I visited this in march 2003, arriving after dark initially, then returned next day to really see its splendour.
I found it quite a peacefull location, great setting and loads of parking with no fees to pay at that time of year.
I found it to be in very good condition and feel it does give you a sense of what it might look like complete.
With a few Nuraghi towers nearby you could also explore on foot. Combine this with lots of other antiquarian sites in the area a great part of the island to visit.
It was our final day in Sardinia and we wanted to return to Coddhu Vecchju to enjoy the morning light on the stones.
Tombi di giganti are aligned south-south-east, towards the morning light, which I suppose is symbolic of life and rebirth. This is certainly the case in ancient Egypt. The tombs' grave corridors point north-north-west, towards evening and sunset, perhaps symbolic of death. So to get the best modeling light on the stones (for painting and photography) you need to be there late morning, so the sun is high enough to cast shadows and reveal the carving and sculpting.
At Coddhu Vecchju the carving is not deep at all (not like those more southerly stele we'd seen) so we needed all those shadows. And I wanted to see the pink granite sparkle in the sun.
Coddhu Vecchju has, like most other tombi di giganti a forecourt area or 'esedra', formed by a line of stones sweeping curvaceously out from either side of the centrally placed stele.
As I stood before Coddhu Vecchju, I had the feeling that the tomb's curved arms were embracing me. This was a feeling that I would have again and again as I visited various T di Gs.
The tomb chamber itself runs back behind the stele and like most other tombi we saw, is constructed like a French allee couverte. Coddhu Vecchju's chamber is in good condition and retains most of its capstones.
Coddhu Vecchju is built on a slight gradient as the land rise gently out of a thickly wooded valley with a stream running along the bottom. So the curved arms of the tomb are not flat, they have been constructed so they echo the lie of the land – the west arm held up and the east arm down, like being embraced by a dancing partner.
The land rises more sharply on the other side of the stream and is now cultivated with lines of vines. This tomb was not meant to be seen in the landscape by all passers by like West Kennett, it is more hidden, private, intimate.
I was enraptured with the place. It wouldn't be the last time we'd see it.
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.
From Arzachena, take the 427 or SP14 towards Tempio, the site is always signposted. There's ample parking, and a building for tickets and information (with refreshments etc on sale and toilets available) about 300 metres north of the site. We'd bought tickets at Nuraghe Albucciu so just had to show these to be given our site guide. Open 09:00 – 19:00.
A gentle stroll along the road side and then down a path brought us to the tomba. Wow! It's huge!
The building was done in two stages, the first part being an allée couverte (circa 2500 BCE?) with the giant stele and esedra (forecourt area, the wings, or some might propose, the open legs of the tomb) added later. The site is roped off, and visitors are asked not to climb onto or into the tomb, but a variety of raised viewing platforms have been built all the way round the back to make it easier to see.
The stele is massive – almost 4½ metres tall, but narrower than some others at 1.9 metres – and has a pronounced pink tinge to its stone; it was built with two slabs on top of each other, and both sections have relief carvings in them. The wings of the tomba are stone slabs in decreasing height. Behind the stele – the tallest one on the island – there's a short corridor, which joins the newer part to the body of the original tomb – about 10 metres long with granite slabs forming the walls, floor and capstones.