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    S'Urachi's nuraghe, the ancient Mediterranean melting pot in Maristanis wetlands.

    S’Urachi is a journey through time and into the unfolding mystery, an exercise for the the mind and its focus to the wonder of history, the role it has in the present, in the possible paths of the future. The low and gray sky envelops the countryside of San Vero Milis, giving it an atmosphere of a moorland. The nuraghe is a lump of earth and stones covered with dry moss, which rises inconspicuously next to the provincial road. Around the bare trees, a small swamp created by the persistent rains of recent weeks, the white sheets propped up by the stones that preserve the last stage reached by the excavations.

    "When the young prof. Lilliu and the superintendency decided to start the works, in 1948, this was just a hill. It was only visited to collect the clay that was used for the construction of the town", says Alfonso Stiglitz, director of the civic museum of San Vero Milis and archaeologist who for forty years has been investigating Sardinia’s I millennium in the Gulf of Cagliari and Oristano, and their relations with the eastern Mediterranean. The first excavations brought to light the wall, the towers that announce and protect the actual nuraghe, which is entirely covered with earth. The research was soon interrupted, only to resume in the 1980s, with some excavation campaigns directed by prof. Giovanni Tore of the University of Cagliari. Then again in 1995 and 2005, when Stiglitz himself and Dr. Alessandro Usai of the Archaeological Superintendence. Finally, in 2013, the venture of Stiglitz and prof. Peter Van Dommelen of Brown University, one of the oldest and most prestigious American universities, began. For seven years, every summer they have been digging for five weeks. 25 scholars converge on San Vero Milis from all over the world. The goal is to reconstruct the environmental, social and cultural microcosm of Nurachi, a fundamental center in the long Nuragic season of the Oristano area. “Men are the center of archaeology. Walls and shards serve only to tell their story”, says Stiglitz.

    In order for the enterprise to be completed, S’Urachi hosts various forms of collaboration. At Harvard University, interested in the study of oxygen isotopes, Stiglitz and Van Dommelen provide archaeological materials that emerge from the excavations, especially human and animal bones. An extraordinary collection, which includes the oldest chicken bone in Europe, dating back to the 7th century BC. “A chicken with a certain dignity”, jokes Stiglitz. The common domestic rooster has exotic origins, it comes from India and Cambodia, and arrived in our country thanks to the Phoenicians. Uncovering the actual nuraghe is extremely demanding and expensive. The ice ax is not enough, other means are needed to unveil and shore up the ancient structure. The perimeter area, in addition to being less expensive, preserves life: collections of seeds, an oak trunk from the eighth century BC, ceramics.

    The Nuragic life sleeps under the geotextiles, which preserves the work and slows down the growth of vegetation, so that at the end of June the week of thinning the grass around can be avoided. The days of excavation begin at 7 in the morning. Some go to the site, others remain at the museum, bent over the study of the material. The excavation goes on until lunch. In the afternoon finds are cleaned, the shards washed, translated into a drawing. The site’s documentation is compiled. The group, in addition to be ready to sacrifice a member to explain the story of S’Urachi to anyone who comes along, organizes an open day for the curious, its over five weeks stay. A final conference collects and exhibits the summer discoveries.

    S’Urachi was also frequented in pre-Nuragic times. This is demonstrated by the discovery of several out of context ceramic fragments. A fairly common fact for the Sinis peninsula, where the Domus de Janas attest human presence since the fourth millennium. Stiglitz hypothesizes that the central nuraghe was built between the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries, and the ten very regular towers that make up the bulwark (and make S'Urachi similar to the famous complex of Barumini) belong instead to the Recent Bronze. The turning point takes place in the eighth century, when the first Phoenician finds appear and most of the Nuragic sites in the area abandoned, but not S'Urachi. The Nuragic and Phoenician ceramics, initially distinguished by technique, shape and decoration, begin to merge. The faired cups become indistinguishable. “The Nuragic artisans experiment, they no longer suffer the problem of identity. At the end of the seventh and early sixth centuries, the Nuragic objects disappeared. Only the new materials and new forms remain. It is the hybridization, a community was born that we do not define neither Nuragic nor Phoenician. I call them Sardinians, with a capital S”, says Stiglitz.

    The depopulation that the Sinis Peninsula and the territories that embrace the Gulf of Oristano undergo are part of a wider phenomenon, which all affects the Mediterranean basin. Between the second half of the eighth century and the end of the seventh, the people of the Mare Nostrum are urbanizing, the tendentially egalitarian societies slide towards stratification. “Some speak of clans, others of lineages. I, softly, speak of classes", explains the anthropologist. The city where S’Urachi's population gradually converges is Tharros. This is demonstrated by the presence of the Tophet, the typical Phoenician sanctuary. Not all the Nuragic centers are crossed by the process that leads to hybridization. No artifacts belonging to the 1000-year-old Phoenician urban culture have been found in renowned Mont'e Prama site.

    Hence the extraordinary importance of S’Urachi, which Stiglitz imagines as a Nuragic crossroads between two shores of landing on the sea, Mistras and Su Pallosu, the Montiferru where iron and timber were obtained, and the cultivated plain. A strategic center for production and logistics, capable of welcoming Levantine influences and then following them in the transition of the urban era. A fascinating paradigm, a mosaic to be completed through research, which proceeds parallel in the Nuragic village of Tharros (discovered in the 1970s), under the direction of Alessandro Usai. Between the sea, the mountains, the plains and the wetlands: S’Urachi lay a short distance from Mar’e Foghe, a large pond now channeled into a river. And then, at close distance, the pond of Cabras, and Sal’e Porcus. Built on a very powerful water vein that suggested the construction of a moat with embankments in front of the bulwarks. Even today a few excavations are enough to bring out the aquifer. The Nuragic people of S’Urachi did not fear water, nor the sea, nor its peoples.

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