Ancient Tombs in Sardinia

Built by the ancient Ozieri culture between 3400 and 2700 BC, the Domus de Janas tombs on the Italian island of Sardinia were the sites of elaborate funerary rituals. They got their nickname as the “houses of fairies” from later generations who imagined the mysterious square openings to be the homes of magical creatures.

There are approximately 2,000 of these sepulchers dug out of the rock throughout Sardinia. The custom of digging tombs out of rocks is widespread through the region and is proof of the ability of the craftsmen. They were capable, with a few crude instruments, of carving trachite rock or sandstone, into the folds of the hills or in slightly elevated planes, as is the case of Anghelu Ruju. This type of burial shows the intentions of the builders to reproduce the dwellings of the living by reproducing in relief in the stone walls, the skirting board, wooden beams of the dual-slope ceilings and all of the other architectonic elements of the wooden house.

Apparently there were specific religious and cultural views regarding the reproduction of domestic architecture within funerary architecture so that the dwelling and the place in which the remains were kept could be united. Various religious symbols have been carved into the walls, such as fake doors, which signaled a passageway to the beyond, and the horns of the bull, a schematic representation of Taurus, who supposedly protected the sleep of the deceased.

The Anghelu Ruju site houses the largest hypogeic necropolis in Sardinia, with large number of tombs so far uncovered – 38 multi-roomed, small caves dug of sandstone. The rooms show typical elements of Neolithic religious symbols of the Mediterranean area. Red ochre is widely used throughout the tomb, representing the color of blood and of its regeneration. Of particular interest is tomb 28. On the sides of its main door are sculpted symbols associated with the divine couple – Bull-Earth Mother.

Another site of interest is the Santu Pedru necropolis which symbolizes the balance between nature and man. The harmonious space is delineated by the reds and whites of the rocks and the greens of the Mediterranean scrub. Santu Pedru is made up of 10 hypogeums dug out of the tuff rock of the southern Santu Pedru hill. The necropolis was reused as a place of worship during late antiquity when the tomb was transformed into a church in honor of Saints Pietro and Lucia.

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