The Nuragic Civilization

Aug 2018
174
Italy
#1
Since I think some people here might be interested in this old and peculiar civilization, and since it is hard to find up to date manuals in English about it, I decided to make this topic. Here I will try to describe this civilization, which lasted for a millennium and which underwent noticeable changes during that time. I will also try to describe its very numerous monuments and examples of figurative art. You can obviously ask me any question you want concerning this topic.
==Premise==
The nuragic civilization did not appear out of nothing, but develop under the course of several centuries, in the previous millennia the island had been populated by several neolithic and chalcolithic cultures that reached a high level of social organization and technological development. After being sporadically and sparsely inhabited during the mesolithic, the island was finally settled from mainland Italy during the early neolithic during the sixth millennium bc. From the beginning of the neolithic period the island was thus inserted in a network of trade routes because of its rich obsidian deposits, sardinian obsidian was traded west as far as the Balearic islands and Catalonia and East as far as the Carpatian basin, sardinian obsidian became especially popular in Southern France, where it was by far the main source of obsidian.

The island thus continued to receive new impulses from the rest of the Mediterranean, some of the earliest silver artifacts in Europe were also fabricated in Sardinia starting from this period. During the fourth millennium bc with the development of the Ozieri culture, copper technology reached the island along with eastern cycladic-like idols and fine pottery. Starting from this period thousands of elaborate rock cut necropoleis were constructed, one of the finest examples of this type of structures is S'Incantu in Putifigari:

With the development of metallurgy soon copper weapons were forged, during the course of the third millennium bc, with the monte claro culture the island saw the construction of villages enclosed by stone walls

Around the end of the third millennium bc beaker pottery reached the island and became widespread along the western part of Sardinia, the island's population seems to have decreased drastically, as the number of settlements suggests, the well organized proto urban settlements of the Monte Claro culture were mostly abandoned. Starting from the 19th-18th century bc with the development of bronze metallurgy the earliest types of nuraghi finally made their appearance on the island, the island's population also started slowly increasing again. The earliest nuraghi, also known as corridor nuraghi, belong to this phase, they're quite different from the more widespread and elaborate tower nuraghi or tholos nuraghi, these proto nuraghi or corridor nuraghi are in fact the least common type of nuraghi on the island, they're rectangular and crossed by a corridor, usually there are also cells and chamber inside the structure, with a dolmen-like roof. To get an idea of how these corridor-nuraghi looked like, you can take a look at this image which shows the development of the nuraghi during the second millennium bc, the proto-nuraghi are in the first row:

Thanks to the development of metallurgy, the first sword finally appeared in Sardinia, these type of swords, made up of an arsenical copper alloy, are dated to the 17th century bc:

A large quantity of these swords was found in a burial at Sant'Iroxi, while another sword of this type was found in a tomb at Maracalagonis. The longest ones can be up to 77 cm long.
 
Likes: Theodoric

Asherman

Forum Staff
May 2013
3,159
Albuquerque, NM
#2
Outstanding post, Massazio. I didn't connect your title with the culture/archaeology of Sardinia. Once the connection was made, I found your remarks fascinating, and believe you will find a number of members deeply interested in the topic. Welcome to Historum
 
Aug 2018
174
Italy
#4
Around the mid of the second millennium bc, during the 16th-15th century bc, the mono-tower tholos nuraghi were gradually developed. These towers were usually built with large stone blocks, inside the tower there are up to three chambers stacked on each with a stone "corbel" or "tholos" roof. In the roof of the tower there would usually be a battlement sustained by corbel stones; usually there would also be a spiral stair case leading up to the upper chambers and the roof:



The construction of several thousands of these nuraghi in the spawn of a few centuries suggests a demographic boom, these nuraghi found both in the inner areas of the islands and near the coasts, sometimes they were located on plains, while in other instances they were located on high quotes, even on rocky cliffs, where the use of machinery like winches and pulleys was required..
Around the middle of the 14th century bc the construction of the multi-towered tholos nuraghi started, this being the second most common type of nuraghi next to the mono-tower tholos nuraghi, multi-towered nuraghi constitute more than 1/3 of the total number of nuraghi. It's in this type of nuraghi that nuragic architecture reaches extraordinary levels, the main towers of these large complexes can reach a height of up to 27-30 meters as seen in nuraghe arrubiu, the structure of these nuraghi can also be very elaborate: long corridors with a corbel roof connecting the towers can be seen in some of these nuraghi, in Nuraghe Santu Antine and in Nuraghe Voes for instance the corridors which connected the towers were present on two levels, with the corridors on the first floor overlying on those on the ground floow:




In some cases, such as at Nuraghe Arrubiu and at Nuraghe Santu Antine, the nuraghi were built following a cohesive, unitary project, as proved by the presence of a complex drainage system under the bastion.


