Sacred wells to the megalithic structures, and enigmatic giant statues. We can safely say that little to no other island in the world holds as many archaeological wonders and mysteries as Sardinia. Rich in mountains, minerals, woods, plains, largely uninhabited territories, streams, rocky coasts, and long sandy beaches. The island has been metaphorically defined as a unique micro-continent due to the variety of its ecosystems and history. Much of it started during the neolithic era.
Sardinia Nuraghe Nolza
The nuraghe are megalithic constructions in the shape of a truncated cone densely present throughout Sardinia. Almost each one of them has unique features.
Some are more complex and articulated, like real castles with the highest tower reaching a height between twenty-five and thirty meters.
It is believed they had military, religious, and astronomical purposes.
From the middle of the sixth millennium BC, the neolithic groups in Italy began a wider exploitation of local resources. They developed the domestication of wild species, such as cattle and pigs. With a “mixed” economy between agriculture (attested by the presence of mills, grinders and sickles) and livestock. In predominantly permanent settlements. However hunting, fishing and shellfishing were still important activities.
Based on anatomical (bone) studies in the Nùrighe caves of Cheremule. Footprints and other artifacts. It is estimated Sardinia was first colonized about 250,000 years ago, in the Lower Paleolithic. Since this time it is estimated sea levels had risen more than 130 meters (almost 430 feet). During this last ice age it was a lot different. Sardinia and Corsica formed a single large island. They were separated from Tuscany only by a narrow arm of sea. The oldest remains of Homo sapiens in Sardinia date back to the Upper Paleolithic. Their tracks have been found in the central part of Sardinia in the “Corbeddu cave” of Oliena. Further verifying the dates, and transforming time. Into the mesolithic and neolithic periods.
There are many regional variations of the two main strands of impressed, and linear pottery. In southern Italy the impressed pottery neolithic culture spread, between the second half of the sixth millennium BC and the beginning of the fifth (8.5 and almost 6 thousand years ago). Especially in the Tavoliere delle Puglie, Irpinia and Basilicata regions. It spread to the north and through the interior up the Tyrrhenian coast. In Sicily also, there was more continuity with local communities and pottery. The island of Lipari was colonized by people coming from Sicily. Its island had large deposits of obsidian.
Human remains have been found at the “Su Coloru cave” of Laerru, in northern Sardinia. The material and culture here, suggest people came from the Italian peninsula after a difficult navigation with rudimentary boats.
In 2011, the oldest complete human skeleton (renamed “Amsicora”) was found. In the territory of Arbus, it dates back to about 7,000 BC.
Giants of Sardinia
What or who they represented is uncertain, with hypotheses ranging from warriors and boxers to ancient gods.
At the same site, in the structure known as tomb nr.25, archaeologists also found an Egyptian scarab, which for some scholars precisely represents a Hyksos type scaraboid.
Sardinia sacred wells
Sacred wells are another typical architectural feature of prehistoric Sardinia.
While some of them merely served as wells with no other features. Some are advanced and have incredible astronomical alignments.
The neolithic era of Sardinia is associated with a number of cultures. Here are information on some.
1 Su Carroppu culture
Representing the earliest phase of neolithic culture is Su Carroppu. It was around 6th millennium BC. Since the 1960s, archaeologists excavating a rock shelter on the limestone hills in the territory of Sirri called “Su Carroppu”. They have found various coarse ceramics of a black-grey color decorated with the imprint of Cerastoderma, animal bones, artifacts and tools.
2 Grotta Verde culture
Monte Arci, in province of Oristano had a great source of obsidian. For the area and time, it was excellent for tool making. It helped the culture spread. It is named after a cave located at Capo Caccia near Alghero. Dated to around 5000 BC (or 7000 years ago). Many tools were found.
Characterized by the production of refined pottery, decorated with a toothed tool. Grotta Verde was present in the north-west. On a vase found in the cave the handles depicted, in a stylized manner, human heads with small nose, eyes and mouth played. According to archaeologists this would be the first anthropomorphic representation in Sardinian prehistory. On a wall inside the cave unusual graffiti was also found. Perhaps many in a string of certain kind. Or, an alternative form of communication.
