Scano di Montiferro - Iscanu - su situ de Iscanu
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09 Relazione di F. Dettori

Nuraghe Nuracale: the first escavations


- Nuraghe Nuracale: an example of control of the territory in the Montiferru (by Federica Dettori)

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The pictures of the book "Nuracale i primi scavi" are available in the FOTOGALLERY of Nuraghe Nuracale.

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The Nuraghe Nuracale: an example of control of the territory in the Montiferru

By Federica Dettori

01 - Sintesi

The Nuraghe Nuracale rises imposing in the homonym place, in territory of Scano Montiferro, small country in the province of Oristano, situated in the western slope of the massif of the Montiferru and bordering with Marghine and Planargia.

It raises on a tall rocky promontory around 400 ms slm dominating the valley where it flows the Riu Mannu. The slant that is created give life to an impervious landscape, that alternate sour vegetation and rocks flourishing, with quotas that go from 200 to 500m slms. (fig. 1, 1) (Usai, Cossu, Dettori 2004, p. 2).

Its position allowed the control of the wide village, of the underlying river, of big part of the present nuraghes in the territory of Scano Montiferro and in the near territories, and of the coast that extends up to Cornus from Bosa. For this, its have to constitute an important point of reference for the tribes that lived the zone, from the nuragic age up to the Middle Age, phase in which the human population is strong. The life of the monument began between 1500 and 1350 B. C., to last up to our days. This, thanks to the fertility of the territory, fed by the course of the river “Riu Mannu”. The nuraghe introduces itself particularly unusual for the experimental constructive technique.

02 - Appearance

The nuraghe in matter is a quadrilobate realized with polygonal technique, with big blocks of basalt, rock of which the territory is particularly rich that probably begins its life in the Middle Bronze. Introduces an unusual and vast courtyard L shaped (90 mqs), denominated B, on which leans out the entries of three of the four side towers (C, D, E) and that of the central tower (A.). Besides, a staircase leans out (H) that, forming a light half curve, it puts in communication the same courtyard with the slopes of the west curtain. In front of such staircase, realized inside the inclusive building thickness among the tower northwest (F) and the central tower, a storage bin is situated, that should have an access from the top, because the excavations have not shown any entry to the base (Usai, Cossu, Dettori, Manca 2006). Of the tower F, abundantly collapsed, the entry has not been individualized yet. It is probable that the staircase recovered in this sector, served for entering both from the top to the tower and the storage bin.

Of notable interest is the way according to which the staircase of the central tower it develops: in fact it is born as staircase of room, raised again, in the inferior plan (A1) and as staircase of passage culminates in the close-up (A2), very steep from the beginning at the end. It leads therefore on a landing from which start the steps for a possible second floor of the mastio, entirely collapsed, or for a balcony. A constancy is not had in the development of the staircase but rather that that seems an experimentation (Usai, Cossu, Dettori 2004).

It is not clear yet if the nuraghe as quadrilobate both fruit of an unitary project or if the additions have subsequently risen to the mastio.

From the west sector of the vast courtyard, an elevated quantity of broken pieces in white sandstone that had to constitute part of a nuragic structure not yet identified. Many broken pieces can be distinguished for the unusual form: some seem to be like seats, others seem pivots of circular section, other seem to be frames; the most greater part also introduces the clear passage of a chisel and therefore a careful finishing touch of the pieces, that had to be tied up from fixing clings in lead, some of which recovered in this zone (Usai, Cossu, Dettori, Manca 2006). Some pieces introduce the signs of a continuous and repetitive action of the fire but we don’t know if it deals with an anthropic voluntary action or to attribute to the numerous fires that have invested the monument, also in recent times. The structure in matter, by now entirely lost, could rise then on the slopes and being collapsed inside the courtyard. The collapse of the structure lies on broken pieces in sandstone and basalt belonging to the crowning of the mastio and the west curtain, fallen therefore in precedence.

03-Recent use

Up to 2002 the site was busy and utilized as barn (D) (Usai, Cossu, Dettori, Manca 2006 ) and refuge for animals (E) from the owner of the ground, which has also effected structural changes and restaurations in the towers D and E: it has in fact in both created a passage of access, probably exploiting a collapse, and in the tower D has reconstructed with stones of averages dimensions the top part. In the same tower, has been shown, and it is visible still, a floor to date from the end of 1800 realized with stones of averages dimensions (Usai, Cossu, Dettori, Manca 2006). The tower D acted therefore, still before of barn, from hut for the shepherd and it was probably inhabited in the winter periods, as sometimes still happens in the countries of Scano.

