Sites and events Necropolis of Montessu

Necropolis of Montessu

Necropolis of Montessu

Villaperuccio (CI)

The necropolis of Montessu lies on a hill north of Villaperuccio. The tombs are of the type Domus de Janas, prehistoric chambers cut in the rock. All main types of grave chambers can be found there, in use since 3000 BC up to the bronze age, which makes this necropolis unique in its kind. In more recent times the largest graves have also been used as shelters by shepherds and their families.

Necropolis of Montessu

In the south of Sardinia near the town of Villaperuccio lies the prehistoric necropolis of Montessu with about forty graves. These graves are mainly chambers cut in the trachyte rock on two sides of a valley, ranging from simple gravechambers to complex multi-chambered graves. Almost all types of early prehistoric graves are represented in this necropolis and some of these graves stand out for their decoration with particular symbols and reliefs.

From the entrance of the archaeological area it is a few hundred meters on foot before reaching the first graves on the east side of the valley facing the plains around Villaperuccio. The very first grave has a very common architecture for Sardinian prehistoric graves; an entrance gives access to a vestibule and a central round chamber with raised niches to deposit the remains of the deceased. This first grave has a number of particular decorations, including spirals and dentations. The reddish colour comes from the ochre used to cover the remains of the deceased. Most of these graves have been damaged by cutting away the ceiling using explosives like dynamite to obtain, once overturned, waterbassins for animals, leaving the graves exposed to the air.

The largest grave on the east side has been reused as a dwelling, probably seasonal, for shepherds and their families. In origin these were large Domus de Janas, the graves of important families. It is a common feature in Sardinia that graves of this type have been reused in the more recent past for other purposes. A number of graves on the necropolis have an area in front of the entrance marked by stones. Furthermore there is a Domus de Janas that has three holes cut in the rock face just above the entrance, probably used for sacred objects or decorations.

On this side of the necropolis there are also remains of an Allee Couverte, the predecessor of the Tombe di Giganti. The Allee Couverte is known mainly from western European prehistoric contexts of the Beaker culture, a limited number has been found in Sardinia as well. A little further on the remains of a prehistoric paved road are visible, this road runs down the valley past a water well or spring.

On the west side of the valley there are several graves similar to those on the east side. One of these is another large Domus de Janas, also this one has been reused as a dwelling. On the furthest west side, opposite the first grave there is another grave chamber with a particular decoration. The grave can be accessed through an opening in the rocky underground, descending a few steps. Once inside it becomes clear that the stepping stone is a large bulls head. Archaeologists believe that the spirals may represent the female deity whilst the bull (or bulls horns) represents the male deity. The spirals, bulls and bulls horns are common symbols in the context of graves and sanctuaries in Sardinia.

It is recommended to visit the site with the guide as they are very knowledgeable and can explain a lot about the religious background of the graves and the prehistory of the area. Around Villaperuccio there are also other important archaeological sites connected to the necropolis like menhirs, nuraghi and prehistoric villages.

Bibliography

Atzeni, E. - G.M. Melis 2000: Villaperuccio tra ipogeismo e megalitismo, Sassari

Address: Località Montessu - Villaperuccio (CI)

Tel: +39.0781.64040

Opening times: 09:00 - 17:00

Prices: 5,00 euro (reduced 3,00 euro)

Website: www.mediterraneacoop.it

Guided tours available

The information has been updated for 2018 but prices and opening hours may vary.

Last updated 02/09/2016

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