Nuraghearchaeological monument of Sardinia.
It is typically a truncated cone tower, in the shape of a tholos, built with huge square blocks of stone, usually located in panoramic positions. The monument has no foundations, and stands only due to the of the weight of stones, which may weigh as much as several tons. Some Nuraghes are more than 20 metres in height. Today, there is more than 8,000 Nuraghes in Sardinia, though it has been estimated that once the number was more than 30,000.
Nuraghe "Losa" from within looking skyward
Another kind of Nuraghe has a corridor or a system of corridors. Some authors are reluctant to place these in the same category as tholos Nuraghe, as there are too many relevant differences, and prefer talking about "Nuragic village".
Nuraghes appeared on the island in an undetermined epoch (not earlier than 6000 BC). Some elements have been dated 3500 BC, but it is supposed that most of them were built from the middle of the Bronze Age (18th-15th centuries BC) until Rome entered Sardinia (2nd century BC).
The uncertainty around the dating of the Nuraghi is a constant feature of Sardinian chronologies. Of the existing 8000, only a few have yet been scientifically excavated. Although the Nuragic civilization produced the most advanced and monumental architecture of the period in the western Mediterranean, included the region of Magna Graecia, according to Massimo Pallottino, a scholar of Sardinian prehistory and Etruscologist. Italian interest in Sardinian archaeology has been minimal, except for the black market trade in bronze statues.
The use or meaning of the nuraghe has not been clearly identified: whether a religious temple, or a dwelling, a military stronghold, the house of the chief of the village, the place for the meeting of the wise men or the governors. It could have been as well a combination of all or some of these items. Some of the nuraghi are, however, in strategic locations from which important passages could be easily controlled.
Undoubtedly nuraghes had a meaningful symbolic content, at least recalling wealth or power, or maybe the establishment of a village (eventually in the dignity of a State-village). Recent theories are oriented to consider that Sardinian villages might have been federated (very likely they were self-governed) and that the building of these monuments could depend on a prior planned distribution of the territory. It has to be remembered that Sardinians (or Nuragici) had developed particular skills in metallurgy, trading for bronze in many areas of the Mediterranean and being consequently a well known people.
Some famous nuraghes
The most important complex is Nuraghe Su Nuraxi, in Barumini, centered around a three-story tower built ca 1500 BCE. This site was recently made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At this site Dr. Giovanni Lilliu discovered a fortified village that in times had been covered by ground and had became a hill. Other nuraches are in Serra Orrios, Alghero, Terralba, Macomer, Abbasanta (see Losa and illustration), Orroli, Villanovaforru, Sarroch, Olbia.
The people that built them are supposed to have developed a mysterious civilization (some define it as the most accomplished civilisation in the Mediterranean area at its times) and is called "Nuragici people"; forms of art were discovered, mainly in the form of little statues in bronze called "bronzetto", typically representing the chief of the village ("Sardus pater") or hunting or fighting men, animals, more rarely women.
Other monuments of the Nuragicis' are the so-called "Giants tombs", megaron temples, sacred dwellings, sacred fountains, sanctuaries, enclosures.
Nuragic art includes stone carvings or statues representing female divinities (Thanit, main religious entity, is a goddess); these works however have often been considered as partly a fruct of relationships with Phoenicians.
It has been recalled that round buildings, or circular plan buildings, are typical of nomad peoples, and indeed ancient Sardinians should effectively have been used to constantly move within their territory for better places or to avoid invasions or outside for new markets for their bronze.
The Nuraghe is today the symbol of Sardinia and of its unique ethnicity.