Sardinia’s Myths and Legends
The origins of the Nuragic civilisation, which developed in Sardinia between the late Bronze Age and the Iron Age (1500-500 BC.), is shrouded in mystery and myths. A number of experts support the theory that the Nuragic peoples can be identified as the Shardana, one of the seafaring peoples mentioned in Egyptian documents between the XVI and XIII century BC.
“Stele di Nora”
We know that they were very aggressive and they plundered the Mediterranean on war ships. The figures represented in the bronze statues of men carrying round shields and wearing helmets with horns could therefore have Anatolian origins. In fact, their name would appear to have the same root “srdn”, from which the ”ethnos” of the Sardinians derives and which is inscribed in Phoenician on the “stele di Nora”, a stone dating back to the VIII century BC. The remarkable Nuragic structures are, in turn, the subject of much debate and to a certain extent their significance remains a mystery
Stele di Nora
Besides the Nuraghi, the ancient Sardinians built structures for burial and religious purposes. The so-called Giants’ houses (“case dei giganti”) were an evolution of the pre-Nuragic megalithic structures into tombs. They presented long chambers with a megalithic stone at the entrance, surrounded by an exedra on which there were figures of bulls, symbols linked to fertility and rebirth. However, another fascinating mystery surrounds the sacred wells, which were probably linked to the cult of worshipping water, but also to astronomy.
“Moon in the well”
At the Santa Cristina well in Paulilatino each year during the equinoxes the sun’s rays “descends” the staircase at the entrance to the well and reaches the sheet of water. However, a still more enchanting phenomenon is repeated every 18 years and 6 months and is known as the “moon in the well”. It occurs when the moon is at its maximum declination and is entirely reflected in the water, and represents an important element of pre-Nuragic rites.
Santa Cristina well
However, mysteries also surround more ancient Sardinian history. The pre-Nuragic altar of Monte d’Accodi, which dates back to the II millennium BC., presents a ziggurat shape, which is decidedly unusual for Sardinia and much closer to some temples in the Near East. Propitiatory rites linked to the fertility of the earth or to the cult of the dead were probably celebrated on top of the enormous stone pile which constitutes the altar and which is accessed by a ramp. The strange monolithic statues in dark trachyte found in Laconi date back to the same period. Here the male and female figures are represented by incisions made with obsidian and their genital organs are shown by rough sketches.
The pre-Nuragic altar of Monte d’Accodi
The most fascinating legend is perhaps, however, the hypothesis elaborated by the celebrated Sardinian scholar, Sergio Frau, who, while re-reading Plato and the history of Egypt, moves Hercules’s columns to the Sicilian channel and identifies Sardinia as the lost land of Atlantis.