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Traces of a lost culture: Sardinia looked so magical in the Stone Age

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Dolmens, the huge stone graves, and menhirs are visible evidence of the Stone Age that can be found all over Europe, including Sardinia. This island, located in the middle of the Mediterranean, also surprises with its cultural artefacts that are still largely unknown to us. Remnants of the Stone Age shape the region to this day – as can be seen in the exhibition “Sardinia – Island of Megaliths” in the Neues Museum.

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Berlin is the first stop of this international show, organized by the Department of Tourism, Crafts and Trade of the Sardinia Region in collaboration with the National Archaeological Museum of Cagliari and the Regional Directorate of the Museums of Sardinia, the State Hermitage Saint Petersburg, the National Archaeological Museum in Thessaloniki , the National Archaeological Museum in Naples and the Museum of Prehistory and Early History in Berlin.

Around 200 objects from the Stone Age to the Iron Age provide a fascinating insight into an independent culture that nonetheless cultivated contacts in the Mediterranean region from an early age. A model shows the sanctuary of Monte d’Accodi, a step-shaped temple from the 4th to 3rd millennium BC with a long ramp. Just as unique are the so-called giant graves, the “Domus de Janas” (“Houses of the fairies or witches”), in which up to 100 people of all ages and social ranks were buried.

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Characteristic for the culture of the island are the 7000 nuraghi circular buildings made of layered basalt, trachyte and granite blocks, which were up to 20 meters high and could contain several floors. Often they were built in conjunction with smaller towers, in the vicinity of which there were also settlements.

According to legend, the orcs, evil beings with human features, lived in these buildings from the Middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age. Over time, these towers, of which many truncated cones still exist today, were converted into places of worship.

High level of knowledge

In the exhibition, six large video stations with excellent drone recordings of the architectural facilities provide an introduction to the respective topic. Ceramics, handicraft tools and weapons are among the finds made in the nuraghi and in the Domus de Janas.

A so-called ox skin bar, a copper plate in the shape of an ox skin with a weight of around 25 kilos, which found its way to Sardinia as a commodity from Cyprus, is impressive. Molds show the high level of know-how in metal processing.

This can also be admired in the filigree small sculptures that were found primarily in the pilgrimage sites of the nuragic culture. Warriors with two shields and sword bearers, but also an archer depicted in profile – unfortunately the bow is missing – indicate representatives of an aristocratic elite.

The extremely complex little “Pietà” of a mother with a plaintive look and a raised hand on a chair is touching. Her child sits on her lap with her head leaning back. A fascinating, detailed work of art from the Iron Age.

The legacy of the nuragic culture must have survived

But you could also go big in Sardinia: the 1.90 meter tall boxer statue left the island for the first time, arms and feet are missing, but the sculpture gives an impression of a tomb in which 40 of these figures were once divided into two in front of the respective graves Rows must have stood.

An amber pearl from the Baltic Sea area testifies to the fact that the islanders had contacts in distant regions. With the arrival of the Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans in the 3rd century BC, their time came to an end. The legacy of the nuragic culture must have survived, however, because Pope Gregory the Great complained in a letter to the Christian chief Hospito in 594 that the mountain dwellers still “revered” stone and wood. Part of this heritage turned out to be so long-lived that it can still be admired today.

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