|Coddu Vecchiu is signposted on the Tempio to Arzachena road. As with Pascaredda, if you approach this site from the west you will be travelling through a beautiful and bizarre landscape passing peaks with boulder strewn ridges and valleys with huge monoliths that appear to have been thrust upwards through the earth by the hand of some unseen orogenic deity. I wrote in my note book "these rocks must have names". Even the modern quarries chop away the hillsides to create the appearance of stepped pyramids.
Coddu Vecchiu is served by a car park. There is a small visitor's centre in the car park where you can purchase a ticket for the monument, buy an ice cream, a cold drink or use the toilet.
Tip No.1– Sardinians are obsessed with change, in the monetry sense, so keep plenty in your pocket. That said, I managed to score a free ice cream at Coddu Vecchiu because the very nice lady behind the counter did not want to lose her change, despite having lots in her till.
The site is just a short walk from the car park and approaches the site looking towards the forecourt. If you can manage to take your eyes off this beautiful site you should check out the lovely large, squat, weather-worn rock outcrops to the left of the path to the monument.
The Monument is stunning and sits in a low valley on an elevated hillside surrounded on one side by scrub land and the other by strictly regimented lines of grape vines running like contour corduroy across the hillside. It would be nice to think that this arrangement stretched back to the origins of the monument. As we know, many megalithic monuments were deliberately sited within liminal areas on the edge of farmland, one foot in the wild and one in the cultivated fields perhaps symbolising the continuity between past and the present. In his book 'The Bronze Age in Barbarian Europe' Jacques Briard describes the Sardinian central stelae as; "the sacred stone in front of the kingdom of the dead was visible from afar and reminded the living, at work in the nearby fields, of the frailty of human life".
It is the central stone or stelae which draws the eye here. This design of stelae is known as a bilithon, a two piece stone. Once again there is a pink tinge to the rock which is enhanced by a vein of pink crystal running downwards at approximately 45 degrees from the top left hand corner of the bottom stone. Later I was to visit the Neolithic cemetery of Il Muri where large amounts of ochre were found in the cists. This set me to wondering if this use of reddish/pink stone and the use of ochre were linked over the millennia between the erection of the monuments. Perhaps red was a colour associated with death. Marija Gimbutas has this to say about the use of ocre "Red was the colour of life, of blood, which was neccessary to secure regeneration".
My first impression of the monument was that this Tombi definitely had a different architect to Pascaredda. It's well worth having a detailed look at the stones of the façade. The central stelae have been beautifully carved. The carving borders the lower stone and extends around the outside edge of the upper stone. Care has also been taken to carve around the small portal at the base of the stone. The carving had also been applied to the back of the stelae, presumably after the two stones were united and erected.
The stone to the right of the stelae has a natural channel carved into it that runs from ground level to the side of the stelae, the final stone of the left hand horn of the façade has a natural cup in its face. I'm sure these features would have not gone unnoticed by such accomplished masons as the Tombi builders and once again we see the use of weather worn stone in the construction of a monument.
The monument we see today is a stripped-down version of the original. Many years ago when the monument was excavated the archaeologists didn't believe that the stone cairn that covered it was actually part of the structure so they removed it.
The passage of the monument is aligned east-west and unlike Pascaredda is constructed of large stone slabs on the interior (visible) passage and thick, dry stone walling on the exterior (unseen) walls. The passage also differs from Pascaredda in its layout. There is no 'bench on the back wall and the side slabs butt straight onto the central stelae. There is also a large slab on the floor of the chamber marking a small step down in the passage just before the stelae, creating a small anti chamber behind the small portal at the base of the stelae. Perhaps this was the place for offerings.
In summary, Coddu Vecchiu is a beautiful Tombi dei Giganti sitting in a lovely landscape. It is well signposted and judging from the day we went, and its close proximity to a main road, can be quite busy.
Posted by fitzcoraldo
3rd October 2007ce
Edited 2nd June 2008ce