04-The control of the territory

The territory of Scano Montiferro distinguishes itself for the quantity of archaeological monuments, belonging to different epoches: the nuraghe Nuracale is preceded in fact from other more archaic nuraghes at corridor or at embryonic room, that however didn't maintain contrarily for a long time a dominant role in the territory. Their presence, together with that of other simple and complexes nuraghes, the megalithic graves, of the nuragics installations, punics, Romans and medioevals attested by the sources and by the accidental recoveries, testify the capillary occupation of the territory in matter (Usai, Cossu, Dettori 2004; Usai 2004,). To an analysis of the distribution of the nuraghis , immediately we realize that mostly of them rise along the course of the Riu Mannu, on both the banks, becoming more and more diffused toward the hinterland rather than its mouth. They privileged therefore the territory around that river that was for them source of great resources but also vehicle of communication with the sea, for which to very attentively check.

From the nuraghe it succeeded in checking many of these monuments and probably to communicate with them. Nuracale could be not only a center of coordination of the activities of control but also of those economic of the territory, and to it could also make head the near nuraghis, and later the villages of historical epoch. Even today the nuraghis are clearly visible: at north Nuraghe Giannas, Mesu ‘e Rios, Santa Barbara and east Salaggioro, Salamatile, Bolaola and south Ennare, as well as some graves of giants and different villages. It had to be a point of important reference for the tribes that lived the surrounding territories and surely had to be notices from far thanks to its massive structure and its position on the pianoro.

From the top of the monument the sea was scrutinized besides: it is still observed the coast that extends it from the promontory of Cornus up to that of Bosa, also seeing clearly the whole Planargia. The control of the sea was already important surely in the nuragic age and the nuraghe Nuracale can be a testimony of as this it happened in very precise and sure way.

The position and the history, that slowly with the excavations it is reconstructing, confirms that from the Final Bronze, but perhaps already from the Recent Bronze, the Nuraghe Nuracale with its imposing structure, covered an important checkpoint of the territory, surrounding and not. It checked besides the course of the Riu Mannu, river that flows in the underlying valley which completing a very long run flows in the place of Foghe, in the inclusive territory between Cuglieri and Tresnuraghes. This result to the sea was also the only sure landing for the boats that came in this part of coast. In fact, the geographical conformation of the inlet mends it from the winds, especially from the wind of mistral that it often beats strong on the whole island of Sardinia. A further testimony of the use of Foghe as point of landing, especially in Roman age, it is an anchor belonging to such epoch recovered in sea and currently preserved in the museum “G. Sanna” of Sassari (Mastino A., Tav. LXXXIII,).

The choice of the territory of Nuracale for the installation, with every probability, was conditioned therefore by the abundant one and neighbor presence of drinkable water, that had to be picked in wells and sources, and that it easily had to appear on the surface on the ground as still happens today in this zone; from the wealth and from the fertility of the grounds, due to the presence of the Riu Mannu, as well as from the notable presence of basaltic benches that still today appear on the surface, that also resulted of easy extraction with the only use of levers (Pes 1954, p. 61). But not only: the basaltic bases as plinth were exploited also for the construction of the structures, saving so the work of the extraction. Particularly we can note it in the construction of megalithic walls that interrupts to exploit the natural rock and in the construction of the huts N and O, where it was outlined only and used in advantage.

05 - The exscavations

The monument have got inside different phases of life. In fact it has not only been object of interest and occupation in nuragic age but also in the following epoches, allowing to attest in this zone phases of life punic, Roman and an intense of Medioeval age, important and well documentable. Of this last period are also the structural resettlement of the courtyard. It can be individualized particularly a small wall inside the courtyard to date from such epoch, that has at sight an only face and it is composed from blocks of the nuraghe, above all pieces in sandstone of the top part. The small wall had to contain the already present collapses in the courtyard so that make accessible the entries of the mastio and the southeast tower. During the construction of this wall, the structure in sandstone had to already have collapsed and for this to be clearly anterior to it. Inside the courtyard B, only partially investigated, there are recovered in prevalence fragment of raw ceramics and of stamped, that find comparison in those recovered near the Nuraghe Losa of Abbasanta (Bacco 1997, pp. 9-21, tav. IV-XXVIII, XLII, XLIV-XLV, LIV), ferrules and walls of transport amphoras (type Keay LXII), fragments of brocchette costolate, sealed clear decorated D, decorated malices with engraved nicks, the all referable to one inclusive period among V-VI c. d. C. From the courtyard also originates a punic anfhora and some other rare fragment of the same period (Usai, Cossu, Dettori 2004, p. 11; Usai, Cossu, Dettori, Manca 2006 pp. 12, figg. 17-18).

