowledge of how to dig various types of rocks and execute the decorations, as well as extraordinary expertise, the result of millennia of local craftsmanship. Underground structures are made using stone tools often made of volcanic stone and always characterized by hardness, according to a well-articulated theoretical system, consisting of successive and consequent operations or "Operating chains": the "Operating chain of excavation tools" and “Operational chain of the excavation of the domus de janas” (Tanda 2015 a). After use, damaged and undamaged tools, or parts thereof detached during the work, were left in the hypogeum, in some cases placed on purpose, such as in the tomb II of Ispiluncas in Sedilo where were arranged one in front of the other (Depalmas 2000: 79, Figs.42b, 47b).

    Going back to the artwork below, some relevant evidence is highlighted. In the necropolis of Sa Pala Larga-Bonorva, made up of 7 hypogea, the aforementioned tomb VII is worthy of mention, where sculpture and painting are associated, and the double sloping roof is carved in the main cell. On the walls, 4 type XVI motifs appear (rectilinear style) in 10 tombs with 21 specimens. Two recurring spiral motifs are painted in red. Motifs of the same type, but engraved, are found in tomb III of the same necropolis.

    The domus de janas of Monte Siseri, or S’Incantu-Putifigari is part of a small necropolis, where sculpture and polychrome painting are associated. The double sloping roof is carved in the anteroom and in the main cell. In the first case, it develops longitudinally; in the second, transversally. Type XII and XIII horn-shaped motifs are carved on the sidewalls and on the bottom wall of the anteroom; the back wall of the main cell is fully occupied by a Type XIII motif. In the necropolis of Mandra Antine III Thiesi, consisting of 4 hypogea, tomb III reveals the associated presence of sculpture, engraving, and polychrome painting (red, grey, white). The double sloping ceiling is carved and painted on the flat roof, developed transversally to the longitudinal axis, with a central beam and side joists. Simple spiral motifs or segments are painted in the spaces bordered by the joists. On the back wall, a type XIII horn-shaped motif appears.

    In the necropolis of Mesu 'e Montes-Ossi, consisting of 18 hypogea, tomb II stands out, characterized by the presence of associated techniques, that is, sculpture and engraving. On the flat ceiling, the double slope created on the transverse axis is spared. This hypogeum is a synthesis of figurative motifs. Indeed, types II-III, VI-VII, IX, XII-XIII, XXIII are attested in a total of 17 motifs. In the necropolis of Sos Furrighesos VI-Anela, made up of 18 hypogea, tomb VI stands out among the 7 decorated tombs, where the best preserved type 1 figuration is carved, in which an association of sculpture and painting is observed. Association of sculpture and painting in 7 tombs of the necropolis show remarkable art representations. Some paradigmatic representations are not found in the hypogea mentioned or are distinguished by their greater number, for example Types II, IV, VIII and XIX.

    Type II is attested in the cited Anghelu Ruju-Alghero necropolis, precisely in Tomb A with 8 specimens and also in other 10 domus de janas for a total of 48 figures. The well-known necropolis was discovered in 1904 and includes 38 hypogea, 7 of which showcase sculpted or engraved decorations. Type IV is attested in 9 domus de janas for a total of 39 motifs. Two tombs, the tomb of the Elephant-Castelsardo, the tomb of the Orto del Beneficio Parish of Sennori, and of Montalè in Sassari are classic examples. Type VIII is attested in 9 tombs showing 12 motifs. The paradigm is identified in the necropolis of Su Murrone-Chiaramonti, precisely in the domus de janas 1. Type XIV is documented in the Istevene necropolis, in Mamoiada.

