Nuragic Encyclopaedia>Civilisation


Nuragic civilisation is undoubtedly the most important autonomous cultural expression about ancient Sardinia, but it cannot be separated from the expressions preceding and following it.

Nuragic civilisation was not born, nor is it dead and above all it has deeply changed through the times. Its origins and dissolution cannot be compared to sudden events in a person’s life, but should be understood as complex processes of formation, transformation and degeneration. To understand it we must trace back the threads of continuity linking the different stages of the process and factors of discontinuity marking the changes.

The Nuragic civilisation is autochthonous, namely an indigenous civilisation formed in Sardinia by populations rooted on the island for thousands of years. It is based on the experiences of immediately preceding pre-Nuragic cultures. Since Sardinia is a large island, it was able to accommodate and sustain for at least 5000 years, sometimes in close contact with the surrounding world and at others in conditions of relative isolation, the development of prehistoric neolithic people dedicated to agriculture and farming and those of the Copper Age and early Bronze Age (about 7000-1600 BC).

As can be seen from the results of the latest archaeological research, the Nuragic civilisation has taken hold during the middle and late Bronze Age (about 1600-930 BC) and in the early Iron Age (about 930-730 BC).

In ancient times the Bronze Age was the age of heroes, capable of doing great actions for good or evil, powerful kings, brave and cunning warriors, ingenious builders. The atmosphere of those bygone times is still powerfully evoked by the Iliad and the Odyssey, poems written a few centuries later but deriving from oral tales which circulated in Greece during the Bronze Age. Most likely, Bronze Age Sardinia had experienced a non urban, monarchic, yet rural and tribal, society, though still organised and lively, capable of transforming the territory, exploiting resources and making contact with the surrounding world.

The Iron Age is instead the age of the historical peoples, which were formed in different regions of Italy and in the islands identifying themselves with names which are still known regional communities. Besides, in the west, the Iron Age is the age of the great navigators, of colonisation, of the first cities and early states.

The development of the Nuragic civilisation could be divided into four major phases. The first is the phase of the archaic nuraghi (Middle Bronze 2: about 1600-1500 BC); the second is the phase of the classical nuraghi (Middle Bronze 3 and Late Bronze: about 1500-1200 BC); the third is the processing phase (Late Bronze: about 1200-930 BC); the fourth is the crisis and dissolution phase (Early Iron Age: about 930-730 BC). The scholar Giovanni Lilliu had also distinguished a fifth phase, which is now however no longer considered to be Nuragic in that since the end of the 8th cent. BC the peoples of Sardinia fastly abandoned the Nuragic cultural heritage and blended with the descendants of Phoenician traders who had settled for quite some time on the island, mostly along the coast.

Theories seeing a sharp clash of ethnic and cultural blocks, resolved with arms to the advantage of lawless immigrants and to the detriment of the unfortunate Nuragic inhabitants, are now completely outdated. Rather, it should be admitted that the Phoenicians, a people with extraordinary innovation skills in the field of social organisation, have increasingly taken advantage of every opportunity offered them by the collapse of the Nuragic world, whose demise had started a long time before and soon reached a rapid conclusion.


Lilliu Giovanni, La civiltà dei Sardi dal Paleolitico all’età dei nuraghi, Edizioni Il Maestrale, Nuoro, 2003.
Contu Ercole, La Sardegna preistorica e nuragica, Edizioni Chiarella, Sassari, 1997.
Autori Vari, Ichnussa. La Sardegna dalle origini all’età classica, Edizioni Garzanti, Milano, 1981.
Autori Vari, Sardegna nuragica, Edizioni Electa, Milano, 1990LILLIU, Giovanni, La civiltà dei Sardi, Edizioni Il Maestrale, Nuoro, 2003.

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