Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 55: Jan-Feb 1988

Issue Contents

Other pages











Sardinia's prehistoric towers

Sardina is home to an immense population of mysterious prehistoric stone towers called "nuraghi." (Singular form is "nuraghe.") Over 7,000 of these remarkable dry-stone edifices exist -- a concentration of monumental stone architecture unparalleled in Europe.

"'Nuraghe' derives from the prehistoric Sardinian root 'nur' which means both 'hollow' and 'heap.' But the nuraghi are neither hollow nor are they haphazard heaps of stone. The nuraghe interior often presents a complex plan of chambers, winding staircases, dead-end corridors, concealed rooms with trap doors, and a variety of niches and compartments. Standing up to three stories high with magnificently corbelled domes one on top of the other, some structures have as many as 18 subsidiary towers attached to the main keep. Large complexes were sometimes completely enclosed by enormous stone walls punctuated with still more towers."

Ocer 3,000 years old, the nuraghi have withstood the depredations of weather and later humans by virtue of their excellent design and construction. As with many other such ancient structures, one is impressed with the size of the stones used. How were they moved? How were the stones -- usually hard basalt -- cut and dressed by artesans with no metal tools harder than copper or bronze? And what was the purpose of the nuraghi? A quick answer to the last question is that they were fortresses, but they might also have been dwellings or storehouses.

(Gallin, Lenore; "The Prehistoric Towers of Sardinia," Archaeology, 40:26, September/October 1987.)

Reference. The nuraghi and similar megalithic stonework are covered in more detail in our handbook: Ancient Man. This book is described here.

From Science Frontiers #55, JAN-FEB 1988. 1988-2000 William R. Corliss