Santu Antine, Sardinia: A Megalithic House Built for a King?
A mysterious civilization built megalithic structures across the island of Sardinia in the Bronze and Iron Ages. The buildings are now known as nuraghes – and the impressive nuraghe called Santu Antine is one of the largest of these huge stone structures on the island.
Nuraghes are found throughout the island of Sardinia, though they are located most densely in its northwestern and south-central parts. Like the other nuraghes scattered across Sardinia (which, according to some estimates, number in the thousands), Santu Antine is believed to have been built by the Nuragic civilization (whose name is derived from the monumental structures they left behind), which thrived on the island between the Bronze and Iron Ages.
Nuragic bronze sculpture of a chief. ( CC BY SA 3.0 )
House of the King
Santu Antine is often called the Sardinian form of Saint Constantine, the 4th century Roman emperor best known for his legalization of, and conversion to the Christian faith. The local population, on the other hand, simply refer to this nuraghe as Sa Domu de su Re , which means the ‘House of the King’.
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Santu Antine is found in the northwestern Sardinian province of Sassari. This nuraghe is situated not far from the town of Torralba and it stands in the center of the Cabu Abbas plain. Just beyond Santu Antine is the famous ‘Valley of the Nuraghe’, where several more of these monumental structures built by the Nuragic civilization can be found. Like other nuraghes found on Sardinia, Santu Antine was also built of large blocks of basalt, a rock that can be found on the island.
A view of the nuraghe Santu Antine. (Gianni Careddu/ CC BY SA 4.0 )
From afar, the most visible part of Santu Antine is its central tower, which has been reported to rise to a height of 16.5 meters (54.13 ft.) This central tower is composed of three smaller towers that were stacked one on top of the other. Only two of these towers have survived till today. The rooms of these two towers may be reached by climbing up a helicoidal staircase that was incorporated into the structure’s thick walls. All that remains of the third tower is a terrace, which provides a panoramic view of the structures around the tower, as well as the surrounding landscape. It has been suggested that this tower, which is the oldest part of the structure, was built around the 16th century BC. It is also believed that the entire nuraghe was not built in one go, but gradually over the centuries.
A gallery in the megalithic nuraghe Santu Antine. ( CC BY SA 3.0 )
There are three towers located around the central tower. As the surrounding towers are connected by massive walls, these form a defensive structure, in the form of a trilobed, around the central tower. The central tower is accessed on the southern side, in a section of the wall that is made broader. This allowed a small corridor and a guardroom to be added within. The corridor opens to a courtyard, with a large well. Several doors are also there, one of which leads to the central tower.
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The central tower of the Santu Antine megalith. ( Public Domain )
Views of a Nuragic Village
Around Santu Antine, remnants of what has been regarded to be a much larger Nuragic village have been partially uncovered and studied. A number of circular huts, 14 in total according to one source, have been identified. These huts have been dated to the 13th century BC. In some of these structures, artifacts dating to the Roman period have been found, suggesting that they were occupied even after the Nuragic civilization came to an end. Certain huts also contained features, such as seats, hearths, and niches that aid in our understanding of their function. For example, a hut located in front of the entrance of the nuraghe has a seat and a hearth, which has led researchers to designate it as a ‘meeting hut’.
The megalithic structure of Santu Antine and ruins of the nearby Nuragic settlement. ( CC BY SA 3.0 )