The whole of the Mediterranean basin is the cradle of Western civilisation. Several countries in this large area have an important past that has left strong marks on our history. The peoples of the Mediterranean have left their mark on the island thanks to their colonies and the trade with the native peoples. Amongst those who made a stable home in Sardinia were the Shadan (Sea People), which according to scholars were brave fighters also hired by the Pharaohs to be part of the royal guard. This history is shrouded in the deepest mystery. In Sardinia you can visit and admire an immense and invaluable historical and archaeological heritage. Starting from the early period of the Neolithic Age (known as the pre-Nuragic era) to the Nuragic period of about 4000 years ago, and including the entire pre and post-Christian era that takes us from the Roman colonies all the way to the end of the Middle Ages.
The most noteworthy remains of the pre-Nuragic civilisation are the Domus de Janas (houses of the fairies or the witches), chamber tombs for the burial of the dead that are the core of the mysticism and religion of the era. The Domus de Janas were carved into the limestone and formed corridors and rooms. They are easy to find because they are scattered all over Sardinia; either as single chambers or arranged in large necropoli, which are easily visited such as that of Su Crucifissu Mannu or Anghelu Ruju. Close to Sassari there is also a prehistoric altar called Monte d’Accoddi, whose shape recalls that of Mesopotamian Ziggurats, and obvious sign detailing the presence of Mesopotamian influence in northern Sardinia.
The Nuragic civilisation consisted of the people who inhabited the island of Sardinia. The name of the civilisation derives from its most characteristic monuments: the Nuraghes. These are stone tower-fortress buildings found either isolated or in groups that are the most famous and important remains we have left to identify the mysterious people who inhabited Sardinia. It is easy to visit and tour the Nuraghes, as all over the island about 7-8 thousand nuraghes have been surveyed, although historians say that in the past there were many more. With regard to their purpose, we are not as yet fully certain if they served as rulers’ houses, military fortifications, religious temples, or a combination of the former, due to the lack of archaeological artifacts. A major campaign of archaeological excavations would be needed to unravel the mystery and history that is intertwined with the other peoples of the Mediterranean.
TOMBS OF THE GIANTS
The mystery of the history of the Nuragic people persists in their funerary cult, for they built the Tombs of the Giants (as we call them today). These are gallery graves made completely of stone, with huge boulders in the center and progressively smaller ones to the sides to form an open space and in the back a hallway where the bodies of the dead were brought and deposited. If viewed from above, the shape resembles the inverted head of a bull, and the particular arrangement of the stone monoliths would seem to recall the ancient customs of the Druids.
Another interesting mystery in the history of the Nuragic civilisation is their the cult of the water/water cult, a resource so precious that special holy wells were built. Among the most important, the Holy Well of Santa Cristina in the Campidano plain and the Holy Well of Perfugas are close to us and can easily visited with a guide. These Holy Wells were built out of stones that had been perfectly sculpted and squared, and they have a stairway leading down to the water chamber. At the center of this room there is a small opening in the ceiling that allows light to enter. On the summer solstice, the perfectly perpendicular sun at noon magically meets the water to create wonderful games of light that are heavy with ancient mystery.
GIANTS OF MONT’E PRAMA
The mystery of the Nuragic story continues with the discovery of large stone statues in the Campidano plains. These are called giants of Mont’e Prama because of the location where they were found, and their sheer height that varies between 2 and 2.5 metres. These statues represent an important discovery because the figures depicted are mainly knights and boxers, as if indicating that fighting was a strong focus for the Nuragic people. Further archaeological research aims to continue the excavations in order to recover other sculptures and thus find links with the peoples of the Mediterranean. The statues that have already been restored are displayed at the Museum of Cabras, in the Campidano region, and are a must see attraction when taking an archaeological tour of the area. Other artifacts from the Nuragic civilisation that survived to our days are small bronze statuettes known as Sardinian bronzes. These depict warriors or scenes of everyday life of this ancient civilisation.
There are several remains of Roman settlements around the island, particularly in the northern part of Sardinia (which Cicero called the island of Towers).
AFTER CHRIST ERA
There is a large architectural heritage from the post-Christian era, particularly in terms of churches whose different styles reflect periods ranging from the Gothic to the Pisan, from the Baroque to the Renaissance. The stylistic differences also include the internal structures, such as wood and marble altars, sculptures and bas-reliefs and the paintings by old masters.