Monte Sirai is a punic-roman settlement on the top of the mount Sirai near Carbonia. The site is strategically situated in the middle of the mining districts of the Sulcis and the Iglesiente. The archaeological site consists of the remains of the town and acropolis, a punic and a phoenician necropolis and a tophet. The view from the mountain top is breathtaking.
The archaeological site of Monte Sirai is situated on a hilltop just east of the modern town of Carbonia. The ancient town was built on a strategic location between the mining districts and the fertile plains of south-western Sardinia, at only twenty kilometers from the ancient phoenician-punic-roman port of Sulki (Sant'Antioco). Monte Sirai was therefore considered a long time as a stronghold of the Phoenicians and the Punics, although archaeologists lately tend to have a different view on the function of the town. From the hilltop there is a wide panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.
The site consists of the excavated acropolis of the town, a phoenician burial site and a punic necropolis with grave chambers, and a tophet. In the neighbourhood there are a few Domus de Janas, prehistoric grave chambers cut in the rock, and remains of a nuraghe have been found. All artefacts that have been found have been transferred to the museums of Carbonia, Cagliari and Sant'Antioco.
The acropolis is situated on the edge of the hill with steep sides and can only be reached using the path that leads to the towngate. On both sides of the towngate structures are visible that are identified as defense walls. Passed the gate, to the right there are the main structures of Monte Sirai, a double temple structure and a rectangular structure with large walls. The two structures with each two rooms in the back have been interpreted as temples in Punic style with a double cella, probably still in use in roman times. The temple structures lie on the highest point and beneath it remains have been found of a nuraghe or nuraghe village which emphasizes the importance the place already had in the Bronze age. To the right of the double temple structure a large rectangular foundation is visible that has been interpreted as a fortified tower (mastio), on the other side a bagnarola (water bassin) has been found. The site of Monte Sirai has a Phoenician phase, after which it was abandoned and reoccupied in Punic times well into the roman period.
From the highest point three roads run down to the other end of the acropolis where they join again in small squares. Probably the first houses near the temples were of important citizens whilst the craftsmen lived and worked in the houses along the streets. One of the larger houses has been excavated extensively, the House of Fantar, named after the archaeologist who conducted the excavations. Through a vestibule the courtyard is accessed. All rooms had doors on the courtyard and a staircase led to the upper rooms. A detail of the sewer is still visible. In another structure remains of gypsum have been found that was used in ceilings to let through the light. In many structures evidence has been found of the crafts that were exercised.
The Punic necropolis and the Phoenician burial site
The necropolis of Monte Sirai consists of punic grave chambers and phoenician graves. The Punic grave chambers, used for entire families, have been cut out in the rock and are accessible through stairs. One of the grave chambers can only be visited with a guide, here on a pilar the Egyptian sigh of life, the ankh, has been carved upside down. The sign was also used by the Punics to symbolize the goddess Tanit. The rest of the chambers can be visited freely.
To the northwest the tophet was situated in sight of the acropolis. The tophet was created during the second, punic, phase of Monte Sirai. Apart from the many urns found in situ, like the tophets of Sulki and Tharros, there was also a small temple structure. In the temple structure the altar is still visible in the northern corner of the inner room, cella. The altar was not used for cremation, just religious offerings, the cremation was done in the opne air. Unfortunately the restoration of the tophet has been done with a cement wall.
Address: Strada Statale 126 Sulcitana - località Sirai
Tel: 0781 62665
Opening times: summer 9:00-20:00 (july and august every day); 9.00 - 19.00 (the other months and closed on monday); winter 9:30-16:30 (october - march monday closed)
Prices: Euro 6,00 (reduced Euro 5,00 euro)
Website: Sistema Museale Carbonia
Guided tours available
The information has been updated for 2018 but prices and opening hours may vary.