History of Sardinia: a glorious past still visible today

 History of Sardinia: a glorious past still visible today

Nuraghe Losa

Sardinia is an ancient land with a fascinating history beyond. Traces of a glorious past are still visibile, almost everywhere. From the mountain of Monte Arci with their deposit of hard black rock, to the cities of the Phoenicians. Sardinian rock tombs and its various historic buildings, sites and museum might be considered an open air museum. Visiting the island, you can easily go back up to 6,000 years.

Early history: Born from obsidian

Bones that prove ancient settlement of the island, dated 9,000 BC, were found. Researchers found up to 150,000 years old human remains. Thanks to the presence of the the hard black rock, the inhabitants were able to produce useful tools. The obsidian was considered an important part of their lives as it is today.

Neolithic phase and nuragic culture

Since the year 6,000 BC, Sardinian has known different cultures. This time is called neolithic phase. Another culture that prevailed around 1.600 BC was the nuraghe culture whose traces are still visible today. If you explore Sardinia further, in fact, it’s not rare to find some ‘Nuraghi’ (name coined by the romans) spread all over the island. They are tower-like-building which have became a symbol of the island.

Other traces of the Neolithic culture are the several giant’s graves, rock tombs named ‘Domus de Janas’, prehistoric burial structures consisting of tombs dug into the rock

nuraghe
View from a nuraghe

In that period, livestock farming and agriculture arrived in Sardinia. Several finds such as mortars, grinders, statues or remains of pets documented it.

Even trade and the first mean of transport of raw materials are also dated to that time. That is made possible by the find of the used obsidian of Monte Arci that was found in other Mediterranean places.

READ Basilica di Saccargia, the masterpiece of Sardinian Romanesque architecture

Phoenicians and Punics or Carthaginians in Sardinia

As far as we know, the Phoenicians, who came from the North African coast, were sailors, merchants and talented craftsmen. The most significant city was Carthage, about 100 kilometers away from Sardinia. This period lasted from 9th century until 550 BC. Trade developed significantly and this allowed the Phoenicians to found Nora and Tharros, still preserved.

Archaeological site of Nora, with the Spanish tower in the background
Picture by Pjt56

Later, the Punics came and ruled the island until the 3rd century BC. It is still unclear if they challenged the Nuraghe culture of the Phoenicians though. In the same period, even the Greeks tried to conquer Sardinia but they failed as they were beaten in 540 BC, during the Battle of Alalia. The nuraghi culture never mixed up with the Punic one. Although, Carthage were destroyed in 146 BC, the punic culture lived on for the following 100 years on the island.

238 BC was the time of the Romans. They were then replaced by the Vandals, from the 455 to 534. Vandals were followed by Byzantines that conquered the island until 832, due to regular raids and colonization by Arabs.

Sardinian Flag

Italians, Spaniards, Aragonese, Austrians

The isolation of the island came after the departure of Romans. Thanks to the rule of four independents states, called Giudicati, Sardinia resisted the Arab intrusion. At least until year 1015, when Sardinia fell under the power of Mujahid of Dénia. The Italian coastal town fight against the Arabs as they were threatened by their military presence in Sardinia and the naval powers of Pisa and Genoa took over the island.

This was the beginning of other different occupying forces on the island. As a result, the native population was expelled from Alghero, in the North- West, to be replaced by Catalan settlers. That is the reason why Catalan is still spoken in that area and the architecture reminds of Spanish style. Among the dominations, even the Habsburgs need to be cited. Traces of the German language is still present in certain areas of the island.

Sardinia today

Despite several armed revolts against the independence until 1982, Sardinia became autonomous in 1946. Sardinian people have always considered themselves are an independent ethnic group. That’s not a case that many of them declare the independence even from the Italian government. Traces of this will, is still visible in the Nuraghe culture as several buildings show the independence of a tribe.

The Sardinian’s flag shows four black people, called ‘Quattro Mori’, is the symbol of the completely autonomous period of the island under the four Giudicati who defended the island. The flag was introduced by the Aragonese and is the symbol of a state of mind which is still clear among the inhabitants.

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