The Nuraghi, 'Tombs
of the Giants' & Domus de Janas of Sardinia
Sardinia is dotted with
remnants of nuraghi (stone dwellings centered on
a main tower or fortress) and "tombs of the giants"
(monolithic burial chambers). These are what remind us
of the so-called "Nuraghi Culture", the bronze-age
people from the second millennium b.c. on the island.
The sites are significant enough to be included on the
UNESCO World Heritage List, represented by the Su Nuraxi
nuraghi at Barumini (first photo, below).
This is the nuraghi at Barumini. It is the
largest one on Sardinia and is located in the southern
part of the island roughly between Oristano and
The UNESCO description calls it "the finest and most complete
example of this remarkable form of prehistoric
UNESCO description can be found at
impressive is the Santu
at Torralba, south of Sassari in the north. It is
said to be the second largest structure of its kind.
It is currently undergoing extensive work of
restoration and preservation.
Arzachena in the northeast (below
near the town of
name in north-central Sardinia.
is the structure at Torpè near
Siniscola on the northwest coast. It
sits by the side of the road and goes
largely unnoticed. It is marked by a sign,
but is one of many such structures that
is relatively neglected.
Two "tombs of the giants":
Li Loghi (in the north near Arzachena)
Su monte è
s'alpe just south of Olbia
interesting is the kind of tomb known as domus
de janas (house of spirits). They developed
from the Middle Neolithic (c. 5th millennium BC)
until at least the early Bronze Age (c. 3000 BC).
They were built by hollowing out large rocks to
form a funeral chamber within, leaving the natural
rock surface to serve as the outer wall. They are
most commonly found dug into limestone, sandstone
and trachyte but may also be found to a lesser
extent in granite and basalt. They are not exact
of one another, but they have some features in
common: for example, they have separate and
interconnected internal divisions (cells or
chambers) and flat ceilings. The chambers are
where bodies were arrayed in a curled-up position
and surrounded by funerary trappings. There are
false doors engraved within; these represented
access to the hereafter and are found in other
cultures as well. There are two types of entrance:
well and dromos—that is, a vertical shaft
and a horizontal passage. There are slightly more
than one-thousand of them found throughout
Sardinia, generally in clusters, although a few
may also be isolated. The one pictured here is on
the site of the S'Ortale e Su Monte/San
Salvatore complex near Tortolì on the
southeastern coast of the island.
There is other relevant, explanatory
material on this website in the article about the monolithic monuments of
southern Italy and in the general
article about Sardinia. There is also information
in the entry on Malta about
similar structures there.