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Enchytrismos Tomb

A good number of enchytrismos burials have been found in the necropolis of Sulky, a type of tomb which was used as early as prehistoric times, when at times it was necessary to use large jars (ziri) as burial vessels (fig. 1), while in Punic, Roman and Christian times amphorae were used, particularly for burying children.

Fig. 1 - Ziro (large terracotta vase) burials from Cantaru Ena, Florinas - SS (from MAETZKE 1964).

When the amphora was used for infants who died at an early age, it was cut vertically to allow the insertion of the body; the cut part was then joined up and then it was placed inside a pit (fig. 2).

Fig. 2 - Reconstruction of an enchytrismos burial for infants (from

In the case of adult burials, as the amphorae were too small to contain the body, they used two, which, once cut from the shoulder diagonally and then again vertically in order to allow the body to be inserted, were united so as to form a single container for the body (fig. 3).

Fig. 3 - Enchytrismos burial which combines two jars to allow the burial of an adult, at the necropolis of Agrigento from late ancient and medieval times (from CAMINNECI 2012, p. 123, fig. 11).

As concerns the Punic Age, the enchytrismos burial appears during the latter part of the sixth century B.C. and endures until the beginning of the fourth century A.D. It was carried out with large commercial amphorae where the children were buried and then placed in a dedicated area within the necropolis.

During the Roman Empire, the most used amphorae for burying the dead were the Tripoli type, the African I type and the African II, which were originally used to transport oil and other products, including a fish sauce which the Romans were particularly fond of, the garum. They document Sulky's relationship with Africa (fig. 4).

Fig. 4 - Types of amphorae also used for enchytrismos burials. From the left: African I and II types; Tripoli I and II types (from

Only a few cases of burials of this type still have their accompanying grave goods. This is the case of tomb 146 in the necropolis of Sulky, where they had been placed partly inside and partly outside the enchytrismòs.

The conservation status of the amphorae is often compromised, so it is not always easy to identify the type, but in any case they supply general guidelines concerning their history which places them between the second century and the fourth century A.D. The enchytrismos for burying infants continued in the early Christian Age, a period during which the amphorae were often placed in niches inside the catacombs.


  • P. BARTOLONI, I Fenici e i Cartaginesi in Sardegna, Sassari 2009.
  • V.CAMINNECI, Enchytrismòs. Seppellire in anfora nell’antica Agrigento, in V. CAMINNECI (a cura di) Parce Sepulto: il rito e la morte tra passato e presente, Agrigento 2012, pp. 111-132.
  • E. CRUCCAS, Aspetti culturali della Nurra di età storica. Il caso delle cosiddette sepolture a enchytrismòs in E. CICU, A. GAVINI, M. SECHI, (a cura di), Alta formazione e ricerca in Sardegna. Atti del Convegno di Studi “Giovani Ricercatori”(Sassari, 16 dicembre 2011), Raleigh 2014, pp. 65-77.
  • G. MAETZKE, Florinas (Sassari). Necropoli a enkytrismòs in località Cantaru Ena = Notizie degli Scavi di Antichità 1964, pp. 280-314.
  • C. TRONCHETTI, S. Antioco, Sassari 1989.
  • C. TRONCHETTI, La necropoli romana di Sulci. Scavi 1978: relazione preliminare = Quaderni della Soprintendenza Archeologica per le Province di Cagliari e Oristano, Cagliari 1990, pp. 173-192.
  • C. VISMARA, Un particolare tipo di sepoltura della Sardegna Romana: le tombe a enchytrismòs in Le sepolture in Sardegna dal IV al VII secolo. IV Convegno sull’archeologia tardoromana e altomedievale (Cuglieri, 27-28 giugno 1987), Oristano 1990, pp. 33-35.