    Type XIX, being transitional, has a great importance as it marks the stage of the symbolization of the door, where the horn-shaped motif that represents the horns of an ox, a part, therefore, of the protome, is merged, at an architectural level, with the door that has replaced the head of the ox, thus becoming the head of the animal. An example of this is Tomb IV of Brodu-Oniferi. Of great importance is the evidence showing all 7 types of engravings. In this regard, note the Park of the petroglyphs-Cheremule, with the Branca Tomb; the Necropolis of Montessu-Villaperuccio, with tomb II; the necropolis of the tomb of the labyrinth in Benetutti and the tomb of Corongiu in Pimentel. Particularly important is the aforementioned necropolis of Montessu, a natural amphitheater where 35 domus de janas are found, 6 of which have decorative-cultic motifs. Among the tombs, there are menhirs and remains of megalithic structures. A road marked by boulders leads to the necropolis. A few kilometers away are the traces of the open-air village of S’Arriorgiu, likely to be connected to the necropolis. Not far from Villaperuccio, moreover, is the necropolis of Pani Loriga, with 10 hypogea, 2 of which bear traces of red on the plaster. The archaeological materials of the excavations of the necropolis of Montessu are showcased in the Civic Museum of Santadi, which has been operating for quite some time.

    Funerary circles consist of one or two rows of stones, sometimes close to each other, arranged in a circle with a central lithic cyst, rarely associated with small menhirs (De Martini 2009-2010; Marcialis 2015; Marcialis, Orgiana 2020); they were likely to be covered by a mound. The clubs are located in Li Muri, in Arzachena (Puglisi 1964, Guilaine 2011, Antona 2003), and in Pranu Mutteddu in Goni (Atzeni, Cocco 1987) and in other areas of the island. The most ancient funerary circles, those of Li Muri, date back to the Middle Neolithic II, and may be compared with the ones in Corsica, France, and Catalonia, providing evidence of the interactions and exchange with those territories. In Sardinia, this type, which is beginning to be identified in numerous other sites under study, shows a remarkable development, as we can observe in Goni at the Archaeological Park of Pranu Mutteddu, in central-eastern Sardinia, dating back to the IV-beginning of the III millennium B.C., that is, from the Ozieri culture to the Copper Age, with a triple function (funerary, cultural, and residential). In this site, not only do hypogeism and megalithism coexist, but also monuments of various functions sometimes merge at the structural level with interesting results. Next to the funerary and cultic circles, a circle with hypogeal intrusions, there are indeed the prehistoric village of Su Crancu, the necropolis a domus de janas of Genna Accas, a domus de janas built not excavated in the rock, the dolmen and the allée couverte of Baccoi, surrounded by menhirs arranged in pairs, triad, and line-up (about 60 specimens). The line-up is made up of 20 protoanthropomorphic monoliths.

    The circles, therefore, can be divided into funerary circles and cultic circles; the function can only be obtained from the context. The circle/cromlech of Cirquittus in Laconi is also particularly important, flanked by a line-up made up of at least 5 protoantropomorphic menhirs, located not far from a domus de janas necropolis. (Atzeni 1994). The monument is still being excavated. There are 740 known menhirs (Merella 2009), 398 of which are located in the territories of central-eastern Sardinia, with a considerable concentration in the Barbagia di Ollolai, Nuorese, Mandrolisai, and Ogliastra (Demelas 2009-2010). They can be divided into four categories: aniconic, proto-anthropomorphic, anthropomorphic attributed to the Neolithic - they date back between the Ozieri culture (Late Neolithic, IV millennium BC, C.) and the Copper Age (Filigosa/Abealzu cultures, 3000-2600 BC) - and the statues-menhirs of the Copper Age. Despite being sometimes found individually, in most cases they appear arranged in pairs, in triads or in greater number arranged in rows. In one case, in Biriai-Oliena they are arranged in a circle. Two sites appear to be relevant: Biru’e Concas-Sorgono (Piroddi 1999-2000, Usai 2019) and Sos Settiles-Oniferi (M. A. Fadda, 1984) where individual monoliths appear, in pairs or in greater line-ups. The first has two line-ups of 17 and 22, recently relocated. The second is yet to be explored archaeologically. In five cases, in Su Rosariu-Mamoiada, in Jubanne Canu 1 and 2, in San Salvatore di Urzeghe-Florina in Boeli, the menhirs are decorated (Tanda 2012 and Merella 2012).

