Mysteries of Sardinia

Mysteries of Sardinia
Mysteries of Sardinia

Nuragi is one of those mysterious ancient structures, the purpose of which scientists have been arguing for centuries.

Mysteries of Sardinia

Nuragi - one of those mysterious ancient structures, the purpose of which scientists have been arguing for centuries. Who lived in the gigantic stone buildings of Sardinia more than three thousand years ago? And why did the inhabitants leave in the 3rd century BC, covering the nuraghi with earth? If you are drawn to the mysteries of history, a trip to Sardinia is not complete without a visit to the nuraghe

A typical nuraghe is a gigantic stone tower in the form of a truncated cone, which can reach 20 meters in height. The building has no foundation, and it is supported only by the total mass of its own stones, masterfully fitted by ancient architects. Nuraghi were built on the plains with a panoramic view, and even from afar you can see a dark gray fortress that resembles a giant beehive. An unforgettable experience awaits you inside. Even on the hottest days, these structures keep shade and coolness. Massive steps of stone stairs are polished to a shine by those who lived here many centuries ago. And it becomes clear that the inhabitants of ancient Sardinia clearly did not suffer from excess weight, otherwise they simply could not squeeze into the tight passages!

From the outside, the nuraghe looks rather unpretentious, but archaeologists say that the interior of the tower can compete with a medieval cathedral in terms of architectural complexity.

Temples, dwellings of ordinary people, residences of rulers, military fortifications, meeting places of leaders or religious cults - these are just some versions of the purpose of the Nuraghe. And when even scholars cannot agree, legends are sure to appear.

Mysterious towers

To date, about 8 thousand nuraghes have been discovered on the island, but archaeologists assure that this is not the limit. Every year more and more new stone towers are found in Sardinia, and it is believed that once their number could reach 30 thousand. Most often, nuraghes are found in the northwestern and central parts of the island.

The most famous Sardinian nuraghes are Su Nuraxi in Barumini, Santo Antin in Torralba, Serra Orrios in Dorgali, Vine in Abbasanta, S'Uraqui in San Vero Milis, Arrubiu in Orroli.

If you go on a tour of the nuraghe, you will find out that in the second millennium BC, the land of Sardinia was divided between numerous clans that were at enmity with each other. Each of the clans claimed leadership, and the art of war became more and more perfect over the years. And, of course, there was a need for towers and fortresses. It is believed that it was for protection that the mighty Nuraghi stone structures began to be built, which later gave the name to the ancient civilization of Sardinia - the Nuragian.

The word "nuragh", according to scientists, means "through hill". These hills, which reach a height of up to 20 meters, are indeed riddled with air wells. The towers are made of stone blocks and have the shape of a truncated pyramid. Be sure to walk along the narrow corridors of nuraghe and pay attention to the size of the stones: it gradually decreases as the height of the tower increases.

The first question that comes to mind is: how were these vaults built? Of course, in the second millennium BC, there could be no question of the use of cement, and therefore the ancient builders could only rely on the virtuoso selection of stones. Only the weight and the meticulously calculated arrangement of the stones prevent the massive walls from collapsing. In addition, in order to achieve balance, the inhabitants of ancient Sardinia used different types of stones - granite, limestone, bas alt, tuff. In order for the stones to be pressed against each other as tightly as possible, some surfaces were carefully cut, fitting the outlines of neighboring stones, while other blocks were left unprocessed. To build a tower in the form of a cone, the ancient builders laid out the foundation in an even circle, and each next row moved slightly towards the center.

You will have to climb up and down steep stairs several times to get to the largest round room, which is located at the base of the tower. Most scholars believe that it was intended for protection. In some nuraghe there were several such rooms at once, they hung one above the other and were connected by narrow stairs and passages.

