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April 29, 2017

Sardinia: Su Nuraxi di Barumini

Looking up one of towers at Su Nuraxi di Barumini

On the way from Oristano to the southern Sardinia port city of Cagliari we paused to see Su Nuraxi di Barumini.

Su Nuraxi di Barumini is a prehistoric site that dates from the 17th century BC. The stone buildings have been partially reconstructed and the archeological site is open for visits. According to UNESCO, which designated the area as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1997, Su Nuraxi di Barumini is “the finest and most complete example of this remarkable form of prehistoric architecture.”

Su Nuraxi di Barumini

The central “tower” structures were surrounded by lower buildings.

Usually I trust Wikipedia to be informative about the places we visit. In this case Wikipedia is not particularly helpful. The online dictionary says that “Su Nuraxi” means “The Nuraghe” in the southern variant of the Sardinian language. Unfortunately my knowledge of Sardinian, northern or southern variant, is, well, nonexistent. I can’t vouch for the translation. Further research on the Internet reveals that nuraghe is perhaps related to the Sardinian word “nurra” meaning a “heap of stones, cavity in earth.” We will go with the Nurage meaning a heap of stones, as there were no cavities in sight. A pile of rocks most accurately fits the description of the place.

Wikipedia goes on to say that the real function of the nuraghe is still debated. Summarizing Wiki, a nuraghe is a carefully arranged pile of rocks whose purpose is unknown but possibly is for religious, refuge, civil, residential, or military purposes. That’s a wide range of possibilities. I’ll add one more: Maybe the prehistoric Sardinian people built this pile of rocks in the 17th century BCE to mess with tourists in the 21st century. If the ancient Sardinians didn’t think of this, they should have. It works.

A plaque marks Su Nuraxi di Barumini as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

To be honest I’m generally not enthusiastic about prehistoric ruins. Perhaps I lack the imagination to see how ancient people interacted with a place that currently looks like a pile of rocks or a collapsed building. That said Su Nuraxi di Barumini is interesting. It helps that the partially collapsed rock pile has been partially reassembled to show what it once looked like and that a good walkway has been constructed through the complex. It also helps that the visits are guided. And perhaps part of the appeal is the intrigue about the purpose of the place. Su Nuraxi di Barumini is a mysterious place.


Getting attractive photographs of what is essentially a pile of rocks is not easy. Here are a couple of good shots from the Internet, one during winter and a few from above.

The belfry at Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, Oristano’s cathedral



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