How do rock-cut architectures interact with the landscape? The example of Prehistoric rock-cut tombs in Ossi, Sardinia (Italy)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract / Description of output

Unlike material-built architectures, rock-cut architectures cannot be created anywhere in the landscape. They rely on the availability and suitability of large natural outcropping rock faces. This imposes a direct, intimate relationship between rock-cut spaces and their physical environment. However, is it possible to identify cultural motivations which, beyond geological determinism, influenced the locational choices of the architectures in the past, and their orientation in the landscape? The article discusses the example of prehistoric rock-cut tombs in the island of Sardinia (Italy). These underground chambered tombs were used for collective burials between the Middle Neolithic up to the Middle Bronze Age (c. 4400 to 1300 BC). They were created in different types of geologies (sedimentary, igneous, metamorphic rocks) and landforms, from vertical cliffs, to hill slopes, boulders and flat horizontal bedrocks. Sardinian rock-cut tombs often present complex architectural layouts, with multiple chambers connected by small doorways, as well as wall paintings and carved motifs. They were not simple burial containers, but rather elaborate ritual architectures which displayed significant symbolic and functional features. So far, research has mainly focussed on the internal spaces of these tombs, with little investigations on their landscape setting. A recent fieldwork project carried out in Ossi (northwest Sardinia) focussed on two neighbouring cemeteries totalising 18 (Mesu ‘e Montes) and 12 (S’Adde ‘e Asile) rock-cut tombs. The research used multi-scale 3D survey to document the cemeteries, and fieldwalking to map evidence for prehistoric settlements associated with the cemeteries. The article discusses the topographic and visual relationships between rock-cut tombs and settlements. It argues that deliberate cultural choices were made in the location and orientation of the tombs, and that these choices reflected social interactions between the living and the dead in prehistoric Sardinia.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFrom Quarries to Rock-cut Sites
Subtitle of host publicationEchoes of Stone Crafting
EditorsAnaïs Lamesa, Katy Whitaker, Claudia Sciuto, Marie-Elise Porqueddu
PublisherSidestone Press
ISBN (Print)9789464261653, 9789464261646
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2023


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