History of Sardinia: from the Paleolithic to the dawn of the neuralgic age
The history of Sardinia is the perfect combination of an ancient land, made of landscapes sculpted by the wind and surrounded by the beautiful crystal clear water of the Mediterranean, and a millennial culture based on traditions, legends, influences, always focused on the future.
According to the study of some instruments found at Perfugas, in Anglona, we can detect the first human life on the island dates back to the Inferior Paleolithic (450.00-150.000 a.C.). There have also been discoveries of human bone in the cave of Corbeddu, in the Supramonte in Oliena, dating back the superior Paleolithic age (around 12.000 a.C.), which proves the presence of Homo sapiens in Sardinia more or less 20.000 years ago.
The ancient Neolithic period (6000-4000 a.C.) is marked by the finding of ceramics but more elaborate instruments like the tips of arrows showed a more cured artisanal work. Nonetheless, it is in this moment that stone , pestles and grinders appeared. They also started to exchange and use obsidian found in deposits of Monte Arci which will be later taken to Corsica, Tuscany, Emilia, Liguria, south of France and Catalonia. After the ancient Neolithic period is the middle Neolithic (4000-3500 a.C.), an age in which the culture of Bonu Ighinu was cultivated, the first to have used the natural cavities of the island as burials. “Mother god” is also a symbol of this period, small female statues representing a woman with abundant curves.
During the recent Neolithic (more or less 3500-2500 a.C.), the culture of Ozieri (or of San Michele) took place and was developed all over the island, also the first rural center which changed the life conditions. Alongside the creation of the first small villages, came vases decorated with various techniques and colored with red ocher. The act of cult around the departed was also growing, bringing to the construction of hypogenic tombs know as Domus de Janas. During this time circular burials, typical in Gallura, area were made.
During the bronze age (around 2500-1800 a.C.) the Orzieri culture passed to be the Abealzu-Filigiosa. This population worked in agriculture and farming. The first objects in bronze appeared, also ceramics show analogies of the Rinaldone culture coming from Tuscany, Lazio and Marche, or Gaudo culture which was developed more in the south of Italy. The villages had straight walls so to control the territory more effectively, meanwhile funerary architecture had characteristic corridor tombs and Domus de Janas. During the Bronze Age also appeared the first megalithic monuments like the alter of Monte d’Accoddi near Sassari which resembles ziqqurats, the religious structures in Mesopotamia.
At the beginning of the Bronze Age (2500-1500 BC) migrants from Europe settled on the island, also the first appearance of the Monte Carlo culture and of Bonnanaro (divided in to two fazes: Bonnanaro A1 and A2). Objects made of bone and stone were substituted by metal ones, during the A2 faze also came the first arsenical bronze swords and the ceramics became more linear and sober than in the past.
Giovanni Lillu, archeologist, paleontologist and one of the most important researchers in nuragic civilization, has shown how the population transformed from being a peaceful community focused on agriculture into a society of farmer warriors. Also the funerary architecture transformed from being Allée couverte (open corridors) and megalithic burials to being giants tombs, also typical of the nuragic age.
History of Sardinia: from Nuragic to Sardinian Giudicati until the Regnum Sardiniae
The development of nuragic civilization was the beginning of a new age in Sardinia. The nuragic and giudicati period and the kingdom of Sardinia profoundly marked the islands destiny.
According to Lilliu, the Nuragi were persecuted by the Bonnanaro and the first faze of nuragic civilization, called Ancients Nuragic, was characterized by protonuraghi, stone constructions which anticipate the famous Sardinian nuraghi. The same researcher also identified the various ethnic groups which he devided in to Iliensi (or Iolei), Balari and Corsicans, plus other minor populations distributed on the island.
Besides building gargantuan stone constructions, the Nuragi are also authors of the extraordinary water temples, the mysterious sculptures in chalky sandstone in Mont’e Parma and small special bronze statues. This ancient civilization entered a crisis at the beginning of the Iron Age when having to face the invasions of Mycenae, Phoenician, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman civilizations which in turn invaded and conquered the island. During the Roman dominance occurred the martyr of Efisio, a saint now celebrated every 1st of May with a suggestive religious festival crossing Stampace and one of the historical districts of Cagliari.
The Sardinian Giudicati period is between the IX and XV century. Medieval Sardinia was dividend in to four Giudicati: Torres, Gallura, Arborea and Cagliari, four kingdoms independent from one another. The Giudicati were autonomous entities, unique in relation to the rest of Europe and governed by kings called Giudici – judges, (in Sardinian judikes) and had national and international summa potestas (from Latin meaning “sum of total power).
In comparison to other European kingdoms of that time, deriving from the feudal-barbaric traditions, the giudicati populations could express their desires in a semi-democratic manor like the Coronas de curatorias which had the duty of electing the representatives of the Corona de Logu uniting the main powers: court of justice, council of the magnates, high-ranking prelates.
Although the Sardinian Giudicati were considered unique in the history of medieval Europe, one shouldn’t think they were indifferent to the international dynamics of those years. To the contrary, the Judikes were involved in some of the major events of that time including the Crusades, the war between empire and papacy, war between Guelphs and Ghibellines, commercial traffic in the Mediterranean and the monastic advent.
In artistic means, the four kingdom were influenced initially by Roman architecture and after by the Catalan gothic. Linguistically they progressively abandoned Byzantine Greek and adopted Medieval Latin, Sardinian was being developed and then became the official language, also used in administrative and legal documents including condaghe, municipal statutes and the Carta de Logu. In the second half of the 4th century, the languages on the island were strongly influenced first by Catalan and then by Spanish which became official languages until the middle of the XVIII century.
This voyage through the history of Sardinia ends with a small deepening on the Regnum Sardiniae, also known as Regnum Sardiniae et Corsicae, in other words the Regno di Sardegna established by Pope Bonifacio VIII in 1297 with agreements stated in the treaty of Anagni on the 24th of June 1295. Historians have divided the kingdom in to three periods in relation to the islands invaders: Aragonese period (1324-1479), Spanish-imperial (1479-1720) and Savoy period (1720-1861). Alongside battles and invasions, defeats and alliances, an important historical event is marked by the Plague which was spread in Sardinia between 1652 and 1658.
The cult of Sant’Efisio began during this time, mostly in Cagliari where the population focused their prayers to the martyrs saint to ask for the terrible epidemic to end. According to the tale of Giovanni Spano, one of the most important researchers on Sardinian History, Sant’Efisio appeared to the viceroy count of Lemos to request the processions on the 1st of May in exchange of freeing the island from the plague.
The administration of the municipality decided to promise the saint to organize a procession in his name every year in his honor if the city was saved. The faith of the town citizens was refunded with abundant rainfalls which put a stop to the plague and so from 1657, the first of May of every year is celebrated with the Festival of Sant’Efisio with musicians and singers, every one weares traditional clothing and marches 65 km in 4 days, making it the longest procession in Europe.