From the tower A2, totally investigated, comes ceramics referable instead to the Roman late context (modeled raw ceramics, an anfhora turned decorated, etc.) that to the context of the Final Bronze (careened bowls, a ziretto with X handles, spoon oil lamps etc.) (Usai, Cossu, Dettori, Manca 2006). From the same vain originate besides different vague of necklace in blue glassy paste, green, blue, in amber and a decorated blue with concentric circles blue and white. Motive remembers those punics but the context and the precise workmanship of the vague one it excludes such an ancient dating. We can think rather to a perpetuate of the motive and the colors in age late Roman.

The nuraghe was also frequented in a more recent epoch, between the XV and the XVI sec d. C., as it testifies the piattello in decorated maiolica with paintings policroma recovered for the most greater part in the tower A2 and partly in the collapse of the courtyard. It is a product imported from the Tuscan zone or perhaps from the high Lazio. It brings motives that postpone to the symbol cristologic of S. Bernardino from Siena (Corsini 1995, p. 74-75) and it is painted the monogram IHS (Iesus Hominum Salvator), of which the first two letters are preserved (Subbruzio 2002, pp.154-155, figg. 26-28, 30-31; Usai, Cossu, Dettori 2004; Usai, Cossu, Dettori, Misses 2006).

In the site of Nuracale it not only finds the presence of ceramics of importation, as it for instance testifies the decorated foot of a cup in black varnish of the type Bell A. (180-100 B. C.) (Tronchetti 1995, p. 167, fig. 16; Tronchetti 1996, pp. 27-29, pp. 36-37, fig. 7) (fig. 2, 1), but a local production of black varnish to grey pasta is had, also that imitates for instance the cup of which above said, and it is decorated with a motive similar to the original one (second half of the II sec. B. C.) (Fig. 2, 2) (Tronchetti 1996, pp. 32-33, pp. 40-41, fig. 3). There are also present in the area other fragments belonging to patere of the same production in grey pasta. This puts the population of the zone in a complex sphere, not isolated, that knows the near realities as that of Cornus, from where some glasses probably originate in for instance glass (IV-V sec. d. C.) (Stiaffini, pp. 118-123, tav. XVII, 7; Usai, Cossu, Dettori 2004, p. 13) but where a well distant production arrives as also that of the amphoras and of the piattellis in sealed of African production (Usai, Cossu, Dettori, Manca 2006 p. 12, fig. 17).

In the storage bin (G), completely investigated, the collapse of the top part of the north Curtain and of the same storage bin, had sealed a nuragic layer that preserved finds of the Recent Bronze as for instance a brocchetta in grey ceramics. The layer must have remained exposed for a long time since it is not been able to reconstruct the whole ceramics.

Both to the inside and to the outside of the monument parts of the crowning of the nuraghe are been recovered: the mensoloni. They already recovers unusually in the first layers, referable to one inclusive period between V and VII sec. d. C.. Some of them have been utilized in structures of such period, others are in position of fall. The presence in a late layer of a meaningful number of mensoloni, more than ten till now should mean, that the monument has been for a long time standing, enjoying therefore of a constant maintenance.

06 – The nuragic village

The nuraghe is surrounded by a village of notable extension that testifies the different phases of life.

It extends around the principal monument, on the basaltic surface that extends him toward west in comparison to the nuraghe and partly on the valley of the Riu Mannu (Fig. 1) (Usai, Cossu, Dettori 2004, p. 3).

In front of the entry to the quadrilobo two big round huts rise (N, O) and a line of antemurale of nuragic age, but also some structures of later age (fig. 3, 1). In this zone a plan of life is individualized High Medioeval and from it very interesting finds of such epoch originate as for instance an anforetta in clear clay, painted with vertical and horizontal gangs of brown color and three ziris: one has been recovered entire and with its cover of stone still in place (fig.3, 2), while two in fragments, crushed in place, with equal direction of fall (mouth turns to SSW and fund to NNE) (fig. 3). One is completely rebuildable (fig. 3, 3), while the other one is deprive of neck and edge (fig. 3, 4). They also originate from the same zone testimonies of preceding epoches as for instance a Roman sesterzio of Severe Alexander (222-235 d. C.) datable to the 231 d. C. (RIC 1962, p. 111, n. 517).

