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The Silk Route - World Travel: Giant of Mont'e Prama,Archaeological Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy
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Sardinia: Cagliari & the South West
May 2015

Cagliari: Castello Cagliari: Marina Cagliari: Chiesa di San Sepolcro
Su Nuraxi Nora Montessu
Related pages: Sardinia: Olbia to Oristano
Sardinia: Carthaginian Necklace

The south west of Sardinia, as in the rest of the island, has fascinating Roman and ancient historical sites to explore - the necropolis of Montessu is particularly intriguing.

Cagliari itself is home to an excellent archaeological museum and countless places to enjoy good food.

Cagliari: Castello

Cagliari
Buildings in front of the cathedral.
Cagliari
Torre dell'Elefante

 

 

Long the island's capital Cagliari has remnants of two thousand years of history either on the streets or in its museums. The old citadel, now the Castello quarter, is high on a hill with the cathedral and city offices at the summit and surrounded by a defensive wall.

Cagliari
Cagliari
Torre dell'Elefante
Note the raised portcullis inside.
Cagliari
A view over Cagliari from Castello.
Cagliari
Torre dell'Elefante and its raised outer gate.

On the west side is the Torre dell'Elefante which was built in 1307 and, like the defensive walls, presents a sheer face to attackers. The internal portcullis can still be seen seated in its grooves at the centre of the interior of the gate above the road leading into Castello. A raised, spiked gate is also still in place at the entrance from the lower city. The inward side of the tower is open.

Cagliari cathedral
Cagliari cathedral.
Cagliari
Cagliari
A view over Cagliari from the Castello walls, on the left the inner open side of Torre dell'Elefante can be clearly seen.
Cagliari

The civic and ecclesiastical buildings sit among a warren of narrow alleyways threading between tall buildings within the walls.

The cathedral was originally built in the thirteenth century but has undergone much remodelling. The facade is a twentieth century take on a typical arcaded Pisan Romanesque style and the interior, a mixture of Gothic and Baroque, does nothing for me at all, though there are some lovely 12th century carved marble lions and an impressive carving of St Michael casting devils into hell.

Cagliari cathedral
Cagliari cathedral.
Cagliari cathedral
St. Michael casting devils into the flames of hell, Cagliari cathedral.

 

Cagliari
Small bronze Nuraghic figure of a chieftain; ninth - eighth century B.C.

The Archaeological Museum is not too far from the cathedral and has some very interesting exhibits. I particularly liked the small bronze Nuraghic figures, mostly military in nature, and the little boats, indicative of the seafaring nature of the people, which may have been used as sanctuary lamps.

Cagliari
Small bronze sanctuary lamp(?) in the shape of a boat with an antlered deer at the prow.

 

Cagliari
A beautiful and intriguing Carthaginian glass necklace.
Cagliari
Carthaginian demon mask, 6th century B.C. used in rituals of transformation such as coming of age.
Cagliari
Nuraghic heroic warrior with four eyes and four arms.
Cagliari
Statue of the Egyptian god Bes from the Roman period, found at Santa Gilla.

 

Cagliari
Cagliari

Beautiful cruciform-style small marble goddess, Turriga.

Cagliari
Small marble goddess, Polu.

 

Cagliari
Giants of Mont'e Prama.
Three statues and a model of a nuraghe.

 

Cagliari
Statue of an archer.
Cagliari
Detail from statue of an archer.

There are some magnificent remnants of large Nuraghic stone statues, the Giants of Mont'e Prama, discovered in 1974 along with models of nuraghe.

Cagliari

Several statues have been assembled from the fragments of of over forty that were found. They stand up to two metres tall and include archers, warriors and boxers.

There is a statue of an archer with some fine carved detail.

Cagliari
Detail from statue of an archer.
Cagliari
Detail from statue of a warrior - a loin cloth?

The heads with their dual concentric circle eyes are particularly arresting. These sculptures are Nuraghic but their exact age is unkown, certainly hundreds of years before the birth of Christ.

 



Cagliari
Statue of a warrior.
Cagliari
Two boxers.

