Bizarre giant statues ‘could have been guardians of an ancient cemetery’

Mysterious giant statues dating back more than 3,000 years have been discovered in a necropolis in Sardinia and are ‘capable of attracting the attention of the whole world’

Two giant Bronze Age statues have been discovered in Sardinia. Pictured is one of two similar sculptures discovered in 2014

Giant statues – said to be the oldest human-shaped sculptures ever found in the Mediterranean – may have once stood as guardians of an ancient cemetery.

The bizarre Bronze Age statues, believed to be over 3,000 years old, were discovered in a necropolis near Mont’e Prama in Cabras, a small town in the west of the island of Sardinia.

Dated between the 11th and 8th centuries BC. AD, these giants – or Kolossoi – are the oldest human-shaped sculptures found in the Mediterranean.

Experts say they are younger than ancient Egyptian statues but older than Greek kouroi statues dating back to the 7th century BC. The new discoveries will add to discoveries first made in 1974.

The most recent excavations recovered 5,000 pieces, including 15 heads and 22 torsos. Completely rebuilt, the statues are 2.5 meters high.







Part of the recent discovery at the site in Sardinia. The photo shows the head, leg, broken neck and badly eroded face of the statue
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ITALIAN MINISTRY OF CULTURE/AFP)


The figures and other carvings were carved from native grainy limestone and resemble others recovered in 2014, known as “boxers” for the curved shields each wear on their left arm.

Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said: “An exceptional discovery, which will be followed by others that have no equal in the Mediterranean”.

Franceschini said of the statues: “Two new jewels are thus added to this statuary ensemble with a mysterious charm, capable of attracting the attention of the whole world.

Expert Alessandro Usai, who has been excavating the site since 2014, said: “In particular, the two torsos found with the elongated shield which takes on a slightly enveloping shape compared to the left arm and which flattens on the stomach bring the discoveries back to the category of boxers.”







The statues are thought to be over 3,000 years old
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Picture:

ITALIAN MINISTRY OF CULTURE/AFP)








A small bronze statue unearthed from the tomb of Cavalupo in Vuci, which gives its name to the “boxers” of the southern necropolis of Mont’e Prama
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Picture:

ITALIAN MINISTRY OF CULTURE/AFP)


According to archaeologist Monica Stochino, who participated in the excavations: “While the small and medium-sized fragments are unearthed daily, documented in situ on the ground and recovered, the two large and heavy blocks of the torsos will need time to be liberated from the land around them…”

She added that work remains to fully excavate the site, remove the artifacts and eventually put them on display. The limestone used by the ancients was easily cut, but fragile, making transport and restoration difficult.

The Nuragic civilization of Sardinia lasted approximately from the 18th century BC until Roman colonization in 238 BC.

The name nuraghic refers to the most characteristic monument of Sardinia, the 7,000 circular “nuraghe” stone forts built across the island, which silently bear witness to the ancient peoples who left no written record. The ancient Greeks and Romans later wrote mythical accounts of the Nuragic people.







Parts of ‘boxer’ statues discovered at site in Sardinia
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Picture:

ITALIAN MINISTRY OF CULTURE/AFP)


Nuragic peoples may have sailed elsewhere in the Mediterranean, ranging from what is now modern Spain and its islands, to mainland Italy, Crete, and even Israel. Carthaginians from North Africa also lived on the island and may have dominated the Nuragic people.

Their tombs and monuments include standing stones resembling Stonehenge in Britain, as well as megalithic tombs known as dolmens, which are also found elsewhere in Europe.

Mont’e Prama, where the new statues were found, is a necropolis or cemetery dating from the end of the 9th century to the first half of the 8th century which features a burial route.

It presents three phases: the first consists of simple tombs where the bodies were buried; a second presenting grouped tombs each covered with rough stone slabs; and a third in which the perfectly aligned tombs are covered with square slabs.

Giant statues were smashed in ancient times and then placed above or beside graves.

Although stone was quarried nearby, it is unclear where the statues were originally erected before ending up in the necropolis.

Some experts believe they were used to mark out sacred space, while others claim they were placed on slabs covering tombs.

Opinions also differ on their destruction, with some experts claiming it was due to internal conflicts between the Nuragic peoples, while others blame the Phoenicians of Tharros, in the Sinis peninsula.

Yet another theory proposes that the statues were demolished by the Carthaginians, during the much later second half of the 4th century BC.

As for the identity of the giants, as well as their purpose and fragmentation, Usai said he leaned towards the conclusion that the statues were victims of “natural” destruction, although he admitted that ‘Further data-based investigation may eventually reveal the mystery.

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