Nuraghic  Archaeology


            Sardinia (italy)



                                             Ancient coat-of-arms of the Sardinia Sabauda


 The unresolved riddle of seven thousand nuraghes:



                                          (Silanus-NU: Nuraghe Madrone).



        *   Who built the nuraghes ?


        *   What their purpose ?



                                       (Barumini-CA: fortress nuraghic "Su Nuraxi")


     These questions remain two critical points in Sardinia's history.


          Since the second half of the 19th century many fa­mous archaeologists have sub­jected the problem to a minute analysis, but today there is yet no definitive an­swer.



                         (Barumini-Ca: The "Mastio" fortress "Su Nuraxi").


         In the past, Sardinian ar­chaeology was placed in the international limelight by first rate publications, which used the most up to date modern research methods. With the death of its most articulate archaeologists, the region's re­search lost momentum and the riddle of the nuraghes was not addressed with new ideas or effective methodolo­gies.

      Research continued to follow the established path, supported by massive bibliog­raphies, and the archaeologists could withdraw into the role of a solitary, erudite re­searcher caught up in com­plex studies which, were linked to the specialised fields geology, anthropology, en­gineering, statistics, astron­omy, and even others.




                                (Ghilarza-OR: The fortress "N.ghe Losa").


       Research was simplified not only by the copious bibli­ographies available but also by the study of thousands of fragments from broken earthenware. Other objects - often of distinct artistic value - like the “bronzetti nuragici", various weapons, and a wealth of clay pots, were also very helpful.


     So what has been the result of more than a century of stud­ies and digs?


       Only four - out of seven thousand - nura­ghes have been unearthed. There has been the publica­tion of about a hundred arti­cles and of a myriad of shorter pieces in which the nuraghes, according to the various authors, were built by the Egyptians, Etruscans, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Celts, oriental architects, and natives of the island, and served as Egyptian tombs, temples of the sun, chiefs' sepulchres, family tombs, homes, fortresses, lookout towers, furnaces, and, accord­ing to the latest research, as­tronomical observatories !



                           (Pseudo-nuraghe "N.ghe Fontanas - Villaputzu-CA)


            This confused state of af­fairs, which shows the limits of individual research, is caused by the existence of such a large number of nura­ghes (seven thousand, an al­most cabalistic number whose origin is almost as mysterious as the nuraghes' builders) and by their very varied structural arrangement:

       If one examines certain nuraghes with a similar arrangement, it is easy to say that they were used to build a fortress (e.g. Barumini, Losa, St. Antine ).



                     (Torralba-SS: The Nuraghic fortress "N.ghe Santu Antine").


          However, if one examines a different kind of nuraghe, one can come to the conclusion that they were not fortresses - being utterly indefensible - but rather homes or temples, or  maybe, watchtowers to  warn against mysterious invaders.

          Thus, given existing traces of metallurgical activity, one can also make a case for the nuraghes being furnaces.

          Therefore, the question remains, what are these strange structures ?



                               ( San Vito - CA:pseudo-nuraghe "N.ghe Soro").


        A study of the current literature could lead to the erroneous conclusion that all that has been built with megalithic techniques, and in a circular arrangement, should be classed as nuraghes.


        Nevertheless, in 1923, a brief article served to illuminate the nuraghe studies of that period and to show the researchers the correct path follow to arrive at a scientifically sound solution to the riddle: Francesco Giarrizzo, an architect, published in the:


"Bollettino di paletnologia Italiana" (XLII,1923, N. 1) under the title

        "On nuraghe building techniques".


       The results of his extensive studies of the structures. He interpreted them not as the "containers" for earth and clay fragments, but as an architectural phenomenon with an independent scientific and technical significance



                                         (Torralba-SS: Nuraghe de oes”).



       According to Giarrizzo the term "nuraghe" does not identify simplistically, the circular formations of stones in the mountains of Sardinia, but rather a specific kind of construction:


       A megalithic structure built with conical stones, often squared, placed in regular rows which grow smaller as they mount higher, giving the whole construction a conical silhouette.




                              (Isili-NU: pseudo-cupola del “nuraghe Is Paras”).


        In the interior, the gradual shrinking of the diameter of the circular, walls leads to a "pseudo-cupola" effect, a distinguishing characteristic of the  nuraghes.


        Giarrizzo's examination of a large number of these nuraghes let him discover the rules, which the ancient  builders used to execute the pseudo-cupola or tholos :


  "The diameter of the base a nuraghe's cell can be, at the most, double the width of the cell's walls also measured at the base".


       * But how can one is sure that the seven thousand "nuraghes" are indeed similar and that they have the structural characteristic identified by Giarrizzo?


* Have they all been measured and examined?




                                   (Muravera-CA: proto-nuragne “Nuraghe Is Calas”).


