Necropolis Anghelu Ruju
The prehistoric necropolis of Anghelu Ruju is one of the largest in northern Sardinia. There are about 38 prehistoric graves similar to Domus de Janas, artifical rock cut chambers. The necropolis is situated near the airport of Alghero in the middle of the historic and fertile region of the Nurra.
Necropolis Anghelu Ruju
The prehistoric burial site of Anghelu Ruju, in the north of Sardinia near the town of Alghero, is one of the most ancient and most valuable from an archaeological perspective. The archaeological site lies on the road from Alghero to Porto Torres and Sassari and is therefore easy to reach. The necropolis consists of two adjacent areas with a total of 38 burials, all gravechambers cut in the rocky underground of a low hill. Around it lies the fertile lowland plain of the Nurra that stretches from Alghero in the south to Porto Torres in the north.
The oldest finds from the necropolis have been dated to around 3500 BC and are ascribed to the culture of Ozieri in the neolithic period. The earliest graves are of the type a pozzetto, an almost vertical shaft that gives access to a gravechambers with one or more cells. The form then evolved into the type a dromos, a longer horizontal shaft giving access to a vestibule and a gravechamber with one or more cells added to it. In the subsequent period, that of the culture of Abealzu-Filigosa from 2500 BC onward, some of the graves were reused and might have even been extended.
However of the culture of Monte Claro, around 2400 BC, and the Beaker culture (2200 BC onward) not many traces have been found in the necropolis which suggests it was not very much used. Only in the later bronze age, the Bonnanaro culture (1800 BC) or nuragic age, the gravechambers were again reused for burials.
The hill with the rocky underground (chalky sandstone) where the gravechambers were cut out is not very high. This meant that the vertical room was limited and the ceiling remained often very thin, causing many chambers over time to collapse. The graves of the type a pozzetto have an irregular plan like the Grave XXV, while those of the type a dromos have a symmetrical plan, often in a T-shape. The type that is more common on Sardinia, the Domus de Janas with a rectangular opening in the vertical face of a hill, is not found here because of the reduced vertical space available.
The more complex graves a dromos usually have an antechamber or vestibule giving access to a central chamber large enough to have served as a place to perform funerary rituals. Around this central chamber there are one or more cells, the actual gravechambers where the dead were deposited. One type of grave a dromos is called sassarese with a number of cells around the central chamber like the spokes of a wheel, common for graves found in the area around Sassari. Some of the graves have a vestibule or central chamber with decorations in relief, either symbols (Grave XXVIII) or architectural elements as decorations around the openings. Some of these openings are fake, maybe symbolising access to the afterlife or maybe just as work started but never finished. In the floor of some of the graves round cups have been cut, much similar to the ones found in the Domus de Janas elsewhere on Sardinia and maybe central to the funerary rites.
The graves were closed by a rectangular slab and sealed with clay after the burial, which was to be reopened when the next burial would take place. Only Grave VII still has this slab in place, in all other graves the slab has disappeared.
The necropolis consists of two distinct parts. All graves have been marked by a sign during excavation, either a roman number or a letter depending on the excavation. To the south on the highest part of the hill lie most graves. The first grave near the entrance is Grave A, followed by Grave V and XIX. Behind these graves there are ten more graves, among these the graves III, XI and XII. These last two graves are the only ones that have been discovered still intact by the archaeologists, with all votive gifts still in place.
To the right of grave XIX lies Grave VII, the only grave with still the slab that closes the entrance in place, but walls and ceiling have disappeared. Behind that grave is a rocky face with graves lined up from left to right grave VI, XXIV and I. Around the corner are the graves VIII, VIIIbis and IX all with their entrance on the vertical rock face of the hill. The last grave in line is XXV, a nice example of a grave a pozzetto. On top of the hill behind the rock face are three more graves of some importance, XXX, XXVIII and C. Grave XXVIII is of the sassarese type and contains some particular motives in relief near the entrance; double bull horns above a disc on each side. Grave C, another grave a pozetto, has collapsed in part and is now clearly visible with it's structure of a shaft and a central chamber giving access to other chambers.
To the north side of the archaeological area, the second part, lie the graves XX, II and XXbis. Grave II has been used as a home to a family in more recent times and has been damaged a lot. The reuse of grave chambers as habitation is also known from other parts of Sardinia. Grave XXbis is a particularly large and monumental grave with two pillars in the central chamber that support the ceiling.
With this last grave ends the itinerary of the necropolis.
1. Demartis, G.M. 1986, La necropoli di Anghelu Ruju, Sassari
2. Lilliu,G. 2003: La civiltà dei Sardi dal paleolitico all'età dei nuraghi, Nuoro
Address: SP 42 Alghero - Sassari near the airport of Fertilia
Tel: +39 3294385947, 3490871972, 3490871963
Openingtimes: may-september 9.00-19.00; april and october 9.00-18.00; november-march 10.00-14.00
Prices: Euro 5,00 (Euro 8,00 Necropolis and Nuraghe Palmavera combined) reduced Euro 4,00 under conditions
Guided tours are available
The information has been updated for 2019 but prices and opening hours may vary.