The Nuragic culture developed during the Bronze Age in Sardinia, leaving behind a distinctive style of architecture for us to marvel at in modern times. Nuraghe are instantly recognisable – these are large megalithic towers constructed of stone; the remnants of a Nuragic civisation which can be found all over the island. Here I share my experiences of visiting just one of these Nuragic sites – Nuraghe La Prisgiona… a nuraghe and prehistoric village with over 90 buildings, and covering an area of about 5 hectares.
discovering the archaeology…
During my recent visit to Sardinia, I traveled to a number of nuraghe in the north-east. I found each site uniquely impressive, yet the Nuragic complex of Nuraghe La Prisgiona in Capichera, Arzachena – left a lasting impression on me. Occupied between 1300-800 BC, the site incorporates an entire Bronze Age village which has been part-excavated. The addition of walkways allows visitors access (for just a few euros) to explore around the various huts and features. I found it to be an exhilarating and intimate experience – it actually felt as if I were discovering the archaeology myself!
The archaeology covers an area of several square metres – the star of the show undoubtedly being the nuraghe itself. The central tower reaches 6 metres in height to a false dome cover. This structure is accompanied by two side towers and a large enclosed courtyard. As a member of the public, not only could I stand beside and press my hands against this ancient monument… but I was able enter inside it. You almost feel a sense of privilege passing through the huge lintel entrance. Within the central chamber – my first reaction was to look up towards the false dome cover. As if that were not awe-inspiring enough, to my left was something I did not expect to see… a winding staircase! Individually shaped blocks of stone had been carefully engineered to form a near-perfect curved feature – leading up to another chamber. This for me, really offered an insight into just how advanced Nuragic culture must have been.
A view looking upwards from the central chamber of the nuraghe.
This curved staircase showcases the complexity of Nuragic architecture.
Excavating the village…
Archaeological investigations first took place at Nuraghe la Prisgiona in the 1950s, with excavation of the interior and facade of the main tower in 1999-2000. However, it is only in recent years that the true extent of the surrounding village has been realised. The remains of around 90 huts have been discovered so far – while a large area of the settlement containing hundreds more huts lies unexcavated (due to laws protecting the land). The sheer scale of this amazing site makes it the most complex example in north-east Sardinia.
This truly is a village too… I was fascinated to see a vast network of paved Bronze Age avenues which connect the various buildings together. There are also other stunning features to explore; within the courtyard is a beautifully crafted stone well, reaching a depth of 7 metres. At the bottom, several finely decorated Nuragic ‘askoidi’ jugs have been recovered. Astonishingly, the well itself is still active. As I wandered on just a few metres, I came across a building known as the ‘meeting hut’ – thought to have been a place of ritual function. Inside is a circular bench which can seat around 16 people. During excavation, an unusual drinking vase was also discovered inside – leading archaeologists to believe it held a special religious purpose. In fact, throughout the village, I found huts with peculiar stone furnishings incorporated into their architecture; one feature set against a wall resembled that of a rectangular basin (I still have no-idea what it is!).
The ring-shaped stone bench within the ‘meeting hut’ – perhaps important Nuragic inhabitants congregated here to drink from the vase discovered here.
Whether further excavation of the village here will continue remains to be decided. Though there is plenty of archaeology to discover in the mean time. What is truly exciting, is to imagine that an advanced Bronze Age community once established itself and flourished here. In this case, the real experience at Nuraghe la Prisgiona is being able to walk in the footsteps of this ancient civilization. For me, this is what brings this remarkable site to life.
Where is Nuraghe La Prisgiona?
Archaeology Travel Tip…
Inlcuding Nuraghe La Prisgiona, there are 7 fantastic Nuragic sites open to the public around Arzachena. Passes can be purchased at any of the site ticket offices. It’s simple, pay to visit as many as you like in one go, and then just show your pass upon each arrival. Access to all 7 sites costs around 20 euros (price as of summer 2017).
For more archaeology and history sites open to the public, see our Sardinia page.