|The Elephant and the Red Angel.
My second exploration to scratch the surface of Sardinian prehistory involved a visit to a pair of sites commonly known as Domus de Janus which I believe translates as 'tombs of the fairies' although I have seen this translated as 'tombs of the witches'. Either way they are rock cut tombs.
One site I had high on my list was Anghelu Ruju, a necropolis of rock cut tombs.
Anghelu Ruju is about 60 miles from where I was staying in Sardinia, the drive to the site involved following the long winding road along the north coast to Porto Torres and then turning south towards Alghero. If you find your self in Sardinia and travelling along the north coast road (200) I would advise you to by-pass Castelsardo, this will benefit you in two ways. Firstly, you'll avoid driving through a picturesque but congested town with narrow hilly streets lined with cars just waiting to tear off your wing mirrors. Secondly the by-pass road gives you easy access to a wonderful site called L'Elefante.
L'Elefante also known as Castelsardo dell'Elefante or Roccia dell'Elefante
L'Elefante is exactly what it says it is, an elephant or at least an elephant shaped rock. If you approach it from the north it is an upright elephant and from the south it is an elephant sitting down either way it is unmistakably an elephant. I had passed this rock a few days before and dismissed it as a tourist curiosity, one of hundreds of bizarrely-shaped rocks that litter the island. Two things changed my mind about this, one was the road sign which said Domus de Janus and the second was a brief reference in Margaret Guido's excellent 'Sardinia' book.
L'Elephante couldn't be easier to visit as it is on the kerbside next to a major road; there is also a handy lay-by opposite the rock. One thing I should warn you about is that you have to run the gauntlet of a group of old men selling tourist trinkets at the side of the road, there is even a man with a donkey, donkey rides on a main road?..hmmm No grazie. Two things struck me about the hawkers, one, they seemed to be mainly selling knives, two, none of them would have looked out of place in the Godfather part 2, wrong island I know but that's how they looked, all that was missing were the shotguns.
The rock is perched on the margins of the road on a hillside overlooking the coastal plain from Castelsardo to the north, the views are beautiful and include a http://images.fotopic.net/ybh9gj.jpg"> nice view of the Nuraghe su Tesoru
To tell you the truth I wasn't expecting too much from this site but what a shock I got. The rock itself reminded me of a large red cinder, there's that colour again!, but it wasn't until I got up close to it that I realised that there were a number of chambers carved into it, I was even more surprised when I climbed through one of the http://images.fotopic.net/ybh9gh.jpg"> carved portals into the chambers and was confronted by two great http://images.fotopic.net/ybh9g4.jpg"> crescents carved into the walls of the chambers. The carvings were beautifully executed and still quite crisp.
If you are travelling around the north of the island I would definitely recommend that you call in on L'Elefante. The nearby medieval seaside town of Castelsardo is very picturesque and a good place to stop and have a drink and something to eat.
The next stop on my itinary was Anghelu Ruju but to reach it I had to drive to Porto Torres and then head south to Alghero. Porto Torres is a nightmare, you are channelled into the town through gradually narrowing streets until you reach the port from there it's anyone guess, pick a road and follow it. Six times I passed through Porto Torres never travelling the same route twice. Once you've cleared Porto Torres it's fairly plain sailing. The drive across the fertile plain to Alghero is fairly pleasant but uneventful.
Necropoli Anghelu Ruju
The name means 'Red Angel'. This 'red' thing is starting to nag at me.
The site was discovered in 1903 by a workers quarrying the local sandstone. 37 tombs have so far been discovered' almost all of the literature uses the words 'so far'.
The site is well signposted and situated next to main road. There is a car park and an entry fee is required.
The tombs have been dated by the finds discovered within them to the Oziere culture of approximately 3300-2800BC. The tombs were later reused by different cultures including the Beaker culture.
All there is to see when you enter the site is a low grassy hill surrounded by rich farmland and close to a large river, the Riu Filberta. This area is known as Fertilia. The remains of the quarry are visible along with a few loose rocks and one small http://images.fotopic.net/ybhazj.jpg">standing stone. The locations of the tomb entrances are given away by little information boards above each tomb. The board tells you the tomb number, gives a plan of the tomb and provides you with a little information about the tomb.
I'm not sure if you are allowed to climb down into the tombs. I couldn't see a sign prohibiting it so I crawled through a number of them. Crawling through the chambers was a little scary, some of the chambers had props supporting the ceilings so I tended to avoid these, I also tried not to think about the dead snake my son had found the previous day. I was unable to stand up in any of the chambers; which to me would indicate that they were not used for ritual activity on a regular basis. The chambers did not seem to follow a uniform layout.
"In plan the tombs naturally vary, but not infrequently a large burial chamber with smaller chambers radiating from it is reached by a long passage sloping down from the entrance steps: the passage too may have chambers leading off it. Others are much simpler. The chamber themselves may be oval or rectangular in plan, and have round or flat ceilings". Sardinia. M.Guido
One common feature of the tombs and chambers was the rectangular door with the http://images.fotopic.net/ybhazi.jpg">carved recess; which was also a feature of L'Elefante and reminded me at the time of carved entrances I'd seen in Maltese temples. Many of the doors also had a carved lintel. In one of the tombs there were carved stone pillars which I presume were there as architectural feature rather than structural supports. In another tomb, whose roof had collapsed, was a http://images.fotopic.net/ybhaze.jpg">carved bed. The lintels, pillars and carved bed lead you to think that design of the tombs may have reflected features found in the houses of the Ozerei people who created the tombs.
There are two sets of carvings that make this site really special. One is a set of carvings depicting 5 http://images.fotopic.net/ybhazb.jpg">Bulls heads ,or protomi turine, situated above the entrance to a tomb with a 6th on an adjacent wall.
The second set of carvings is within tomb XXVII. This http://images.fotopic.net/ybxw1e.jpg">carving depicts a pair of crescents over a set of concentric circles enclosed within a rectangular box; there are two of these carvings facing each other on opposing walls. There is much speculation as to the meaning of these carvings, the depiction of bulls heads outside of one of the tombs strengthens the arguments that these carvings are stylised versions of the bulls head and are linked to a bull cult others suggest that they may represent high–prowed ships. Unfortunately my camera packed up as I was photographing this carving so the images I have are a little rough.
When the tombs were excavated they yielded many grave goods including metal axes, beads, marble idols and many other objects, the most interesting of which to me, was a flat axe and an awl that were found to have come from the British Isles, probably Ireland.
Anghelu Ruju is a beautiful site and well worth a visit.
Whilst driving south from the site towards Alghero I noticed a large standing stone in a field margin on a bend in the road. The road was too busy to stop and check it out but it's worth looking out for if you are in the area.
I haven't too much to say about the two Domus de Jana that I visited. Rock cut tombs are wonderful places, the addition of carving to the Sardinian tombs make them seem somehow more personal. Looking at the http://images.fotopic.net/ybhaz4.jpg">bulls heads reminded me of something I read a book by Christopher Tilley that contained the following quote by someone called Robb that seems to sum it all up "Fixing the moment of encounter to an eternal now".
Posted by fitzcoraldo
28th August 2005ce
Edited 28th August 2005ce
fitzcoraldo's TMA Blog
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