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The Rock of the Elephant in Castelsardo and its ‘domus da janas’

Sunday 23 july 2017

In the village of Castelsardo there is a unique cave, whose elephant shape hides ancient sepulchres and mysteries. Find out which ones in this article.

The Rock of the Elephant in Castelsardo and its ‘domus da janas’

"Who from Castelsardo runs through the National Way to Sedini, suddenly faces a strange spectacle. A giant elephant, three times as high as the huge prehistoric mammoths, coming out of the jungle and roaming toward the mountain. "

(Edoardo Benetti)


In Castelsardo, the village in the province of Sassari, from which it is possible to embrace all the shores of the Gulf of Asinara, there is a rock eroded by time and wind, which dominates the valley that descends in the direction of Valledoria to reach the level of sea.

This is the Rock of the Elephant, a large volcanic rock mass (made of trachyte and andesite) with a strong rusty colour, greatly eroded by the atmospheric agents, which gave it the singular appearance of a seated pachyderm. Originally, the boulder was part of the rocky complex of Mount Castellazzu, from which it drifted down to the valley.

In the official documents the rock was called Sa Pedra Pertunta (the perforated stone), a local expression that recalls its particular conformation. Then, in 1914, the scholar Edoardo Benetti was the first to associate the boulder with an elephant.

It is said that the ancient Valledoria, at that time called Codaruina, was a very active and populous area, but after a cataclysm or a tsunami, it was buried and forgotten forever.

The confirmation of this legend would is represented by the remains of shells and marine fossil sediments on the rock surface and around the surrounding mountains, also rich in marine fossil remains.

Recently, the Elephant’s Rock has entered the list of so-called "objects out of time", which includes all those objects, monuments, natural or relief rocks that should not exists, because their look is something too complex to fabricate or make, if related to the time they originated.

domus de janas

Today, the Elephant Rock, besides being an important tourist-landscape attraction, has also a remarkable archaeological significance, thanks to its two domus de janas, prehistoric burial structures made up of tombs excavated in the rock, typical of Prenuragian Sardinia (the period before the Nuragic civilization, dating from the 6th millennium BC to the end of the 3rd millennium BC).

It is assumed that the inner rooms were excavated in two different moments by the Sherden, one of the communities belonging to the coalition of the peoples of the sea, which is often identified with the ancient population of Sardina, to use them as a ritual temple.

The upper domus, the first one to be excavated, has only three compartments, whilw the covered pavilion that preceded it is missing. It collapsed together with the tomb's prospect.

 On the contrary, the second bedroom, located below, is very well preserved. Originally preceded by a dromos, a short corridor partly covered and partly open-air, you can enter it through a narrow quadrangular door, and it has four compartments.
Particularly interesting is its bovine protomy, a decorative element common to several domus de janas, carved in relief on the wall of a cell. Its particular curvilinear style denotes an evolved artistic stage and allows to say that the construction of the tomb happened in the first half of the 3rd millennium BC.

toro elefante

In both domus, we can also notice the ancient representations of Taurus, the same ones that we can see in ancient Crete in Knossos, or in the vastness of Greece, or in ancient ritual vessels and domestic use, and in more recent times, also appear in Turin, from which probably the city has been named. The bull, a symbol of strength and vitality, is a very present animal in the iconography of antiquity and in different ages it has taken on different meanings.
In your opinion, what mysterious meaning lies behind the taurine depictions of this ancient Sardinian people?


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