    Regarding the function, even in this case it appears to be connected both to the funerary and to the cultic sphere. The single position is in fact interpreted as the protection of another monument, for example a burial, while the multiple or aligned position can identify an area where rituals related to the cult of the menhirs themselves were celebrated and officiated. The line-ups were probably gathering centers where cultic ceremonies were then officiated. Those rituals might have been a cultural continuity because, later on (Final Bronze and Iron Age: 1300-550 B.C.), in the same areas or those adjacent to them other rites would be performed, in particular in springs and sacred wells in central-eastern Sardinia. There are 186 menhir statues, dating back to the Copper Age, coming from central Sardinia, mostly from Sarcidano, and above all from the territory of the municipality of Laconi (about 40% of the specimens identified). Another area of circulation is Barigadu and Mandrolisai (municipalities of Allai and Samugheo). The third, most northerly area consists of Marghine and the Barbagia di Belvì; an area between the former and the latter is the Usellus region, characterized by elements that recall the Sarcidanese and the Mandrolisai-Barigadu types. In addition to the 186 menhirs mentioned above, the numerous non-recomposed fragments found at different sites must be added (Cicilloni 2008, 2019, 2020). In most cases, however, given the artistic character that distinguishes them, the menhir statues have been museumized. Alongside the menhir statues, variously decorated slabs, boulders, and rocks, must be taken into consideration, a total of 18, found above all in central Sardinia. The decorated slabs of Sa Perda Pinta in Boeli-Mamoiada and that of Monte Paza-Sedilo appear scientifically relevant. Dolmen and allèes couvertes, certainly funerary structures, refer to the so-called trilithic megalithism (Ozieri I - II and Copper Age).

    There are 255 dolmen buildings of western origin (Lilliu 2011, Guilaine 2011) and they appear humble compared to the European ones (Cicilloni 2009 and 2019). They are trilithic structures, composed of vertical stones stuck in the ground and a large covering slab to form a more or less regular rectangular-shaped funerary room. The impressive dolmen of Sa Coveccada di Mores stands out among them, with its quadrangular plan (5x 2.20 m), consisting of three large orthostatic slabs in grey-pink trachyte, placed on housing channels specially prepared on the rocky level, with a slab on top, at a height of 2.10 m (6 x 3 x 0.60 m), weighing about 18 tons, that serves as a shelter. The panel closing the compartment on the back is missing. The entrance was a small opening. Inside the tomb, to the left of the entrance, there is a niche carved into the wall, a probable place to lay the funerary equipment and offerings. The recently restored monument has an entrance opening on the façade slab that is similar to the monuments found in France, Spain, and Portugal.

    In 13 dolmens, engraved figures and cupels have been observed, in two cases associated with ducts, connected to funerary rituals. The ducts also have a ritual function, linked to the execution of libations and animal sacrifices (Cicilloni 1999: 67-71). In Sardinia, there are also elongated dolmen structures, consisting of several vertical orthostats to form the walls, known as "gallery dolmen" or allèes couvertes according to the French name of this type of tomb. The brief examination of the main monuments of Pre-Nuragic Sardinia of the V - III millennium B.C. showed how in Sardinia, in the prehistoric age that precedes the flourishing of the Nuragic civilization, the two phenomena - hypogeism and megalithism - meet, sometimes merged in the same monument, as in the afore-mentioned Pranu Mutteddu-Goni and in the dolmen of Maone-Benetutti (Mackenzie 1904), or influencing the structural level, as the plans of the Type 6-8 domus de janas show(Tanda 2015a: 105, 109-110, 111-113). With regard to the latter, it can be observed that domus de janas Type 8, characterized by the presence of a megalithic atrium, is documented in as many as 25 hypogea, of which two with signs of art.

