The Necropolis of Tuvixeddu
Archaeological site: Punic-Roman necropolis
Where: Cagliari on the hill of Tuvixeddu-Tuvumannu.
Period: VI century BC - I century AD (Republican period)
Civilization: Punic and Roman
A few lines about the Phoenician city of Cagliari.
Karalis is the Latinization of the Punic name for Cagliari which was Krl. The probable pronunciation of Krl was Karel, which meant City of God.
Cagliari was founded by the Phoenicians in the VII century BC. The headlands of Tuvixeddu and S. Elia were populated from the VI to the II millennium BC.
The first settlement of the Phoenician city was situated where Piazza del Carmine and the Railway Station are located today. The first settlement overlooked the pond of Santa Gilla.
Like other Phoenician settlements the ancient Karalis had an acropolis (which was situated in the area of modern day Castello), a tophet (which was probably situated in the area of San Paolo) and a number of necropolises.
The necropolis of Tuvixeddu
The necropolis of Tuvixeddu is the most famous necropolis of the ancient KRL.
It is one of the largest and most important necropolises in the Mediterranean area. It has various types of tombs which are well preserved. There are over 1100 Punic and Roman tombs.
Tuvixeddu/Tuvumannu is thought to be the most important necropolis of the Punic city. The other necropolises were part of the "new" areas which developed along the western shore. An example of this is the necropolis of Bonaria. Other necropolises were situated in the outlying areas.
Why it was situated in Tuvixeddu?
The geographic position of the necropolis was not by chance. It is believed that the Punics needed a large calcareous hill so that they could quarry the limestone which they used for building. It is probable that they were the first people to extract stone from here. This allowed them to build some well tombs (which were of Carthaginian origin). So the hill of Tuvisceddu had a dual purpose.
The Punic necropolis of Tuvixeddu/Tuvumannu have two principals types of tombs with numerous variants: tombs in the ground and tombs carved in the rock.
- Tombs in the ground
These tombs belong to the late necropolis period. It is difficult to identify and preserve these tombs because of their trough shape and their proximity to the surface.
There are two principal types of ground tombs: hole tombs (rectangular for one body) or in enchitrysmos (a body, usually of a young person, was placed in a carved amphora and then buried in a hole in the ground).
- Tombs carved in the rocks
In Tuvixeddu most of the tombs are rock tombs. There are three distinct types: hole tombs, simple well tombs and well tombs with hypogeous rooms.
- Hole tombs
These rectangular or trapezoidal tombs are carved out between the well tombs and are at the same depth and in the same direction as the well tombs.
- Simple well tombs
these rectangular tombs are rare. The body used to be placed directly on the floor or into a hole which was covered by large slabs.
- Well tombs with hypogeous rooms: most of the tombs in Tuvixeddu/Tuvimannu are of this type. An access shaft with smooth walls (with footholds to descend), leads to a burial room. Entrance to this room is via a rectangular door way which was blocked by a small "door" (a monolithic stone block).
The burial room is usually rectangular with flat ceiling and floor. It has holes in shape of rectangular burial niches with ledges carved in the longest walls.
In the walls it is possible to find niches where items were placed at the time of the funeral. These are sometimes decorated with symbolic figures such as the Tanit Symbol.
The two main tombs
Type: hypogeous room tombs.
They were discovered by Canepa during excavations from 1973 and 1981.
These tombs are called "Del Sid" and "Dell'Ureo".
- The Del Sid Tomb
On the ceiling of this tomb there is an ochre red and blue decoration. Carved in three walls (except for the entrance wall) there is a rectangular niche inside which there are three red betili.
This tomb got its name from the figure of a bearded male character wearing helmet and carrying spear that F. Barreca identified as the Phoenician-Punic warrior god Sid.
- The Dell'Ureo Tomb
Along the lateral walls of this tomb there is a frieze depicting small palms and dark red lotus flowers. On the back wall there is a frieze of a winged ureo (a snake with a solar disc which is typical of Phoenician art). On each side of the snake there are two lotus flowers and two gorgoneion (a frightening face with snakes on each side).
The first excavation of the Shad Elonim ("The God Field" the Phoenician name for the necropolis) date from 1855. They were carried out by canon Giovanni Spano. Excavations of the site were carried out by Taramelli, Crespi and Elena. The last excavation, by Donatella Salvi, took place in 1997.
Amici di Sardegna Association - Tel. 070651884
Guided tours by appointment.
by Manuela Cuccuru