Stone Village

Nuragh is usually surrounded by a labyrinth village, also built of stone. Small round huts were located so close to each other that the streets between them were no wider than one meter. The dimensions of the ancient houses were also quite modest - from 5 to 6 meters in diameter. But the family could consist of 9-10 people! Scientists believe that in stone houses, where women spent most of their time, magical rites were performed, promising family well-being. For example, the bones of rodents and birds were considered excellent protection against various misfortunes. They were burned in the hearth, and then buried as amulets.

And if a war broke out, then all the inhabitants of the stone village (and there could be up to 600 people) hid inside the tower, helping to defend themselves from enemies.

Contrary to science

But if you manage to talk to one of the locals, you will hear a completely different story, which, as a rule, is not mentioned by the guides. It turns out that there is another version of the origin and purpose of the nuraghes. And its supporters are sure that those who once built huge stone fortresses were not going to fight. On the contrary, the nuraghe was erected for mystical rituals and meditations. It is believed that the fortresses were intended primarily for female mystical cults, because it was not in vain that many female statuettes made of stone and bronze were discovered during the excavations. And then it turns out that inside the nuraghes lived not warriors, but women who devoted themselves to religious service. And around, in a stone labyrinth, pilgrims who came from afar settled. Then it becomes clear why the round stone huts were so small, and the streets between them so narrow: those who came for a short time needed very little space.

This version is supported by the fact that among the stone labyrinth of Sardinian nuraghes there is certainly a cone-shaped room with a round hole in the ceiling. Once a year - on June 21, on the day of the summer solstice - the Sun is in a certain position and its light literally floods the room. Until now, women from different parts of Italy gather in many nuraghe to meditate in a stream of sunlight.

And when you're making your way through narrow interior stairs or finding yourself alone in a cramped room with no windows, the mystical version of the origin of the nuraghe seems quite plausible.

Su-Nuraxi in Barumini

This is the most impressive nuraghe ever discovered in Sardinia, which was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997. Excavations here began in 1950, and a beautiful complex was discovered. In its center is a three-story tower built around the 15th century BC. e., and surrounds it with an intricate labyrinth of walls, destroyed almost to the ground. Only the outlines of a stone village and small houses have come down to us. But the huge bowls for water, hollowed out of solid stone, have been perfectly preserved. What are these - cult vessels or ordinary household items? One can only guess.

Su-Nuraksi is also famous for the fact that a bronze model of nuragha was discovered here, thanks to which we know what stone towers looked like in ancient times. But here the opinions of scientists diverge again. Someone argues that the nuraghe model had a symbolic meaning for local sanctuaries. Others are sure that this is just a child's toy.

Other treasures discovered during the excavations are small bronze figures of warriors, ships and figurines of a mother goddess or priestess. Now they are kept in the National Archaeological Museum in Cagliari, the capital of the island of Sardinia. If you want to get a complete picture of the Nuraghe culture, you should definitely look here. And at the same time stroll through the historic center of Cagliari, admire the medieval towers and cathedrals.

The end of the nuraghe era

In the 3rd century BC, the nuraghi began to empty. It is surprising that, before leaving the gigantic fortress, the inhabitants walled up all the entrances with stone slabs, and then covered the fortress with earth. And although some scientists are skeptical about such a burial of nuraghes, the fact remains: all the ancient fortresses discovered in Sardinia were found in barrows of the same shape. Nuraghi hid in high hills with a flat platform on top. Why the ancient structures were hidden is still a mystery. And besides, scientists can only guess where such an amount of land for conservation came from, because no pits were found near the nuraghes. Does this mean that the land was brought from somewhere? But how was it done and why? Who were the people who inhabited these mighty structures? And where did they go in the 3rd century BC? Researchers do not give intelligible answers to these questions. And for tourists, the mysterious nuraghe is becoming more and more attractive.

Where to stay

In Barumini, not far from the nuragic complex Su Nuraxi, one of the largest in Sardinia, there is a small cozy hotel Su Nuraxi. Here you can stop for a couple of days to slowly explore the ancient fortress and take a walk around the surroundings. Or limit yourself to a lunch of traditional Sardinian dishes and desserts, which, of course, will be offered incomparable local wines.

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