       If this was not the case one could question the results of a study based on data from only a few digs. Analysis these result, one could conclude that this method is impractical given the very real difficulty of unearthing, in a relatively short time, a statistically sound number of nuraghes.



                       (Villaputzu-CA: Pseudp-nuraghe “nuraghe Monte arrubiu”).



        The accurate unearthing of several nuraghes can furnish detailed, stratigraphyc data, but it can refer only to the structures in question and to ones with similar, characteristics. However, it would be difficult to deduce a valid historical reconstruction for all the seven thousand "nuraghes".

        In fact, the major issue of nuraghe-archaeology can be explained with the following statement:


         "Although archaeology was born as a humanistic discipline, it has now become a scientific discipline - today the most advance scientific techniques read our past". (Sabatino Moscati, rivista IBM n.2/ 1981).


         With this statement the famous archaeologist, in perfect harmony  with the times, shows the path of progress and reality to those with the will and courage to abandon the methodologies of scholarly and pedantic institutions. Today, archaeology, if taken at then highest level, does not only have as a protagonist the archaeologist, but sees him as apart of a team of experts who produce, each in their who field, scientifically sound data which can then be correlated by the archaeologist. Thus one can have believable result rather  than suggestive but unrealistic historical reconstruction.



                    (Villaputzu-CA: proto-nuraghe nel Monte del castello di Quirra).


        If the nuraghes contain the solution to their riddle, one must, get to know them in every detail, in terms of structural characteristics, in terms of quantity, and in terms of regional distribution as correlated with all the environmental characteristics.


         Traditional methodologies, when faced with an enormous amount of data to examine and correlate, have tended to discourage those who would look for a "total" solution to the enigma of the nuraghes.

       In fact, with today's technology one can create, in a relatively short period of time, a data bank, in a computer, to record the data on the structures.



                                  (Macomer-NU: nuraghic “Betili” loc.Tamuli).


        The government authorities have already undertaken a complete aerial survey of the island. This consists of slides and high resolution and colour photographs. All the chromatic information has already been classified and it has been requested so that it can be entered into a computer.


      Once a data bank about the nuraghes has been created in a computer, there will be many new avenues to pursue. One could produce statistical data and extrapolations, which would be inconceivable using simple filing methods.


       * What, for example, is the relation among the seven thousand nuraghes of the different styles of structure and the morphology of the surrounding countryside?


       * What is their relationship to other monuments of the same era? How are they distinguished?


       * What are the most common place-names?


       * How many of the structures are in fact nuraghes and how many are  "pre-nuraghes"?


       * To which structural family do the structures up to now studied belong?


       These questions could be answered rapidly and accurately by a computer.



                             (Muravera-CA: Megalithic complex “Cuili Piras”).


          In Sardinia, in the study of megalithic structures (pre-nuraghic) the computer has already been used with notable success in the     solution of difficult archaeological problems in Costa Rei (Muravera-CA), there are innumerable traces of ancient cultures. There are many megalithic structures, of which about a dozen have been discovered and unearthed.



                    (Muravera-CA “Cuili Piras” :Planimetry  megalithic complex)



(Muravera-CA “Cuili Piras”: relationship alignments/Sun & Moon)


          The structures composed of dolmen, narrow hall tombs, and other megalithic pre-nuraghic formations, offer an exceptionally homogenous picture, of the megalithic cultures which  followed each during that period in that region.





                           (Muravera-CA: Megalithic Complex “Cuili Piras”).


         This new type of megalithic culture, which seems closely, tied, although earlier than the nuraghic one left it most significant monuments in the form of closely spaced groups of menhirs placed in blocks. Using a computer, experts all the possible alignments of each menhirs with all, of the others and with the possible positions of the Sun and the moon (at sunrise and sunset), in that area.



                             (Muravera-CA: Megalithic complex “Is Calas”).


       The results were surprising: the menhir could been used as an astronomical device to create a Solar & Lunar calendar. The equinoxes, solstices, and lunar months are all indicated accurately by the alignment, of the menhir.  Archaeology through the regular use advanced technology, could play a vital role in Sardinia's socio-economic future, because it would be - for many isolated towns - the carrier and key for tourism.



                             (Muravera-CA: Megalithic Complex “Is Calas”).




                               (Muravera-CA: Megalithic complex “Is Calas”).


       Many places, which are of great archaeological value, but until now inexplicably ignored, would jump into limelight of tourist's travels.

       This would justify the heavy economic burden, which the state would have to carry to support this research, which would have as a goal the creation of institutions and activities, which are useful and interesting for everyone.


(Roberto Ledda, indipendente researcher, Ispettore Onorario della Soprintendenza Archeologica di Cagliari per i Comuni di Muravera e Villaputzu (CA).


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