Facts, History & Pictures of the Ancient Megalithic Nuraghes in Sardinia

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The Nuraghe (Nuraghi in Italian, nurhag in English) is the main type of ancient megalithic stone building found exclusively in Sardinia in Italy. They are unique buildings and representative of the Nuragic civilization.

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In Sardinia, there are between 7000 and 8000 nuraghi, scattered all over the territory, on average every 3 km². It is assumed that in the past their number was much greater. 

The nuraghi were probably built from 1800 BC until 1100 BC. The first nuraghi, called protonuraghi, were built in the early part of the 2nd millennium BC. During the Middle Bronze Age, around 1500-1100 BC, the greatest development of these buildings presumably took place. In the Iron Age, i.e. from 900 B.C. onwards, no new nuraghi were built, but they were not abandoned, but rather in some cases renovated and adapted, perhaps as places of worship. 

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Nuraghe of Is Paras, Isili, Sardinia, Italy. The central tower of the Nuraghe is comparably well-preserved and dates back to about 1500 BC. (Author: Norbert Nagel)

According to the scholar Giovanni Lilliu, the root Nur of the word nuraghe is of pre-Latin origin and should mean ‘heap of stones, hollow heap’. According to the archaeologist Giovanni Ugas of the University of Cagliari, the word nuraghe could instead derive from Norax or Norace, hero of the Iberi-Balari. It is in fact possible that the root Nur- is an adaptation to the Mediterranean timbres of the Indo-European root Nor- which is found in some toponyms of Sardinia (eg Nora, Noragugume), in Lazio with Norba city of the Volsci or Noreia ancient city of Noricum.

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The Arrubiu Nuraghe in Orroli was a Nuragic palace whose central keep originally reached a height of between twenty-five and thirty metres.

Some nuraghi are complex and articulated, real fortifications with the highest tower that in some cases reached a height of 25 to 30 meters. In most cases, however, these towers are narrow at the top, on average between 10 and 20 meters high with a diameter at the base of between 8 and 10 meters.

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Thòlos roof in the nuraghe Santu Antine (Author: Michael Kochh / Narukat)

In some areas, they are positioned a few hundred meters from each other, as in the Valley of the Nuraghi in the region of Logudoro-Meilogu or the regions of Trexenta and Marmilla.

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Protonuraghe Albucciu near Arzachena, Province Olbia-Tempio, Sardinia, Italy (Author: Helga Steinreich)

Scholars still do not have a common opinion about their function. The real function of the Nuragic constructions has been the subject of dispute between historians and archaeologists for centuries. In the 16th century, it was believed that they were either simple towers or monumental tombs. Over the centuries they have been regarded as houses, sheepfolds, sacred places, tombs, or astronomical observatories.

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Nuraghe Genna Maria, Villanovaforru (Author: Fois Luigi)

In 1997 they were recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Nuraghe Santu Antine (Author: maxschi)
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Central tower of the Nuraghe at Saint Antine of Torralba (Author: Fawcett5)
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Nuraghe in Arzachena-Prisgiona
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Nuraghe Succuronis (Author: Anton)
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Nuraghe in Toralba-Sant’Antine (Author: :Royonx)
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Nuraghe Losa (author: Eiena)
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Nuraghe fraiga (Author: Giovanni Seu)
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The nuraghe Sirai in the surroundings of Carbonia, Sardinia, Italy (Author: Alex10)
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Valle dei Nuraghi, agro di Giave (Author: Giovanni Seu)

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