Villagrande Strisaili

  • Home
  • Nuraghic Period (1800 B.C. - VI century B.C.)

Nuraghic complex of S'Arcu 'e Is Forros

The Nuragic sanctuary of S’Arcu ’e Is Forros stands on highland at the boundary between the Barbagia and Ogliastra areas, in the territory of Villagrande Strisaili, in the Riu Pira ’e Onni valley south of the Correboi pass, known with the Sardinian place name of ancient meaning Interrabbas, naturally bordered by two tributary rivers to the Rio Flumendosa, a meeting point for transhumance that travelled from the coast towards the inland mountain areas. The site includes an archaeological context (15th-6th century B.C.) that includes a sanctuary village with megaron type religious buildings, that were built on a previous Nuragic settlement (fig. 1).

Fig. 1 - Photo of an area of the S’Arcu ’e Is Forros site (photo by Unicity S.p.A.)

The Arcu’e Sforru and Lotzoracesus Nuraghi and the giants’ tomb of the same name are close by (fig. 2).

Fig. 2 - Photo area of the Arcu ’e Sforru nuraghe (photo by Unicity S.p.A.)

Over the years, the site was damaged several times by clandestine diggers. Consequently, from the 1980s, also with the aim of stopping the sacking of the extended archaeological area, The Sardinia Archaeology Superintendency, under the leadership of Dr. Maria Ausilia Fadda started up a series of digs, the results of which have contributed to knowledge of the site and the discovery of objects of considerable scientific value, able to describe some aspects of daily life, production activity and religious life in the Nuragic community in the area in detail.

The monuments that can now be visited are made from large blocks of local granite, choosing the stones closest to the building area and therefore immediately available. One of the most important aspects is the compact nature of the construction materials, that have allowed a good preservation of the structures. The different shaped stones of various sizes have given rise in this context to a mixed type architecture.

For example, in the sacred area, granite was used, as in most nuraghi in the area, to create walls of irregular rows, with different pieces. Instead, it can be seen that schist, a soft rock that is easy to sculpt, was used in the top part, i.e. for the roof of all the temples, perhaps chosen due to its quality of refraction of sunlight. Considerable skill achieved in working the limestone stone also emerges from the accessories closely connected with the place of worship: for example, bases with holes in them, where bronze votives were inserted, have been found.

Religious buildings were built in the period between the 12th and 9th centuries B.C. over a previous village of huts from the Middle Bronze Age (15th century B.C.) which stood at the top part of the hill. The first digs carried out revealed the megaron temple 1, made from blocks of granite and schist of various sizes, irregular in shape but more or less sub-rectangular, split into four areas, that stood over a length of 17 metres and a width of 5.50 to 6.50 metres (fig. 3).

Fig. 3 - Interior of the megaron temple 1 (photo by Unicity S.p.A.).

The monument underwent two separate building phases that, after a fire (12th-11th century B.C.), led to a new division of the interior space and above all to the reorganisation of the façade and the rear part of an older building which was a double in antis type, i.e. With vertical pillars at the front and rear that jut out over the edge of the building’s walls (fig. 4).

Fig. 4 - Detail of the rear of the megaron 1 temple (photo by Unicity S.p.A.).

The internal perimeter walls are sloping and are made more stable by the presence of a jutting out stone skirting at the base, also used as a bench and/or table. It has been hypothesised that originally, the building was covered by a sloping roof supported by wooden beams and schist slabs. The water used during rituals carried out in the temple flowed outside via a rectangular opening on the right hand side of the second room, and flowed inside channelling.

The temple is inside a large temenos, an external wall of sub-oval shape, with a bench formed at the base of the perimeter wall, where the worshippers sat (fig. 5).

This open space incorporates the circular wall a previous hut belonging to the oldest building phase of the site in its construction. To the west, in the temenos, the opening of another circular building can be found, with a trapezoid entrance, that can be interpreted as a kind of multi-use structure for the temple.

Fig. 5 - Temenos that holds within it the megaron temple 1 (photo by Unicity S.p.A.).

Close to the megaron temple 1, there are the remains of two circular ovens close to each other, used to melt copper, lead and iron minerals, and a circular hut (fig. 6).

Fig. 6 - Melting ovens (photo by Unicity S.p.A.).

In 2007-2011, further digs brought to light two new temples. Of these, the megaron temple 2, built in local granite and schist, were semi-circular rectangular shape about 14.5 metres long, divided into three rooms originally covered with a sloping roof made of wooden beams and boughs (fig. 7).

Fig. 7 - Overview of the megaron 2 temple (photo by Unicity S.p.A.).