 

Cagliari: Marina

Cagliari
Cagliari

Cagliari
An excellent salt-encrusted fish at Martinelli's.
Cagliari
Inu Enoteca

 

The area down to the harbour south of Castello is full of narrow streets and bounded by a couple of major roads: the Via Roma along the harbour and the Largo Carlo Felice on the west side heading north. It has many restaurants, cafés and bars, most with tables on the pavements and piazzas and we had some great food and wine here, notably in Inu Enoteca and Sapori di Sardegna.

Cagliari
A great selection of dried meat, salami, cheese and wine at Inu Enoteca.
Cagliari
Fabulous Sardinian meats and cheeses at Sapori di Sardegna with a first rate Cannonau.

 

Cagliari
Sapori di Sardegna

 

 

Sapori di Sardegna is a fabulous delicatessen selling Sardinian food, but they will also prepare a fantastic meat and cheese lunch for you. It was served with a fig "jam" and two glasses of Mamuthone Cannonau di Sardegna - a fabulous mouth-filling red. If you want to buy meats or cheeses they will vacuum-pack them for the trip home.

Cagliari
Sapori di Sardegna
Cagliari
Sapori di Sardegna

 

Cagliari: Chiesa di San Sepolcro

Cagliari
Chiesa di San Sepolcro
Cagliari
4th century baptismal font.
Cagliari
"Nemini parco" - no-one is spared.

The church is renowned for the 17th century crypt and its images of Death but also has a rare example of an early baptismal font. This one dates from the fourth century and is a simple pit carved from the rock with steps leading down - baptism would have involved full immersion.

Steps lead down from the body of the church to a fair-sized barrel-vaulted room with a second room off to the side.

The larger room is painted in black and white with a great image of Death on the ceiling.

Cagliari
The main room of the crypt.
Cagliari
The secondary room.
Cagliari

 

The second room is smaller, also with a vaulted ceiling, and has wonderful stone skull and crossbone sculptures.

Cagliari

 

Su Nuraxi

Su Nuraxi
Su Nuraxi - right foreground is a quern or grinding stone in the remains of the Nuraghic village.
Su Nuraxi
The central tower and courtyard.

North of Cagliari, Su Nuraxi was the most complex and impressive nuraghic settlement that we saw in Sardinia.

Cagliari
Model of a Nuraghe tower, Cagliari Archaeological Museum.

The central tower, once over 18m high, dates from the middle Bronze Age, around the 16th or 15th century B.C. Some time around the 13th century B.C. a wall and four towers were built to enclose the central tower and a courtyard, though the dating is not sure.

The central tower consisted of three "domed" rooms, one on top of another and its walls were thick enough to enclose a staircase.

Su Nuraxi
These angled stones would once have supported platforms high up on the walls and towers.

 

Su Nuraxi

The tholos-style lower room of the central tower.

Su Nuraxi
Su Nuraxi
Alleyways and small buildings of all shapes crammed into any available space.

Su Nuraxi
The well in the courtyard outside the entrance to the central tower. There is another well inside one of the four towers in the interior defensive wall.
Su Nuraxi
The outer defensive wall with the remains of a round tower at the corner and buildings both inside and out.
Su Nuraxi
The village outside the defensive walls.

In the following two to three hundred years the walls were strengthened and surrounded by a second wall incorporating more round towers. The space between the two walls was occupied by a number of buildings and outside the second wall was an extensive array of some 200 houses and communal buildings.

 

Su Nuraxi
Su Nuraxi
Probably a meeting house.

The Nuraghic village dates mostly from between the 10th and 6th centuries B.C. when the central defences were already in a state of decay, perhaps this was a time of much greater peace and security.

Su Nuraxi
Su Nuraxi
Wall niches are common.

Visits to the site can only be made with a guide. Though we normally prefer to wander on our own, a guide is essential here as it's quite dangerous and there is some tricky clambering up and through the stonework to reach the inner courtyard.

 

Nora

Nora
Nora
Phoenician inscription with first recorded use of the name "Sardinia", found at Nora.
Archaeological Museum, Cagliari.

The South west coast was occupied first by Phoenicians in the 9th century B.C. followed by Carthaginians and Romans. Nora is the most important of the archaeological sites of the region. Dominating the Gulf of Cagliari it was strategically well-placed and prospered for over a thousand years. In 238 B.C. the Romans made it the provincial capital for the whole of Sardinia.

A guide was mandatory when we visited but the group wasn't too large and he was pretty good.

