Nuragic bronce figurines

In Uta, in 1849, were found eight nuragic bronze figurines by a carpenter who, having gone there to cut wood, near a rock saw the head of the bigger bronze figurine.

He got his companion to help him to remove the block, under which they found the eight bronze figurines with as many bronze swords.
All the little idols go back to the same time and it seems that they are realized by the same hand. They represent the most valid testimony of the existence of human life in the zone of Uta in the nuragic period.

Recent studies say that the figurines belong to the Mediterranean artistic current, characterized by geometric elements and values, and diffusely working since the beginnings of the last millennium BC.
The figurines were done with the “technique of the lost wax” that is to say on single models that were destroyed during the fusion. They are one different from the other and quite small (from about 15 to 39 cm).

The idols examined and described by the canon Spano were numbered in this way:

  • 1 and 3, soldiers with sword that hangs from the shoulder: each one is 15 cm high and seems on guard or prayer;
  • 2, soldier with sling: 15 cm high;
  • 4, two fighters on the ground;
  • 5, warrior with sword and shield: 24 cm high
  • 6, warrior with sword and bow: 24 cm high
  • 7, ran through bull;
  • 8, chieftain: 39 cm high.

Everyone has the bandoleer, that is to say the “balteus”, the dagger and the military belt made of a large leather strip that hung from the humerus, under the left arm. The dagger, which wounded with the pointed, was attached to the balteus.
The idols have the same character, date back to the same time and are made by the same hand.
The 5th and the 6th have a bronze helmet; in the front part of the forehead, a cone juts out, crosses the head finishing in another cone (behind) without visor, and laterally emerge two horns as those of the cows or two half moon-shaped horns. The helmet is the most ancient defensive weapon of the warriors; in fact, the head is the most delicate part of human body. The horns can be considered as symbol of the peacock or of the panic that was struck into the enemies. Everyone has the suit of armour of the thorax, cuirass and corselet.

The cuirass of those Sardinian soldiers:

  • The 5th wears a pressed cuirass that is to say of mail, and in the middle, there is a division with straps of the same material.
  • The 6th wears a simple and flat cuirass that probably was of mouflon leather.

The shield has in the middle a jutting out metal to injury the enemy. The numbers 5, 6 and 8, as well as the dagger (or “parazonio”), have a short wide sword: it had to be heavy and they wore it on the shoulder. The numbers 5 and 6 have a special bracelet (armilla) in their arm; it was given to the valiant warriors as a prize for their acts of valour. Usually, it was made of gold, silver or bronze. They also wear the jambs.

The number 4, the winner, has in his leg a ring twisted into coils: it is the “armilla” that was given to the fighters. The number 8 wears the “sagulum” or military sagum, it is square shaped (it is still used by the shepherds that call it “saccu”): it covers the humeruses and it is buckled on the breast with two wide strips decorated with fringes that hangs down, folded up on the shoulders.

Those idols were, without doubt, military Lares, that is to say domestic divinities, guardians of the home and of the family. They represented the famous ancestors of the family, who because of their value and their acts of value had achieved a big importance. Because of that, their own family worshipped them as deities.
Their cult was special; a place into the house, called “Lararium”, was assigned to them: the ordinary site was at the entrance of the doors into niches or around the fireplaces.

Those idols had their feet fixed with plumb to prevent them from escaping, so that they could avert bad luck in every moment (it was custom of Etruscan and Greek too).

Giovanni Lilliu in his work “Sculture della Sardegna nuragica” wrote: “…above all small sculptures have been found in sanctuaries where nuragic people, inhabitants of huts and nuraghes, praised the waters kept into wells. In those places the figurines were put as ex-vows of the believers, hung on the walls or fixed on stone pedestals in the vestibule of sacred wells…The most of the figurines have votive-cultural character, but someone come from homes, nuraghi, caves, boxrooms and few models from graves. They distinguish themselves above all by their sizes: the bigger ones represented the chieftains, who express their dynastic power of the king-shepherd with a big sword of parade, with a knotty stick (that is utilized as a sceptre) and with a big mantle of rough goatish cloth. Moreover, there are the figurines of the archers. The militaries represent the social aristocracy, the patrician class that has the right to wear weapons, oligarchic expression of a society of shepherds-warriors”.

The bronze figurines can be classified into three different stylistic groups: group of Uta, the Abini one and the free one or barbaricino-mediterraneizzante; the first 2 groups can constitute a single group, well characterized and different from the 3rd, so reducing the ancient island’s little plastic handicraft in 2 artistic currents, working separately.

The group Uta-Abini has geometric quality, with ordered symmetry, frontal arrangement and division into superimposed figurative surfaces; its spiritual dimension goes from the symbol to the nature. The figurines of this group are characterized by stiffness while those of the other group are characterized by soft lines and by the roundness of the lively and fanciful forms.

Between the two groups, there is also a difference about the chemical elements: The “gruppo barbaricino” has black patina while the “gruppo Uta-Abini” has green patina.
The bronze figurines of the Uta-Abini group represent, above all, king-shepherds, priests and soldiers or belong to the myth and to the sacred, concerning the common mortals just as an exception: they reproduce the aristocratic and the transcendental, with a detached and religious sense. Probably the small statues of “Uta-Abini” been made by craftsmen who had their workshop near small monarchies or near big federal sanctuaries.

In the severe haughtiness of the bronze figurines, it is possible to see the pride and the dignity of the proto Sardinian oligarchic class.
The bronze figurines have to be judged contemporary to the development of Greek and Etruscan figurative civilization with which the relations do not lack.

In the mountains, the craftsmen continued moulding the small bronze puppets, until the Hellenistic-Roman civilization did not make the Greek-Italic craftmade products welcome to the rebels.

Therefore, the famous bronze figurines are the most valid witness of the existence of activity and human life in the zone of Uta in the nuragic period. Almost certainly did not exist in that time a considerable setting or centre with social value, but an active human core left the traces of the nuraghes and the idols that, without doubt, were not there by chance. Today they deserve an admiring visit at the Museo Archeologico of Cagliari.