Richard Scheuer

Colossal even in collapse, Nuraghe Losa looms over a tourist. More than 7,000 similar ruins of nuraghi, massive stone towers in the shape of truncated cones, crowd the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. Constructed by Sardinia’s indigenous culture, most of the nuraghi date to 1300–1000 B.C., although a few were built as late as the Punic period (600–238 B.C.). Some of the surviving nuraghi stand alone, while others form large complexes that include as many as 18 additional towers and an occasional enclosure wall. Erected with boulders, usually basalt, without the use of mortar, the nuraghi feature spiral staircases and a variety of chambers and passages within their corbelled structure (a quasi-arch formed by overhanging each higher course of stones). Despite their ubiquity—the greatest concentration of monumental stone architecture in Europe and the Mediterranean—the purpose of the nuraghi is an enigma. Although they exhibit a clearly defensive nature, whether they served as fortresses, storehouses, or dwellings for chiefs or nobles, or served some other specific purpose, remains unknown.