07 - Alimentation

Unfortunately from the excavations till now ducts it is not been able to complete a study on the finds faunistics as the acidity of the ground, due to the basaltic stone, in partnership to the strong present damp in the nuraghe, they crumble the finds making not them analyzable. The most greater quantity of animal bones originates from the storage bin (G), which could be a dump of animals rests in a certain period. We are here able only to individualize some kinds in base to few preserved teeth: it deals with ovine, cattle and swines. But it reports us to a macroscopic analysis directly effected on the field. The faunistics rests recovered inside the storage bin are to mainly refer to one inclusive period between the Roman age and the modern epoch, in base to the dating furnished us from the ceramic finds and to the recovery in the same storage bin of three knives in iron of different epoches.

Different discourse is had to do for the charred seeds instead. It preserves a certain quantity coming from a hearth recovered in the superior room of the central tower and many others (135 grs in everything) from a hearth recovered to the outside among the two huts N and O. In the first case the context it is mixed (from the nuragic to the late Roman), in the second it is clearly instead nuragic as the recovered finds, among which fragments of a decorated askos find it with concentric circles and of a ziro with X handles testify, as well as different other referable finds to the Final Bronze-The I Ferro(Campus, Leonelli 2000, p. 398, 413, fig. 3; p. 604, 610, fig. 3). In both cases it deals with bowline, wheat and some legume. Also in this context analysis is just macroscopic.

It is not excluded that here a real tost of the cereals was performed, that would justify the elevated quantity of seeds recovered.

Anyway, is the presence of different kind of animals and of seeds, it points out us that the territory had to be also well exploited from the point of view of the breeding and the cultivation. An integration in the territory that had to be total and above all lasting in the time.


The nuraghe Nuracale must have constituted a point of reference in all the epoches of the history of the territory of Scano Montiferro. The fact that it have been provided in the different epoches to the maintenance of the monument to make it habitable, modeling it according to the demands of the populations that have frequented it in the centuries that are succeded, it puts in prominence the fact that it have to be considered for a long time a strategic point, thanks to its favorable position and the resources that the territory offered, as till now it is tried to underline.

There is a lot it to discover on this grandiose monument and just the excavations can confirm or, as till now has happened more often, to deny the hypotheses formulated by us archaeologists, also furnishing new elements of comparison for other quadrilobates.


BACCO G. 1997, Il Nuraghe Losa di Abbasanta. II. La produzione vascolare grezza di età tardoromana e alto medievale, in “Quaderni”, Soprintendenza Archeologica per le province di Cagliari e Oristano, 13, suppl.

CAMPUS F., LEONELLI V. 2000, La tipologia della ceramica nuragica. Il materiale edito., Viterbo, BetaGamma Editrice.

CORSINI A. 1995, Vulci. Ceramiche dal “butto” della Torre”, s. l., Progetti Museali Editore.

MASTINO A., Cornus nella storia degli studi, Cagliari, Gasperini Editore.RIC 1962, Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol. IV, Parte II, Spink & Son, London.

TRONCHETTI C. 1995, La ceramica punica e romana repubblicana nell’Oristanese: due nuraghi a confronto, in AA.VV., La ceramica artistica, d’uso e da costruzione nell’Oristanese dal neolitico ai giorni nostri, Oristano, S’Alvure, pp. 157-168.

TRONCHETTI C. 1996, La ceramica della Sardegna romana, Milano, Edizioni Ennerre.

STIAFFINI D. 2000, I materiali vitrei, in A.M. GIUNTELLA, Cornus I, 2. L’area cimiteriale orientale. I materiali., Oristano, S’Alvure, pp. 118-123, tav. XVII, 7.

SUBBRUZIO M. 2002, Dipinto di blu. Ceramiche policrome a Novara fra XVI e XVII secolo, in “Ceramica in blu. Diffusione e utilizzazione della ceramica”, in AA. VV. , Atti XXXV Convegno Internazionale della ceramica, Centro Ligure per la storia della ceramica, Albisola, All’Insegna del Giglio, pp. 154-155.PES P. 1954, Saggio di catalogo archeologico sul foglio 206 della carta d’Italia: quadrante IV, tav. SE-SO, tesi di laurea, Università di Cagliari, a.a. 1953-54, inedita.

USAI A. 2004, Popolamento e organizzazione del Montiferru in età nuragica, in AA. VV. Oristano dalle Origini alla IV Provincia, cds, pp. 1-8.USAI A., COSSU T., DETTORI F. 2004, Primi dati sul contesto tardoromano e altomedievale dal Nuraghe Nuracale di Scano Montiferro, in AA. VV. Oristano: dalle Origini alla IV Provincia, cds.

USAI A., COSSU T., DETTORI F., MANCA G. 2006, Nuracale. I primi scavi, Bolotana, Solinas.


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