While in other cases, such as at Su Nuraxi at Barumini, the nuraghe was built by adding newer towers and walls around an older tower, usually the tallest tower, which became the main tower of the complex:

By the end of the 12th century bc the nuraghi were no longer built, the total number of nuraghi is still not exactly known to us, archaeologists have identified almost 7000 of them, for a total of around 30.000 individual towers, counting those which constituted the larger multi-towered nuraghi and the individual ones. the resources, skill and man power needed to build such a high number of structures in the spawn of a few centuries indicates that during the second half of the second millennium bc the island was densely populated, and that the communities inhabiting were very prosperous and well organized.
 
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Aug 2018
174
Italy
#5
==The giants' tombs==
During most of the second millennium bc, roughly from 1800 bc to 1150 bc, the most common type of burials were the so called "giants' tombs": These tombs were monumental structures which hosted the bodies of multiples people, it's still a matter of debate whether these tombs contained all the dead of the community or only the elite group which ruled over the area. The giants' tombs usually had the shape of a bull's head:


Which was probably intentional, since the bull's head motif was typically present in the late neolithic necropoleis (domus de janas), in the chalcolithic stelae and later on in the figurative art of the late bronze age and early iron age.
The stones which made up these tombs were sometimes finely carved and assembled with the ashlar masonry technique, as seen for example at Madau:§


A carved stele was often present on front, while the chamber where the bodies wwere put to rest had either a corbel roof, like this:

Or a dolmen-like roof, which was usually more common in the older tombs:

Today more than 800 giants' tombs have been identified throughout the whole island
 
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Aug 2018
174
Italy
#7
==The well temples==
Starting from the end of the 14th century bc more than a hundred well temples were built all over the island. They usually consisted of an underground chamber with a tholos roof and a monumental staircase that allowed the offerers to reach it, usually there was also another structured on top which also had a tholos vault, however most of the structures above the ground have been unfortunately dismantled through time and few of them remains, while the underground structures are usually more well preserved. Although the construction of these temples stopped around 1000 bc in most cases the temples were still used and large sanctuaries were built around them; sometimes these temples were still in use even during much later periods, in some of these temples votive offerings dated to the roman period were found, and often churchers were built near them or even right above them such as at Sardara.
These temples were in some cases built with an exquisite ashlar masonry technique; a great example of this is the well temple of Santa Cristina at Paulilatino:


While a good example of a well temple that has kept its upper part is Su Tempiesu, at Orune:



And here's a reconstruction of the well temple of Santa Vittoria di Serri:

The well inside of this temples isn't always a true well, in some cases they're more like cisterns or fountains, since the water reached the chamber from a spring much further away through a series of artificial water channels.
 
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Aug 2018
289
london
#8
On your map there are a lot of lines radiating out from what appears to be an island just north of Sicily, between it and the Italian mainland. Was that also part of the Nuragic civilization?
 
Aug 2018
174
Italy
#9
On your map there are a lot of lines radiating out from what appears to be an island just north of Sicily, between it and the Italian mainland. Was that also part of the Nuragic civilization?
No, that was part of my "premise", that map is about obsidian trade in the neolithic, so in pre-nuragic times. The main sources of obsidian back then were Sardinia, Pantelleria and Lipari (the island north of Sicily).
 
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Aug 2018
174
Italy
#10
==The megaron temples==
These temples have a similar chronology to that of the well temples, it seems that the earliest ones were built towards the 14th-13th century bc but they were still in use during the following centuries up until the end of the iron age (8th-7th century bc) and some times even in later periods.
They're called "megaron" temples because their shape somewhat resembles the contemporary mycenaean structures, however while the nuragic megarons were religious buildings the megarons of mycenaean greece had a domestic purpose.
These temples usually have a rectangular shape as seen in Sa Domu De Orgia:

However some have a more irregular plant such as those from the sanctuary of S'Arcu e is forros, with both rectangular and circular rooms:

Recently a new category of nuragic temples has been identified, the "antis temples" with a circular structure and a corbel roof like the nuraghi:

Like in the well temples, votive offerings were deposited in these temples, nuragic bronze statuettes and votive swords were fixed with melted lead on the altars or on the holes drilled inside the stones.
 

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