Su Nuraxi di Barumini, Sazrdinia Italy
The UNESCO site of Su Nuraxi di Barumini (Sardinian for ‘The Nuraghe of Barumini’) – located on the island of Sardinia, Italy – is one of the world’s most fascinating archaeological sites, a monumental window into an ancient and uniquely advanced Bronze Age civilisation.
The origins of the first humans to arrive on Sardinia are a mystery for archaeologists. Scholars suggest that they came from Tuscany, during the lower Paleolithic period (the Old Stone Age). Flint tools found on the island indicates that people arrived as far back as 350, 000 BC. By the Neolithic period (3000 to 8000 BC), Sardinia was home to several tribal communities, who engaged in a flourishing trade in obsidian, used for making tools and arrow tips. Sardinian obsidian has been found as far away as France.
In the Bronze Age, these early communities were replaced by what scholars call the Nuraghic Civilisation. Though little is known, indications are that the Nuraghic Civilisation was particularly advanced for its period in history. The discovery of Mycenaean ceramics in Sardinia and Nuraghic pottery in Crete indicates that they engaged in a long-distance trade in tableware. Sardinia’s museums are populated with bronze figurines from this period, intricate sculptures of kings, warriors, farmers and sailors, that give us an insight into the lifeways of this long-ago civilisation.
However, the advancements of the Nuraghic civilisation are best encapsulated by the over 7000 nuraghe (towers and fortified settlements) found around the island of Sardinia. These tower-like complexes are unique to Sardinia, and archaeologists suggest that they were used to demarcate clan territory. Each clan’s nuraghe was used for a variety of purposes: for defense, for religious rites, and as a community meeting place. As Nuraghic culture became more complex, the towers became the centres of villages.
Su Nuraxi du Barumini is among Sardinia’s best preserved nuraghes. To the west of the town of Barumini, the site was inhabited from 2000 BC to the 3rd century AD. In its heyday, the settlement would have been overlooked by an 18.5 metre high central tower, surrounded by four smaller towers. The outline of this structure can still be seen today. Surrounding the central monument is a second wall, which is in turn surrounded by a settlement of over 200 circular houses, built in a pattern often compared to a beehive. Extraordinarily, elements of basic sanitation have been discovered by archaeologists.
The settlement was first abandoned in the 6th century BC, though intermittent occupation took place over succeeding centuries. New houses were constructed in a new style, with several small rooms and smaller stones. Following the Roman annexation of Sardinia in the 2nd century BC, most nuraghe went out of use, though evidence indicates that people lived at Barumini until the 3rd century AD.
The nuraghic structures near Barumini were buried for centuries. The site was rediscovered by Sardinia’s famous archaeologist Giovanni Lilliu, after territorial rains eroded the dirt surrounding the nuraghe. Excavations continued for six years. Today, the site is the only entirely excavated nuraghe in Sardinia. It was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
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