3 Filiestru culture
In the 70s, in the territory of Mara. They found a ravine of about sixty square meters. It was between Villanova Monteleone and Bosa. On the west side of the island. Scientist and safety men investigated. They discovered a sequence of different cultures, spread over a very long period of time.
The oldest was dated to late fifth millennium BC. Almost 8000 years ago. Like many others, findings show the culture was developed and dedicated to agriculture, husbandry, hunting and fishing. The researchers also noted an almost complete disappearance of earlier forms of pottery. Instead there was the appearance of large greenstone rings. Similarly found in Corsica and the Italian peninsula(s). Research allowed archaeologist to argue that during the Filiestru culture period. They had close trade relations with other neolithic era communities. Like in southern France, the Iberian peninsula, Italian peninsula and Sicily.
4 San Ciriaco culture
Characterized as a cultural link between the Bonu Ighinu and Ozieri. San Ciriaco culture, from 3400-3200 BC, characterizes the end of the Middle Neolithic. In the province of Oristano, they found a neolithic village. Scientists are researching. It is in an area the culture is named after. During this period, they built the first Domus de Janus, a hypogean tomb. (pic)
Domus de Janas Sardinia
Archaeologists claim that the first Domus de Janas was started around 5000 years ago. After the San Ciriaco culture finished the first Domus De Janus, it spread with #6 Ozieri culture. And, throughout Sardinia.
5 Arzachena, or “Corsican Gallurese cultural aspect”
The Arzachena culture was mostly involved in the Gallura region. Eastern parts and in southern Corsica. Hence it is also known as: “Corsican- Gallurese cultural aspect”. Arzachena megaliths include Li Muri (pic), and Gallura (top of page). Both circular grave sites. That were some of the oldest in the mediterannean. Grave goods found included refined cups of soapstone, carvings, knives of flint, small triangular hatchets and necklaces.
6 Pottery of the Ozieri culture
Ozieri culture was unique. Previously there type of pottery was considered rare, and only known in the Cyclades, and, Crete island. Its appearance in Crete, nearly 1500 km. Shows trades with other successful mediterannean lands. New skills and expertise begin appearing in Sardinia during this period. Better lifestyles; including metallurgy, and new and improved manufacturing techniques are shown. Especially through commercialization with neolithic era Greece.
The Ozieri shared an important religion too. They worshiped the Sun and taurus, a symbol of male strength. And, the moon and mediterrannean mother. A symbol of female fertility.
1 Sub-Ozieri or red Ozieri culture
Dated around 2850 and 2700 BC. The culture was particulalry noticeable in the central and southern parts of Sardinia. Because of metallurgy, stone tools and pottery begin to be used less during this period. Because of there lower smelting points, lead, copper, silver and gold increasingly spread.
3 Monte Claro culture
No doubt with metallurgy spreading. The culture including innovations like oven shaped tombs. From around 2400 and 2100 BC. They also built a great megalithic wall on the northern central part of the island. It is not long before Nuragic culture starts.
Through these creative, inventful and prosperous times, many flourished out and around from Greece and Italy. More north to places in Europe, across and, around the mediterrannean. To places like Spain and Africa. Some maybe even made it across the ocean. To North, South or Central America.
Giuseppe Pitzalis, Pino Fenu, Fabio Martini, Lucia Sarti, [Online-Version Grotta Su Coloru: Primi dati sui contesti culturali Mesolitici E Neolitici (Scavi 1999-2003)] , in Sardinia, Corsica et Baleares antiquae : international
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AA.VV., Ichnussa. La Sardegna dalle origini all’età classica, Milano, 1981.
Contu E., Monte d’Accoddi (Sassari). Problematiche di studio e di ricerca di un singolare monumento preistorico Deja Conference, BAR. s. 288. Oxford. (1984)
Ugas, G. (2005). L’alba dei Nuraghi. Cagliari.
Gary Webster (2019). The Sardinian Neolithic: An Archaeology of the 6th and 5th Millennia BCE. BAR int. Ser. 2941. Oxford: BAR Publishing.
G. Webster and M. Webster (2017). Punctuated Insularity. The Archaeology of 4th and 3rd millennium Sardinia, Oxford: BAR International Series 2871