A research project of the Department of Archaeology
Rarely has it been possible to evaluate ideas about the ritual transformation of persons, objects and caves using a range of modern scientific techniques, on an entirely new and high-quality archaeological dataset. Such an opportunity was provided by the discovery (by Dott. Giusi Gradoli, COMET – Valorizzazione Risorse Territoriali) and initial contextualization (by Dr. Terrence Meaden, Oxford University Department of Continuing Education) of an extraordinarily large and well-preserved group of at least nine ritual caves in the territory of Seulo, situated in the deep interior of Sardinia.
Each cave contains rich intact prehistoric mortuary deposits (including substantial secondary deposits of human bones, animal bones, charcoal and ashes, pottery, mollusc shells, obsidian artefacts) and one has rare anthropomorphic cave paintings. The majority of this material can be assigned to between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. The utilized caves range from wide rock-shelters to small chambers, long corridors, and large complex cave systems with elaborate speleothems, and – together with numerous unexplored natural caves – are distributed along valleys formed by tributaries of the River Flumendosa. These dissect an extensive limestone plateau, which may have formed the focus of settlement and subsistence in later prehistory, to judge by the presence of scattered surface remains.
This research programme, directed by Professor Robin Skeates, therefore sought to establish:
This project was funded by The British Academy (£52,384), the Fondazione Banco di Sardegna (20,000 Euros), the Max Planck Institute for History and the Sciences (£4125) and The Prehistoric Society (£350).
The fieldwork was undertaken with the permission of the Direzione Generale per i Beni Archeologici (Roma), and in collaboration with the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Sardegna and the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici per le Provincie di Sassari e Nuoro.