    The imitation of architectural elements, and even of the plan of the huts in the domus de janas, assumes a fundamental documentary value, allowing the reconstruction of the appearance of the settlements, especially those of the Neolithic which are no longer visible. The tomb morphologies of the domus de janas therefore represent not only a typical expression of Sardinian prehistoric hypogeism, but also a tangible representation of the interactions and exchanges that occurred in the relationship both with European social groups characterized by the presence of funerary hypogea and with the contemporary communities carrying megalithism, settled along the shores and in the islands of the Mediterranean and on the European continent.

    Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

    The nominated monuments and monumental ecomplexes represent an exceptional material documentation of the cultural peculiarities of the Prehistory of Sardinia, an island located in the center of the western Mediterranean basin, a crossroads of peoples and cultures. In this strategic position, the people who settled here over the course of three millennia, from the 5th to the 3rd millennium B.C., showed that they had great receptive capacities for stimuli, ideas and models coming from outside and, at the same time, remarkable aptitudes to rework the received contents being urged by collective needs, the influence of the surrounding environment and, above all, the capabilities and will of cultural growth and economic development of the communities. The result of these evolutionary processes, are the specificities that characterize the monumental representations of the pre-Nuragic cultural system, enriching them with identity values. Based on the studies of the last forty years, it is possible to describe this cultural system through the numerous material finds collected in the Museums and the thousands of structures built and/or excavated throughout the island, which testify to a considerable continuity. Despite their differences, it is possible to distinguish a number of cultures/facies: Culture of Bonu Ighinu, Culture of San Ciriaco, Culture of Ozieri I and II, Culture of Filigosa, Culture of Abealzu, Culture of Monte Claro, Culture of the Bell-Beaker pottery. Only the latter, created in the Pyrenean region, has not left monumental traces in Sardinia; the rich Bell-Beaker contexts, mostly funerary, in fact, were found in already existing tombs, generally made and used by social groups of the previous Monte Claro Culture. It therefore seems that the bell-shaped peoples who arrived in Sardinia, perfectly merged with the communities of Monte Claro.

    The most representative monuments of the period all fall within the framework of the great phenomena of hypogeism and megalithism that characterized both the Mediterranean basin and continental Europe in prehistoric times. The two strands manifest themselves in Sardinia with a great amount of evidence, but with different aspects and sometimes distribution; if the underground funerary structures, the so-called domus de janas, are mainly scattered in the central-northern and central-western part of the island, the megalithic ones (menhirs, dolmens, circles, allée couvertes) are more common in the inland areas and along the eastern belt. The two strands, however, often meet and integrate, giving rise to architectural and artistic buildings of great value which, in some cases, are unparalleled outside Sardinia.

    The domus de janas, which characterize a large part of the landscape of Sardinia and which characterize all the cultures that followed one another from the 5th to the 3rd millennium B.C., are the expression of an opulent society, which draws wealth from a productive economy based on agriculture and breeding, from the exchange of obsidian and flint and, from the final stages of the Neolithic, also from the exploitation and the processing of copper and silver. In the hypogeal necropolises, in particular, the effort of the sedentary communities is shown, explained by deep religious convictions linked to the fertility of the life-giving land, which used specialized workers to build the dwellings designed to secure life after death for the dead. The domus de janas are also one of the most significant elements of the identity of the island, known for centuries in the first literary sources in the Sardinian language with the typical name meaning "House of the Fairies".

    Criterion (ii): The different monumental types and the decorative arts connected to them, which were characteristic of the pre-Nuragic cultural system of the 5th - 3rd millennium B.C., are a tangible representation of the interactions and interchange of human values that occurred between people living in Sardinia and European social groups characterized by the presence of funerary hypogea, both with the other contemporary communities carrying megalithism which settled in the European continent and along the shores and islands of the Mediterranean basin.

    The similarities found between architectural structures (funerary hypogea, dolmens, alléè couvertes, menhirs, funerary and cultural circles, megalithic walls) and artistic expression of pre-Nuragic Sardinia and of European and Mediterranean contexts, may only be explained by recognizing the existence of connections, contacts and exchanges between the communities of the island and the other ones, often determined by the search and supply of essential raw materials such as obsidian, a volcanic glass used since the Neolithic for the manufacture of stone artefacts, available in Sardinia in the wide fields of Monte Arci.

