The ship has docked at Cagliari for the day on the island of Sardinia; our trip is the exploration of “Ancient Sardinia” and it’s turning out to be more ancient than we imagined.
The coach departed from the quayside at 8.30am and drove slowly through the city of Cagliari, with the prominent sites of interest pointed out to us as we passed by. The Tower of the Elephant, The Cathedral of San Cecilia, the very baroque Church of San Michele and the Amphitheatre all catching my eye, but no chance of an afternoon amble around the city as our ship was departing at 1.30pm.
As we drove out of the city, to introduce the ancient bits, our guide told us about The Nuragic Civilisation which lasted from the 18th century BC (Bronze Age) to the 2nd century AD. Yes you read that right, there is evidence all over Sardinia of these inhabitants of 4,000 years ago. The name Nuragic derives from its most characteristic architectural structure, the nuraghe, a tower-fortress type of construction with around 7,000 nuraghes across the northern Sardinian landscape. These were strengthened as a form of defence against the threat from the Carthaginians in 500BC. No written records of the Nuragics have been discovered except from a few possible short epigraphic documents belonging to the last stages of their civilization. The only written information comes from classical literature of the Greeks and Romans, and may be more mythological than historical, but nobody knows!
More generally, Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean whose “known” history really begins in 500 BC as a Carthaginian colony. It came under Roman rule in 238 BC, then was seized by the Vandals in 456 AD until Musat the Saracen took over. Across medieval times Sardinia was ruled by Pisa, Genoa, Spain then Austria then back to Spain again. In 1861 Victor Emmanuel II, the king of Sardinia became king of a united Italy.
The main site of our visit is Nora, currently a working archeological dig but with plenty of areas to walk around. Our guide is Donatella, a lovely Italian lady, very knowledgeable but with an incredibly high pitched voice that became impossible to listen to after 10 mins.
All I can remember is her saying that the city of Nora was founded by the Phoenicians but that nobody knows for certain how it was destroyed, but popular belief is that it was a Tsunami and abandoned in the 8th Century.
The ruins are all at a very low level, around 2ft high at most, except for 4 columns that were part of a villa entrance courtyard plus a significant chunk of a Roman Theatro. There are a few mosaic floors but nothing as colourful or as intricate as in the Corinium museum in Cirencester.
Despite its undoubted historical significance, I found the site disappointing. It was nowhere near as complete, as extensive or as interesting as Ostia Antica. A great pity that the alternative trip to see the Nuragic City was cancelled because I’m sure the structures and connections between them seem similar to Scara Brae on Orkney, one of our favourite archaeological sites.
Next up, Valletta and Mdina on the island of Malta.