The sacrificial well shrine of Su Romanzesu Bitti Village Sardinia

Delightfully situated high, at 750 metres above sea level, on a plateaux amongst the gnarled cork oaks is the Nuragic settlement of Romanzesu di Bitti. The site is believed to be one of the most important sites of worship of the Nuragic period. A site by its name suggests a long continuation of its usage into the Roman occupation of the island.

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Accidental discovery

Like a number of similar sites, the site was revealed by accident during the search for water in 1919, when Antonio Taramelli a local archaeologist. Sadly, during the excavations, a number of parts were destroyed; the scale trapezoidal coming down the well was destroyed. The water was also diverted into a trough and even in the 1950 new reclamation work utilised the well for a modern sewer and thus a number ceramic pipes were placed at the site in blocks of local granite. As a result interpretation has been difficult.

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The surrounding village

The village dating from the Bronze Age extended over seven acres near the source of the Tirso river and consisted of a hundred huts, a rectangular temple, two megaron temples and a strange labyrinthine structure as well as the sacred well with its amphitheatre basin with its elliptical terraces. The megaron temples are similar to other sites with circular pits which may have collected water for ablutions or supported a roof, no one is clear. Similarly what significance there is the labyrinth is unclear. The remains show a hut structure with concentric walls to a central room with a circular stone base and some paving. The archaeologists found red quartz pebbles at the site. It was perhaps the house of a sorcerer who may have been the person in charge of the ritual centre. However as no site similar has been found this is pure speculation and indeed what role this building had to the sacred well and amphitheatre basin is unclear.

The Pozzo in its sacred landscape

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Looking down into the Pozzo

The well itself is central to the sacred landscape and encloses an intermittent springhead, it was dry unsurprisingly perhaps in August. The spring head is enclosed by polyhedric granite blocks, of which nineteen rows survive providing a circular well, with a 3.40m-to 3.30m diameter basin and reaches the height of
The inner circumference is deliminated by a large bench consisting of four slabs on the left side and eight on the right which may have contained the water or allowed access. The structure is more obviously built upon the natural rock than other sites has a small rectangular opening around 30cm where the spring flows from. Originally it was a tholos structure which has a domed roof.

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One of the Betilli sacred stones

The site is believed to date from the Bronze Age to the IXth century BC. Around the well are two sacred objects, small surfaced betili (stones representing the deity linked to fertility rites) still upright but what role they had with the water is unclear they may have represented deities of the water. From the well is an unusual 42 metre gully lined with steps which carries water from the well to the unique amphitheatre.

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Looking from the destroyed channel to the well

A sacrificial bath?

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This most remarkable relic is the most puzzling – a large sub-circular basin originally paved with six rows of terraced steps. What was it for? Often it is now dry but on occasions water has filled it to provide an idea. One theory is that it was done for communal ablutions or perhaps baptisms. Perhaps even for purification rites? The 3rd century AD Latin geographer Solino highlighted ordeals with water especially to judge crimes perhaps like those done for witches to see if the water would find them innocent.

Whatever strange and wonderful rituals were undertaken here…one can still get a feeling of them in this magical place among the cork trees

About pixyledpublications

Currently researching calendar customs and folklore of Nottinghamshire

Posted on May 19, 2015, in Italy, Sardinia and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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