Scattered throughout the territory, the Giants’ Graves are one of the most important archaeological legacies of Sardinia.
Visiting the Giants’ Graves is an excellent opportunity to discover the oldest history of the island.
Tumbas de sos mannos, or Giants’ Graves. A suggestive name which the inhabitants of Sardinia, but also archaeologists, use for the remains of ancient sepulchral monuments dating back to the Nuragic age. This name derives from a legend according to which gigantic bones were found inside the tombs. What we certainly know is that they date back to the third millennium BC. and that they were collective tombs, in which the ancient Sardinians placed the bodies of the deceased after being stripped. The rest is unknown, since the Nuragic civilization has left no written evidence.
But perhaps this dose of mystery is what makes the Giants’ Graves so fascinating.
The structure of the tombs
There are two types of Giants’ Graves:
– tombs with dolmen, large stone slabs embedded vertically in the ground,
– tombs, built with smaller boulders.
The differentiation is due to the evolution of the architectural skills, but the basic structure has always remained the same.
The core was the burial chamber, which could be up to 30 meters long and 3 meters high. It was covered by a mount which shape resembled an overturned boat. However, the most representative part of the Tumbas de sos mannos was certainly the semicircular front facade. Often, the builders placed in the center of the facade a sculpted stele which had a small opening, that they probably covered with a boulder.
Symbolism, rites and mysteries of the Giants’ Graves
The semicircular shape was not accidental, since it refers to the horns of a bull. The bull was a sacred animal for the Nuragic civilization that symbolized the male divinity, strength and power. Moreover, according to some scholars the shape of the tombs would also recall the female organ. Therefore, for the Nuragic people death was probably the moment of reunification between the Mother Goddess and the God Taurus, the feminine and the masculine.
After all, the Giants’ Graves were more than just burial places. Here, the ancient inhabitants of Sardinia performed rites related to life and death. In fact, for the Nuragic people the cult of the dead was fundamental, so much so that they frequently slept at the tombs of their ancestors. They thought this practice had magical and healing effects. As a demonstration of this, among the remains of the exedras of the Giants’ Graves, a sort of niche in which the ancients could lie down still seems to be visible.
Also the stele in the center of the exedra is a symbol. Although no one knows the meaning of the engravings, scholars think that it represented a sort of gateway to the kingdom of the afterlife. Indeed, the pre-Nuragic hypogean tombs, the domus de jana, already had similar symbolic doors.
Lastly, some people think that the position of the tombs is not accidental. On the contrary, it would follow alleged energy channels linked to terrestrial magnetism. Among all the tombs, that of Li Mizzani, near Palau, would seem the richest in energy. For this reason it has become a place of pilgrimage for those who believe in this theory and want to enjoy the benefits of this power.
Where to find the Giants’ Graves
In Sardinia there are 800 Giants’ Graves. Although they are all over the island, about half are in the central part. The oldest tomb is that of Su Cuaddu ‘e Nixias in Lunamatrona (SU).
To the north, near Arzachena and the Costa Smeralda, there are 3 tombs: Coddu Vecchiu, Capichera and Li Lolghi. In Gallura there is the Giants’ Grave of Pascaredda, while in Olbia there is the tomb on Mont’e s’Abe, restored a few decades ago. Then, near Alghero it is possible to visit the tomb of Laccaneddu.
In the center of Sardinia there are the tombs of Biristeddi and S’Ena e Thomes in Dorgali, the Giants’ Grave of Osono near Nuoro, and that of Goronna near Oristano. Finally, also in Nuoro, there is the Giants’ Grave of Imbertighe, perfectly preserved.
The southern part of Sardinia hosts the tombs of Su cuaddu’ e Nixias in Lunamatrona, Sa Domu’ e S’Orcu in Siddi, Barrancu Mannu in Santadi, and that of Is Concias, along the Sette Fratelli mountain range.
Do you want to explore the archaeological heritage of Sardinia? Book a stay at Palazzo Doglio in Cagliari