Sardinia, the land of Giants

Cittadella dei Musei - Cagliari

Sardinia, the land of Giants

Legend becomes reality, with human forms forged into huge stone statues dating back to three thousand years ago, found in the hills of Mont'e Prama, in the enchanting peninsula of Sinis, in central-western Sardinia
The only one like it in the world: human statues in the round, more than two metres tall and dating back three thousand years ago

At one time, the statues were aligned along the road at the foot of Mont'e Prama to protect the necropolis. Beside enormous sacred stones and reproductions of Nuraghic structures, the towers represent an entire civilisation. Perhaps due to being the end of an era, perhaps because of the historical, cultural and social upheaval that commenced at the end of the Bronze Age and continued during the Iron Age (950-730 B.C.), the statues were buried along the base of the hill. It is thanks to this that they have endured until today. The hill is at the centre of the Sinis Peninsula, near Cabras in the Oristano area, enclosed between the iridescent white and pink-quartz beach of Mari Ermi and the naturalistic oasis of the Stagno di Cabras.

Statue di Mont'è Prama
Museo Marongiu - Cabras
Cittadella dei Musei - Cagliari
The most important archaeological discovery in the Mediterranean in the 20th century

The most important archaeological discovery in the Mediterranean in the 20th century is surrounded by an aura of legend. Commencing in 1974, findings continued to be unearthed - and they still continue, as happened recently -, raising more and more questions. These discoveries came about by chance randomly when ploughing the fields. Since then, various excavation and recovery operations have occurred here. In the burial area, dating back to the 8th century BC, 5178 statue fragments were found between 1975 and 1979. Pieces of heads, busts, arms, legs and shields have been painstakingly reassembled in the archaeological Research and Conservation Centre (Sassari), giving form to 26 impressive sculptures rising up around two metres in height. When excavations resumed in 2014, other fragments of Nuraghe models and two other larger statues with different iconography were found One of the two is the sole statue whose head has remain attached to the neck. The 28 stone Giants are the only stone statues to have endured since the Nuragic period, whilst also being the oldest 'in the round' in the Mediterranean, dating back three thousand years.

Dettaglio statua Gigante Mont'e Prama
A proud aristocratic warrior with mysterious origins

Mont'e Prama is the most important Nuragic necropolis, being a sepulchre of heroes. The statues represent young brave and able men. Some flaunt finely-worked armour, a shield and sword, or a bow and quiver with arrows. The bare-chested boxers wearing pointed war skirts can be recognisable by an armed glove worn on their right arm and a light shield held over their head. The archers wear a short tunic and horned helmet, with an arch held with their left arm, protected by a sheath and a glove. The warriors also wear a short tunic, with a horned helmet on their heads, protecting themselves with a circular shield. Almost certainly, the reference model came from the small bronzes found in the Nuragic sanctuaries and places of worship, the iconographic and stylistic details of which are reflected in the great sandstone warriors, being large versions of the statuettes ex voto. They are symbolic figures of military and religious valour that also seem to allude to a superhuman dimension, evident in the facial features: pronounced nose and eyebrows, large eyes formed by two concentric circles, an expression of power and magic. It is as if, at the end of the Nuragic age, all that remained of the past splendour was a memory that had transformed into a legend.

Penisola del Sinis
A unique example in Sardinia and in the world

The necropolis consists largely of round-barrow burials covered with slabs, in which the dead were buried in a sitting or kneeling position. Above the slabs, the excavations have brought to light a collection of sculptural materials in limestone, pieces of male statues and Nuraghe models. The corresponding pieces lay evenly at a considerable distance from each other, perhaps due to intentional destruction. The necropolis is believed to have constituted the funerary area reserved for a dominant family group of the Nuragic society of Sinis, an aristocratic warrior proud of his status and determined to perpetuate his greatness in stone. This glorious past is embodied by the Mont'e Prama Giants, majestic and 'living' expressions of a strong and lasting civilisation.

Giganti Mont'e Prama - Museo Archeologico
The legend of distant ancestors and ancient heroes

From the enduring, difficult and painstaking work of piecing together more than five thousand fragments, in addition to 28 statues - 16 boxers, six archers and six warriors - 16 Nuraghe models were rebuilt, half of which are mono-towers and half with additional towers and crowned with an original terrace. You can admire these together with the stone Giants in their two current residences. One is the Museo Archeologico Nazionale (the National Archaeological Museum) in Cagliari, within the Cittadella dei Musei complex, in which most of the statues are safeguarded. The other site is the Museo Civico Giovanni Marongiu in Cabras which, in addition to five or more sculptures in the exhibition ‘Mont'e Prama 1974-2014’, contains remains from Cabras from the pre-Nuragic site of Cuccuru 'e is Arrius and from the Nuraghe Sa Osa, the Nuragic bronzes from the Pulix collection, the remnants of the Phoenician-Punic city of Tharros and ingots from the Roman shipwreck of Mal di Ventre.