    In particular, the two phenomena of hypogeism and megalithism, which characterize the entire Mediterranean basin and the territories of continental Europe, are not only widely testified in the lands of Sardinia, but meet and integrate each other, sometimes merging in the same monument. An exceptional example of synthesis between megalithism and hypogeism, a sign of different times and economies between the fourth and third millennium B.C., is the Tomb II that appears in the complex of Pranu Mutteddu in Goni: the core of the structure consists of the rooms dug in different lithic blocks transported from afar, lying on a carefully prepared embankment, which serves as an anteroom and funerary cell, faithfully recalling the domus de janas both in the architectural design and in the planimetric one. The structure is completed by stone rings, which were intended to contain the mound.

    The integrated cultural character of the site of Goni is also evident, where the pastoral group of external origin available in this area and also in Arzachena, is counterposed - or better juxtaposed - by the group of farmers represented by the people of Ozieri culture ( IV millennium B.C.), strongly affected by funerary hypogeism. Indeed, in the Goni site there is also a domus de janas necropolis. Similarly, the funerary circles of Li Muri, dating back to the end of the fifth millennium B.C. and connected to the culture of San Ciriaco, incorporate the megalithic structural model that originated from the Pyrenean area but enrich it with different cultural elements, such as the menhirs and stone boxes intended for offerings during the community worship ceremonies. The Mediterranean and continental connections are also perceived in some symbols engraved on the walls of the funerary hypogea, similar to those of Val Camonica, Monte Bego, and the Iberian Peninsula, or in painted patterns similar to those of Olmeta du Cap-Corsica and the ravines of the Iberian Peninsula.

    The gradual evolution of megalithism and hypogeism of the pre-Nuragic cultural system contributed, together with the new stimuli and cultural contributions typical of the Metal Age, to the development of the Nuragic civilization, which established itself in the full Bronze Age, marking a strong cultural change on the Island. In particular, the megalithic "walls" anticipate, in the technique of execution and in the location on high and particularly naturally defended places, the preferential position of the nuraghi, the typical architectures of the protohistory of Sardinia.

    Criterion (iii): The monumental evidences included in the nominated property bear an exceptional testimony of the cultural system that characterized prehistoric Sardinia in the long period ranging from the Middle Neolithic to the Copper Age, up to the dawn of the Bronze Age (between the V and the end of the third millennium BC). This cultural system, which characterizes this particular period of Sardinian Prehistory that precedes the flourishing of the Nuragic civilization, is distinguished by a remarkable cultural continuity, structured in multiple components (cultures/facies) which have generally taken their name from the place where the most significant types of artifacts were produced: culture of Bonu Ighinu and culture of San Ciriaco (Middle Neolithic, V millennium; Ozieri I culture and Ozieri II culture (recent Neolithic, IV millennium); Filigosa culture, Abealzu culture, Monte Claro culture and Culture of the bell-shaped vase (Copper Age, III millennium).

    The monuments that represent this long pre-Nuragic period are distinguished by the two cultural phenomena attested throughout the Mediterranean basin and in continental Europe: hypogeism and megalithism. Hypogeism, in particular, appears very early in Sardinia and offers original solutions, such as the domus de janas, the characteristic funerary hypogea, often richly decorated, which are hardly paralleled outside the island and for which an indigenous origin is also considered. Furthermore, in general, the phenomenon of hypogeism, although present throughout the Mediterranean basin - with the exception of Corsica - and in the European continent, nowhere else does it show the great number and the high artistic level reached by the domus de janas in Sardinia. Also some decorative motifs, carved in the hypogea during the 4th and 3rd millennium B.C., remain unparalleled outside the island.

