Archaeology narrates

The area explored has revealed a complex necropolis with three phases of use, each with a different type of tomb, with progressive restructuring of the site.

The three phases of the development of the Mont'e Prama necropolis

First phase

Phase 1 - Simple well tomb, covered with pile of stones.

To the east of a road dug out of the soft rock, we find a necropolis perhaps in use from the 11th and 10th centuries BC, consisting of small single well tombs, shallow and of cylindrical shape, closed by a pile of small stones. Each tomb was meant for a single body, in crouched position, at times with a vase, which was often in pieces.

Second phase

Phase 2 - Well tomb, partly built with an isolated large round slab.

In a second period, probably between the 1oth and 9th centuries BC, the local tribes decided to give a monumental aspect to the site: new well tombs were created, completed with stone structures and still grouped in a haphazard manner, each holding one body in crouched position with legs set high. The tombs were covered by a carefully worked stone slab.
The tombs were found by archaeologists to have been heavily damaged due to the deep furrows of ploughing in modern times.

Third phase

Phase 3 - Well tomb with square slab cover in sandstone in a long line.

In a third phase, probably at the beginning of the 8th century BC, the tombs were excavated in the soft rock and covered with one or two square sandstone slabs. Some are also lined by two vertical slabs on the sides (these are classified as ‘pseudo-cist burials’).
These tombs still preserve the original burial, with the body crouched and the head protected by a small slab of limestone.
The tombs were lined up along the edge of a funerary road and were separated into groups by vertical slabs set in the ground. Each group of tombs is fenced towards the road by a line of slabs set vertically and is indicated by at least one betyl, a stone pillar in truncated cone shape, which at times exceeds 2 m in height.
In this third phase, the necropolis was decorated with a spectacular complex of statues and models of nuraghes in limestone.

We do not know how long the necropolis maintained this distinctive layout.
At the end of the 4th century BC, in the midst of Punic domination, the fragmented statues were placed on top of the tombs and along the road.
Right over the necropolis, we therefore find a heap of sculpture fragments, heaped in a disorderly manner together with other objects of material culture such as pottery of the Nuragic, Punic and Roman periods. It is possible that the statues were smashed at that time, perhaps intentionally, but we cannot rule out other times and causes.

Grave goods

Scarab-like seal in white vitreous soapstone

The tombs of the third phase are without grave goods. The only exception is tomb 25 where, under the body of a young man, a scarab seal in vitreous white soapstone was found. This object, imported from Egypt, has been dated by comparison between 1130 and 945 BC.

The discovery of oriental grave goods in Nuragic burials is very rare.

This unusual find indicates a process of change in the early Iron Age, and is certainly not easy to interpret.

For more details on the site explorations and findings, see:
Lilliu 1977; Tronchetti 1978; Lilliu 1981; Tronchetti-Bernardini 1985; Tronchetti 1986; Lilliu 2004; Contu 2006; Tronchetti-VanDomelen 2006; Sirigu 2006; Tronchetti 2007; Zucca 2011; Bedini-Tronchetti et alii 2012; Bedini 2012b; Bedini 2012c; Tronchetti 2012b; Tronchetti 2012c; Bernardini 2013; Zucca 2013; Zucca 2014; Usai 2014d; Minoja-Usai 2014; Bedini 2014; Tronchetti 2014; Stiglitz 2014; Usai-Zucca 2015; Tronchetti 2015; Usai 2015b; Bernardini 2016 and their lists of references..

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