These 3,000-year-old giants watched over the cemeteries of Sardinia

Crafted in the Iron Age, dozens of massive stone statues lay broken beneath a field in Mont'e Prama. Recovered and rebuilt, they are revealing insights into a lost Mediterranean culture.

Boxer

Perfectly concentric circles and a T-shaped brow and nose form the distinctive face of one of the so-called stone giants of Sardinia, at the National Archaeological Museum of Cagliari.
Paul Wiliams/Alamy/ACI

Sardinian farmers plowing their fields in spring 1974 halted their work. They had struck what appeared to be a big rock, but closer examination revealed something far more intriguing: a stone head. Their discovery uncovered one of the most important Iron Age finds in the western Mediterranean.

The limestone block was unearthed at Mont’e Prama, on the island’s fertile western coast. It was the first of thousands of fragments to be harvested by archaeologists over the following decades. These pieces have since been reassembled into dozens of giant statues.

Originally carved from single blocks of limestone, the Mont’e Prama giants tower over most people. Some stand nearly seven feet tall. They have highly stylized features, such as triangular faces and T-shaped eyebrows and noses. Their most distinctive features are their eyes: These are represented by large, round concentric circles that stare straight ahead. Some statues hold shields, others hold bows. Based on these traits, scholars have grouped the Mont’e Prama statues into three main categories: archers, boxers, and warriors.

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