    The domus de janas represent an important and significant evidence of the Sardinian archaeological heritage, indispensable for the reconstruction of the prehistoric funerary ideology, but also for the reconstruction of the lost Neolithic housing structures, evoked and sometimes precisely reproduced in the typical funerary architecture and its decorations. The truncated pyramidal altars with the climbing ramp of Monte d 'Accoddi, in the province of Sassari, attributed to the Cultures of Filigosa and Abealzu, currently is a unique testimony not only in Italy but also in the Mediterranean and in the European continent. The cult monument, however, certainly a center of social gathering for the whole region, nevertheless falls within the broader framework of contacts and exchanges between Sardinia and the Mediterranean world, if we consider the caisson construction technique of Western origin and the model reminding the Mesopotamian ziqqurat.

    Criterion (vi): Domus de janas are an important and significant testimony of the cultural heritage of the Region of Sardinia not only for their historical and archaeological value but also because, being scattered in a large part of the region, they are an integral part of its identity. They have always represented a large part of the collective imaginary and this has been witnessed since the first literary sources in the Sardinian language from the fourteenth century onwards: the very name of Domus de janas, "House of the Fairies", originated precisely from the stories relating to the magical creatures that were believed to have inhabited those prehistoric structures. It can be said that the domus de janas and the other megalithic testimonies of the pre-Nuragic and Nuragic age are the historical memory of Sardinia for the invocation of magical events that still remain today in the cultural tradition of the island, so much so as to evoke, in several cases, the genius loci of many areas.

    Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

    The series of sites proposed in this application meets the criteria of integrity and authenticity, both with reference to individual monuments and complexes, with their decorative elements, and as a whole. With regard to integrity, the series includes all the elements necessary to reprent the oustanding universal value of the nominated property; indeed, the most representative and best-preserved monuments and monumental complexes of the various architectural types that characterize the pre-Nuragic period from the 5th to the 3rd millennium B.C. have been identified. Many monuments have already been the subject of stratigraphic excavations, which have returned numerous finds of various kinds (ceramic, lithic, metal, biological), whose analysis has allowed us to reconstruct the daily life and uses of prehistoric communities. The proposed series, therefore, is a complete representation of the characteristics and cultural processes expressed by the monumental and mobile archaeological evidence of the period, which transmits its meaning.

    According to the Italian law, all conservation interventions carried out on archaeological assets must always be preceded by accurate and in-depth historical and material research and analysis, as well as conducted in the most rigorous respect for authenticity and search for the highest maintenance of characteristics, of the types, systems, constituent materials and original construction and decorative techniques, according to the most advanced methodologies and internationally shared practices. Furthermore, all interventions on archaeological assets are always carried out by the territorial offices of the Ministry of Culture or authorized and under the direct control thereof.

    The constant monitoring carried out by the public institutions of the Ministry and by the competent local authorities, in the implementation of the national protection legislation and the related territorial planning tools, ensures the protection and safeguard of the proposed pre-Nuragic heritage over time, also guaranteeing the maintenance of authenticity and the characteristics of integrity of the individual assets and the reference landscape contexts. As far as authenticity is concerned, all the monuments and monumental complexes proposed meet the required conditions in the multiplicity of attributes that characterize them: the shape and design of the architecture and decorations, the constituent materials, the construction, and executive techniques, the contexts in which they were made. The decorative heritage returned to us from the caves, from the shelters, from the hypogea, from the rocks, also reflects the particular spiritual world of the Neo-Eneolithic communities, linked to the cult of fertility and to the belief in an otherworldly world; these artistic expressions, exceptional testimonies of pre-Nuragic Sardinia, still express the complex system of beliefs and values which, although present throughout the Mediterranean and Euro-continental cultural substratum, have been reworked and developed on the island with particularly original inflections.

    Of all the complexes proposed, only the truncated pyramidal altar of Monte d'Accoddi testifies an “integrative” conservative type; as a matter of fact, for the restoration carried out in the years 1986-89 following the Tinè excavations, it was decided to favour the knowledge of the cell of the oldest sanctuary and, moreover, to allow visitors to reach safely the top of the monument. According to the theoretical and methodological criteria, which the Italian school of restoration is based on, nowadays the removal of the above-mentioned parts in the Eighties’ intervention would not be permitted, even if not all scholars agree on the reconstructive hypothesis of the time.