Inside the rear semi-circular room a votive altar was discovered with a base of river pebbles topped by five rows of square blocks, alternated with rows of different colours, taken from basalt and vulcanite, non-local volcanic rocks. The central part is finely adorned by two protomes of rams, sculpted as relief work in the basalt. Above this, on the wall at the centre of the altar, there was a ritual fireplace, made of several blocks of wedge-shaped basalt blocks, tied to each other by lead staples, imitating the large shelves that complete the upper part of a nuragic tower (fig. 8).

Fig. 8 - The apse where the altar-fireplace was found during the dig (from Congiu 2013, fig. 5 page 1475).

This temple is inside a large, irregular-shaped temenos with a bench, that is surrounded by another two rectangular-shaped rooms: this area is where religious rituals were supposed to take place, as proven by several items that prove that the place was attended between the Late Bronze Age and the 1st Iron Age.

The building dig shows three separate building phases. At the start of the Recent Bronze Age, the rectangular temple with the front part in antis and a semi-circular base wall was built.

The first entrance in antis was walled up during the Final Bronze Age and the temenos was added, for which the entrance, pointing south, was on an axis with the entrances of the architraved rooms in the temple. In a small area in the back apse, an altar-fireplace was built. During the Iron Age, and the third building phase, additional rectangular rooms were built that could be accessed from an open entrance on the right hand side of the temenos.

During the 2010 dig, a third rectangular building was explored, a kind of disused megaron temple, the third, where a fireplace oven was kept that was used for forging metals.

The sanctuary was included in a settlement characterised by considerable metal craftsmen activity, capable of producing all the items given as offers, or used in the liturgies in the place of worship.

An insula, built close to megaron 3, on steep land, surrounded by external walls, with 12 rooms with entrances originally opened onto a central circular courtyard covered by a beaten clay flooring.

During its use, it underwent continuous adaptations and modifications that are still visible in the residual walls of the various rooms (fig. 9).

Fig. 9 - Overview of the insula 1 (photo by Unicity S.p.A.).

A second grouping of huts, insula 2, located in an area that was strongly sloping between the megaron temple 1 and 3, has only been partly dug up so far. Inside, 10 rooms have been found, arranged around a perimeter, a sub-elliptical temenos. Unfortunately, the state of collapse does not make the complex accessible for a better interpretation, that would seem to belong to an older construction phase (fig. 10).

Fig. 10 - Overview of the insula 2 (photo by Unicity S.p.A.).

Some of the materials found in the rooms and storage included several items in bronze, iron, pottery, including an urn with handles with an inscription engraved on its shoulder in Phoenician philistine characters that can be dated between 9 and 8 B.C.


  • CAMPUS F., Villagrande Strisaili. Il complesso cultuale di S’Arcu’e Is Forros, in CAMPUS F., LEONELLI V. (a cura di), Simbolo di un simbolo. I modelli di un nuraghe, Catalogo mostra, Monteriggioni 2012, pp. 234-239.
  • FADDA M.A., Antichi sardi purificati, in Archeologia Viva, 57, Firenze 1995, pp. 78-83.
  • FADDA M.A., Un esempio di architettura religiosa in Ogliastra. Il tempio a megaron di S'Arcu e is Forros, in Ogliastra. Identità storica di una Provincia. Atti del Convegno di Studi (Jerzu-Lanusei-Arzana-Tortolì, 23-25 gennaio 1997, Senorbì 2000, pp. 79-90.
  • FADDA M.A., Nuove acquisizioni del megalitismo nel territorio della provincia di Nuoro, in Aspetti del megalitismo preistorico, Dolianova 2001, pp. 48-58.
  • FADDA M.A., Antichi sardi purificati. Atto secondo, in Archeologia Viva, Firenze gennaio 2011.
  • FADDA M.A., Il villaggio santuario di S'Arcu 'e Is Forros, Sardegna archeologica. Guide e itinerari , 48, Sassari 2012.
  • FADDA M.A., S’Arcu’e Is Forros: Nuragici, Filistei e Fenici fra i monti della Sardegna, in Archeologia Viva, 155, XXXI, Firenze 2012, pp. 46-57.
  • FADDA M.A., Villagrande Strisaili. Il santuario nuragico di S'Arcu 'e Is Forros e le insulae degli artigiani fusori, in Nel segno dell’acqua. Santuari e bronzi votivi della Sardegna nuragica, Sassari 2014, pp. 199-227.
  • FADDA M. A., Villagrande Strisaili, il santuario nuragico di S’Arcu’e is Forros, in MINOJA M., SALIS G., USAI L. (a cura di), L'isola delle torri: Giovanni Lilliu e la Sardegna nuragica. Catalogo della mostra, Sassari 2015, pp. 369-377.
  • NIEDDU C., Complesso archeologico di S'Arcu 'e is Forros, in C. Nieddu (a cura di) Siti archeologici d'Ogliastra, Tortolì 2006, pp. 64-65.



Scientific coordination
dr. Emanuela Atzeni