Nora

Though quite large in extent little has survived so it isn't the greatest set of Roman remains we've seen - Pompeii & Herculaneum, the amazing Villa Romana on Sicily spring to mind immediately - but it has a lovely situation. Here was found the Phoenician stone inscription of the first recorded use of the name "Sardinia" which is now in the Archaeological Museum in Cagliari.

Nora
Approach to the sea front thermal baths.
Nora
Nora
An aristocratic villa with some mosaic floors still in situ.
Nora

 

Nora

 

 

 

There are some nice mosaics still in situ which helps with vsualising the original rooms - these mosaics were walked on by the owners of the villas, seen by them and their guests every day. One can imagine how beautiful the rooms must have been with their expansive views over the sea.

 

Nora
Nora
Nora
Nora
Nora
Nora
Nora
Archaeological work continues at Nora.
Nora
Nora
Nora
Nora

The small theatre overlooks the sea and it must have been very pleasant, with cool sea breezes, to see a performance here as the sun went down. Several large empty jars were placed under the stage to amplify sounds.

Nora

 

Montessu

sardinia
Lunch at Crar' e Luna.
Montessu
The eastern side of Montessu.

 

Before tackling Montessu we had lunch at  Crar' e Luna just west of Chia.  It serves excellent fish - numerous different types.

Montessu
This tomb has a path lined with upright stones leading to the entrance.
Montessu
Rectangular entrances were once sealed with carefully carved slabs of stone.
Montessu
Tomb 5
Many of the caves have benches or niches and pillars. This tomb has a circular burial pit and, in front, a deep groove where a stone slab would have fitted to close off the tomb.

Montessu
Tomb 2: perhaps wolves' teeth, and spiral decoration.
Montessu
The Cave of Pigs: in front is a large area outlined by stones which may have been used for ceremonial purposes.

Montessu
Montessu
Rectilinear burial chamber.

Montessu
Sa Cresiada or the Little Church tomb.

 

The prehistoric necropolis of Montessu lies 2km north of Villaperuccio, spread out on the sides of a valley which forms a natural amphitheatre facing the sea. It consists of about 40 Domus de Janus or Fairy Houses - artificial caves acting as tombs - of the Ozieri people, dating from 4000-3000 B.C. Some symbolic sacred decoration such as spirals can still be seen on some of the tomb walls.1

There are symbols associated with a Mother Goddess and a Bull God represented by double horns. The spiral may represent the concept of life after death.

The entrances are carefully carved, some severely rectangular in shape

It makes for a good and interesting walk and I think it's possible to have a guide if you wish, though it's not difficult to find your way around the site.

 

Montessu
Tomb 2 or Tomba delle Spirali.
Montessu
Tomb 2: spiral decoration.
Montessu
The Cave of Pigs seen from the western side of the valley. Large areas are marked out by stones

Montessu
The Cave of Pigs: inside the large entrance is a vestibule, the back wall has these curious holes through which the burial area can be seen.

There are two types of shape for the burial caves: one is roughly circular with curved chambers and ceilings and a small vestibule, the second is rectangular with flat ceilings and usually approached by a path carved from the rock and lined with stones or perhaps even built walls, rather like two different architectural styles.

Montessu
Curved burial chamber.

Sa Cresiada or the Little Church tomb is another quite complex architectural survival. Its vestibule is sunken and like the Cave of Pigs its back wall - the front wall of the burial chamber - has three "entrances".

Montessu
The vestibule of Sa Cresiada is entered by a short flight of steps between built stone walls.
Montessu
Sa Cresiada or the Little Church tomb.

On either side of the central smaller hole in the vestibule are the remains of a small pillar.

Montessu
The vestibule of Sa Cresiada showing the two pillars under an overhanging roof and the thickness of the front wall of the burial chamber. I don't know what the groove in the floor and cut into the wall signify.

 

Montessu
There were quite a few short standing stones near the burial sites, perhaps they were once carved like menhirs.

 

The quite elaborate tombs were almost certainly reserved for more prestigious burials. There seem to be numerous examples of more austere burial chambers.

Montessu
Roof decoration  in one of the tombs on the west side of Montessu, possibly representations of bulls' horns.

 

Montessu

References

  1. Museo Civico Historico Archeologico di Santadi: the necropolis of Montessu