    Comparison with other similar properties

    The defensive megalithic walls between the structures that fall within the framework of megalithism, built in high strategic positions to control and defend the territory, can be compared to numerous similar buildings located in various European countries overlooking the Mediterranean, proof of a conflictual situation that arose in the Mediterranean during the Copper Age. Less impressive but more complex are the fortified structures of southern France, Corsica, and the Balearic Islands; those ones in the Aegean Sea are of minor thickness; those in Portugal and Spain are massive (Tanda 1999: 66).

    The dolmenic constructions of Sardinia reveal clear influences of western megalithism (the dolmen constructions had a western origin: France Spain and Portugal), which developed in Sardinia between the 5th and 3rd millennium B.C., reinterpreted and adapted to Sardinian ecosystems and to the needs of the island communities. The megalithic structures are indeed smaller, with the exception of Sa Coveccada-Mores, which recalls French dolmens, for example, the dolmen of Coute Rouge-Herault. The Sardinian funerary circles recall similar monuments in Corsica, Catalonia, the South of France. Particularly important are the circles of Monte Revincu in Corsica (Leandri et alii, 2012), dating back to the end of the fifth millennium B.C. Similar dates have been attributed to the circles of Li Muri which, to date, have had a unique character compared to the rest of the island that allow us to connect this Arzachena necropolis to the unitary framework of the spread of megalithism in Gallura and Corsica, clearly coming from the same phenomenon in the Pyrenean area.

    The menhir statues, different from the Sardinian ones, are however scattered in a very large area that covers Europe and Asia and northern Africa. In Italy, in particular, we remember those of Corsica, Tuscany, Puglia and the Alpine area. Even the prehistoric altar of Monte d'Accoddi, that is unique in the Euro-Mediterranean world, comes from outside. The caisson construction technique is of Western origin; the model reminds the Mesopotamian ziqqurat. Domus de janas are evidence of hypogeism, a phenomenon found in the Mediterranean basin and also in Europe. The hypogeism probably has indigenous origins in Sardinia, but its technique, excavation and decoration tools align with the hypogea found in the Mediterranean and in Europe. It differs from them from three different standpoints:

    1) the high number of tombs with a large number of rooms, up to 23.

    2) the presence of sculpted, engraved, and painted decorations in at least 220 domus de janas.

    3) the exclusive presence of sculpted decorations.

    Funerary hypogea, attributable to Types 6 and 7 of the domus de janas, are found in France, in the Seine-Oise-Mame culture, in an area characterized by megalithic monuments. The decorative symbols available there, however, are completely different from the Sardinian ones. The domus de janas decorated and/or featuring representations of megalithic structures reveals similarities only with the funerary hypogeum of Hal Saflieni in Malta, well inscribed in the UNESCO list; no other comparison is useful.

    The motifs sculpted with protomes have no analogy with sculpted figures from Europe and in contemporary monuments, a fact that confirms their specificity, a sign of an indigenous origin and development. The motifs carved using a hammer belong to the five categories and are compared to representations made with the same technique on the island, within caves (Cala Gonone, Dorgali) and natural ravines (Riparo Frattale, Oliena), in open-air rocks (Alghero, Orrì -Tortoli) on decorated slabs and boulders (Boeli Mamoiada, Monte Paza, Sedilo: Tanda 2012). Outside Sardinia, similarities are observed, but only in different archaeological contexts, such as the rock art complexes of Val Camonica (UNESCO site), Monte Bego, and the ravines or caves of the Iberian Peninsula (Tanda 1984, 1998). The painted Categories IV and V show clear similarities in the Sardinian context with representations of caves and rock shelters (Luzzanas-Ozieri shelter: Spanedda et alii 2017), with Corsica (Olmeta du Cap: Burens 2014), and with the Iberian Peninsula (Tanda 1984), attesting to the Mediterranean and continental connections of the pre-Nuragic communities of Sardinia.