Called colloquially ‘Domos de Janas’ – spirit, or fairy houses – the tombs are of two types: calatoia – the oldest, with a simple single cell or with an irregular floor-plan; and dromos – having a T plan or centripetal layout, with cells opening out from a central space or corridor.
Above is a group of early irregular tombs. Below are later more complex groupings.
They share some common design features: a series of steps down from the entrance and a descending passage to a large burial chamber with smaller connecting chambers. The hypogei all have more than one cella (2-11), with shaft and corridor entrances, and steps leading down. The cells are sometimes curved, sometimes rectilinear, sometimes irregular. In the corridor tombs, considered particularly advanced specimens, there is a significant number of decorative features both architectural and ritual. Although aligned in different directions, the opening is always oriented downhill.
Many of the doorways are carved to imitate smoothly dressed trilithons, but what makes Anghelu Ruju famous are the carvings of long-horned bulls’ heads in and around three of the tombs (numbered 19, 20 bis and 30). These symbols were sometimes painted in red ochre, and they have been interpreted in different ways. Whether they were linked with the Great Goddess or with the later Sun cult is open to debate. Many of the human bones found in the tombs were lying under a layer of white shells.
The tombs’ architecture is often embellished with details inspired by the houses of the living – steps, pillars, frames, architraves – and false doors and windows. It is the larger central spaces that are decorated with bas-relief bull’s horns, and niches, indicating that funerary rites were performed there. Remains of ritual meals or offerings have been found in large cellae, or at the entrance corridor.
The large number of finds have allowed archaeologists to assign the first users to the Ozieri culture [Late Neolithic 3300 – 2900] and show that the last were of the Bonnanaro culture [Early Bronze Age 1800 – 1600] – the Nuraghe-builders.
Among the many grave goods dating from 2200 to 1700 BC there are obsidian, barbed and tanged flint arrowheads, an axe and an awl from Ireland, a copper ring from East Europe, copper-tanged daggers from Spain, Beaker pottery, small marble statuettes, and spiral wire beads. The tombs contained from 2 up to 30 individuals [among which a few remains of children have been found] in either primary or secondary inhumation, and a few later remains show that partial incineration had taken place.
Above is the plan for the biggest and most advanced tomb, and below is a view down the broad steps.
Cost:€3 Opening Hours: Nov-Mar: 9.30am-2pm; March 9.30 – 4; Apr-Oct: 9am-7pm
Towards Porto Torres on the “two seas” road – first small road on left after Fertilia airport. Carpark & small visitors centre.
There is a lifetime’s worth of megalith-hopping in Sardinia – 7000 and rising – and a great place to start is in the north-west around Alghero. Ryanair flies to nearby Fertilia. We stayed at the B & B Maraviglios Via dell’Istria 10/b – Fertilia 0039 – 348 46 94 376 Our host was Enzo and he was generous and welcoming. Do not get scalped by the taxi-drivers [18 euros for 6 km. !] – rather get a dedicated shuttle-bus ticket [1 euro !] from the little machine at the airport and it takes you in to Fertilia, and on to Alghero [and back in time for the return flight].
Enzo’s B&B is located just 6 km from Alghero, which can be easily reached by car or on public transport. Moreover, the Maraviglios is situated just 4 km from Alghero/Fertilia airport, and there is even an airport shuttle-bus service that will drop you just a few metres from the front door. It’s a well-finished, modernish appartment, with room for 4/5 complete with washing machine/drier and a bath. It’s quiet and has a pleasant garden-view. We paid 25 E per person in Feb/March. Email or phone – his English is just about ok. He’ll meet you off the shuttle [and even drive you back to the airport!]
We had a cheap winter sailing week with Tim Carrington – he’s a real character and taught us a great deal. http://www.lets-go-sailing.co.uk