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The nurgahe or stone tower of La Prisgiona.

Nuraghe La Prisgiona: the Archaeology of a Nuragic Village

The Nuragic culture developed during the Bronze Age in Sardinia, leaving behind a distinctive style of architecture for us to marvel at in modern times. Nuraghe are instantly recognisable – these are large megalithic towers constructed of stone; the remnants of a Nuragic civilisation which can be found all over the island. In the summer of 2017 I got to visit one of these sites while holidaying in Sardinia. Nuraghe La Prisgiona has a tower surrounded by a settlement of over 90 buildings, and covering an area of about 5 hectares.

During my recent visit to Sardinia, I traveled to a number of nuraghe in the north-east. I found each site uniquely impressive, yet the Nuragic complex of Nuraghe La Prisgiona in Capichera, Arzachena – left a lasting impression on me. Occupied between 1300-800 BC, the site incorporates an entire Bronze Age village which has been part-excavated. The addition of walkways allows visitors access (for just a few euros) to explore around the various huts and features. I found it to be quite an exhilarating and intimate experience.

A view of the Nuragic complex of Nuraghe la Prisgiona in Arzachena, Sardinia.
Looking over the remains of the ancient settlement towards the nuraghe. Walkways allow visiotors to walk safely around the archaeological site.

The archaeology covers an area of several square metres – the star of the show undoubtedly being the nuraghe itself. The central tower reaches 6 metres in height to a false dome cover. This structure is associated with two side towers and a large enclosed courtyard. Not only could I stand beside and press my hands against these ancient walls, but I was able enter inside. There is a sense of privilege passing through the huge lintel entrance.

Once inside the central chamber, my first reaction was to look up towards the false dome cover. As if that were not awe-inspiring enough, to my left was something I did not expect to see, a winding staircase. Individually shaped blocks of stone had been carefully cut to form a near-perfect curved feature – leading up to another chamber on an upper level. For me, this offered an insight into just how advanced Nuragic culture must have been.

This is a perspective looking upwards from the central chamber of the Nuraghe at Nuraghe la Prisgiona in Sardinia.
Looking upwards from within the central chamber of the nuraghe.

Archaeological Excavations at La Prisgiona

Archaeological investigations first took place at Nuraghe la Prisgiona in the 1950s, with excavation of the interior and facade of the main tower in 1999-2000. However, it is only in recent years that the true extent of the surrounding village has been realised. The remains of around 90 huts have been discovered so far – while a large area of the settlement containing hundreds more huts lies unexcavated (due to laws protecting the land). The sheer scale of this amazing site makes it the most complex example in north-east Sardinia.

This truly is a village too. I was fascinated to see a vast network of paved Bronze Age avenues which connect the various buildings together. There are also other stunning features to explore; within the courtyard is a beautifully crafted stone well, reaching a depth of 7 metres. At the bottom, several finely decorated Nuragic ‘askoidi’ jugs have been recovered. Astonishingly, the well itself is still active.

As I wandered on just a few metres, I came across a building known as the ‘meeting hut’ – thought to have been a place of ritual function. Inside is a circular bench which can seat around 16 people. During excavation, an unusual drinking vase was also discovered inside, leading archaeologists to believe it held a special religious purpose. In fact, throughout the village, I found huts with peculiar stone furnishings incorporated into their architecture; one feature set against a wall resembled that of a rectangular basin.

A view of a building called the 'meeting hut' at Nuraghe la Prisgiona in Sardinia.
The ring-shaped stone bench within the ‘meeting hut’ – perhaps important Nuragic inhabitants congregated here to drink from the vase discovered here.

Whether further excavation of the village here will continue remains to be decided. Though there is plenty of archaeology to discover in the mean time. What is truly exciting, is to imagine that an advanced Bronze Age community once established itself and flourished here. In this case, the real experience at Nuraghe la Prisgiona is being able to walk in the footsteps of this ancient civilization. For me, this is what brings this remarkable site to life.

Archaeology Travel Tip

Nuraghe La Prisgiona is part of a group of seven Nuragic sites that are open to the public around Arzachena. With their combined tikect pass, the more you visit the cheaper the entry is. It’s really very simple, you pay less the more you visit. Just show your pass on arrival at each site. Visiting one site costs €4, while visiting two is €7, three €10, and so on. Visiting all three only costs €20. Passes can be purchased at any of the participating site ticket offices.

The seven sites are: La Prisgiona, Necropolis of Li Muri, Nuraghe Albucciu, Malchittu Temple, Tomb of the Moru Giants, Tomb of the Coddu ‘Ecchju Giants and Tomb of Li Lolghi Giants.

Archaeology Travel WRITER

Jason Summers

My interest in humanity’s past has been obvious for as long as I can remember. So it was not a surprise to anyone I would study archaeology at University. In my spare time I greatly enjoy exploring the outdoors, and of course visiting historic and archaeological sites. I have a Batchelor of Arts in Archaeology from the University of Exeter.

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