SARDINIA - MYSTERIOUS WELL AND NURAGHE IN SANTA CRISTINA Sunil Deepak, 2002

Sardinia (in Italian "Sardegna") is a group of islands off the west coast of Italy, just below the Corsica islands. Sardinia belongs to Italy while Corsica is French. The main island of Sardinia is about 240 km long and 150 km wide. Surrounded by an emerald and Turkish blue sea, Sardinia became famous in the seventies, when Agha Khan bought huge properties there to sacred well of Santa Cristinamake high-class hotels and villas for the jet set. Thus the north-eastern coast of Sardinia, especially the area around Porto Cervo, came to be known as Costa Smeralda (Emerald coast), attracting rich and famous from the world over. The coastal city of Cagliari (pronounced Caliari) in the south of the island is the capital of Sardinia. Other important cities of the island include Sassari, Oristano and Nuoro. (Map of west Europe left - Sardinia island shown in red)

The Mystery of Nuraghe

The rocky terrain of Sardinia is dotted with constructions dating back to Bronze Age period (1500 – 900 BC), called Nuraghe, remains of the Nuragic people. Not so much is known about the Nuragic people or why they made these fort like constructions, but Sardinia has more than 10,000 of them.

The earliest Nuraghe dating back 1500 years BC, are simple structures near the coast, presumably for guarding against the intruders coming from the sea. Gradually as the time passed, the Nuraghe became more elaborate and complex – a multi-storey central structure  surrounded by smaller towers, all inter-connected by covered passages. From these later Nuraghes, votive bronze figures made by open wax technique have been found, indicating that probably with time, Nuraghe also assumed some religious function.

Nuragic villages – simple stone huts, almost always surround the Nuraghe. Most of the time, all the constructions are sacred well of Santa Cristinafairly basic, made with rough basaltic stone of different sizes, placed one over another without any cement or binding between them.

The votive figures show long boats, human figures wearing horn, figures with multiple arms and eyes, etc. The later Nuraghe also show Phoenician artifacts, indicating that the two ancient populations were in contact.

The Nuraghe of Santa Cristina with the Mysterious Sacred Well

How to reach there and general information: On the state road SS 131 connecting Cagliari in the south to Sassari in the Northwest of the island near Oristano is the small city of Paulilatino. In the commune of Paulilatino, very close to SS 131 is the Nuraghe of Santa Cristina. Recently, the whole complex of Nuragic structures along with much more recent church sacred well of Santa Cristinaof Santa Cristina (1200 AD), have been made more tourist friendly with a museum (in the city of Paulilatino, 4 km away), a bar-restaurant and a souvenir shop. They also have some really nice guides with good knowledge of cultural and archaeological issues related to the site (though, all of them do not speak English).

The sacred well and the circular council room of Nuragic period are both accessible by wheel-chair. At present, the Nuraghe itself and the other Nuragic buildings are not accessible for the wheel-chair (October 2002), also because this area is under archaeological excavations.

The Pre-historical Monuments and Archaeo-astronomy

The historians of astronomy or the archaeo-astronomers are used to analysing the habits and culture of prehistoric populations through studies of the antique astronomical monuments, used by their priests-astronomers. Often, it is difficult to be sure about the possible scientific or ritual or military uses of these structures. Often the astronomical constructions of pre-historical populations were used as calendars for predicting the change of seasons, focusing mainly on cyclical changes in the sun or sacred well of Santa Cristinathe moon. It has been proposed that the megalithic monuments like that of Stonehenge in UK were used in such ways.

Large stones placed upright in the ground in circles is not unique to Stonehenge, though it is important for its sheer size and beauty. Nuragic villages of Sardinia, in the Saint Martin village of Aosta in Northern Italy and the Toraja villages in South Sulawezi island of Indonesia, also present such constructions.

In its apparent movement around the Earth, the Sun seems to pass through a oval cycle. Moon also moves around the Earth along another axis, which is inclined by 5.9 degrees to the Solar cycle. The two places where these two cycles meet are called nodes and every eighteen and a half years, the line of the nodes completes one cycle.

This means that every 18.6 years, there is one day in the equinox of spring, when the moon is at the highest distance towards north from the eastern cardinal point.

The Sacred Well of Santa Cristina

The sacred well of Santa Cristina was built by Nuragics around 1100 BC. Compared to the rest of Nuragic constructions, sacred well of Santa Cristinaincluding the biggest Nuraghe built any where in the island, this well shows remarkably different and exquisite workmanship. Its basalt stone are cut smooth in rectangular blocks, fitting each other closely. The smooth steps lead down to a perfect circular pond. Even stranger are the reverse stairs carved into the roof of the opening leading down to water, similar to the pyramids.

Twice every year, at spring equinox and autumn equinox, sunlight hits the water directly, producing a very suggestive rhomboid block of light on the water. Probably, during Nuragic times, these two moments were celebrated by the population. For the last thousand years, at these same times of the year, Catholic pilgrims get together for a week of Novenas. Santa Cristina church was built in 1200 AD.

There is another small hole, right at the top of well. Some people feel that this hole was made later on and was used only for pulling up water from the well “because people didn’t want to climb down all the stairs”. In reality, the stairs are not so many and it seems strange that someone would make such a hole at the top. Every 18.6 years, the full moon sacred well of Santa Cristinareflects through the hole on to the water.

There are other sacred wells in Sardinia near nuragic sites, but none so well preserved and so well-made. Did Nuragic people know about astronomy? Is it possible that they made the well just by chance without any real knowledge of solar and lunar motion? It seems difficult that such a perfect construction was made without a special reason. We know that Nuragic people were in contact with Phoenicians but did they have any contacts with Egypt, where they had already been building pyramids with similar looking stones-cutting and binding techniques, for many centuries?

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