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Giovanni Lilliu, the father of Sardinian archaeology

Giovanni Lillliu, “professori de is perdas beccias”, as he was defined, was an internationally-renowned archaeologist and great intellectual (fig. 1).

Fig. 1 - Giovanni Lilliu (from

He was born in Barumini on 13th March 1914. With a degree in Classic Literature, he completed his specialisation at the National School of Archaeology in Rome. From 1943 to 1955 he held several teaching posts at the Faculty of Literature at the University of Cagliari. From 1944 to 1955 he worked as an archaeologist at the Superintendency of Antiquities of Sardinia. Lilliu owes his fame to discovering the Nuragic palace of Su Nuraxi, in Barumini, his birthplace, one of the most important and famous Nuragic sites, declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2000 (fig. 2).

Fig. 2 - Giovanni Lilliu leads the dig of hut 135 in the village of Su Nuraxi in Barumini (from

In 1955, he founded and lead the School of Specialisation of Sardinian Studies at the University of Cagliari for twenty years, also covering the role of tenured professor of Sardinian Antiquities. He was also the Head of Faculty of Literature and Philosophy.

He promoted the establishment of the Istituto Superiore Regionale Etnografico in Nuoro in 1972, an institute that he was Head of from 1985 to 1995. He covered so many prestigious roles and received many acknowledgements, professor emeritus and member of several Italian and overseas scientific institutes; he has been a member of the Accademia dei Lincei since 1990. In 2007, he received the "Sardus Pater" award from the Autonomous Region of Sardinia.

He died in Barumini on 19th February 2012.

In 2013, on the first anniversary of Professor Giovanni Lilliu’s death, the university of Cagliari wanted to remember his scientific, human and political contribution by naming the Cittadella dei Musei after him, and with a sculpture by the Master Pinuccio Sciola that would in some way remember the civilisation of the large Nuragic stones (fig. 3).

Fig. 3 - Commemorative stone (from

His endless bibliographical productions includes basic scientific works for Sardinian archaeology and also popular publications, articles written in the Sardinian language and anthropological essays, in which he coined and defined the concept of “constant Sardinian resistance”.

In 2013, at the Giovanni Lilliu Centre of Communication and Promotion of Cultural Heritage in Baruminithe exhibition “Giovanni Lilliu - Stratigrafie di una vita” was opened, a new knowledge-gathering path on the professor emeritus, organised by the Municipality of Barumini and the Fondazione Barumini Sistema Cultura.

In 2014, during the centenary of his birth, the exhibition “L’isola delle torri. Giovanni Lilliu e la Sardegna Nuragica”, was opened in Cagliari at the San Pancrazio exhibition complex, organised by the Superintendency of Archaeological Heritage for the Provinces of Cagliari and Oristano and for the Provinces of Sassari and Nuoro.



  • ATZENI E., In ricordo di Giovanni Lilliu, in L'isola delle torri: Giovanni Lilliu e la Sardegna nuragica. Catalogo della mostra, pp. 31-34.
  • LILLIU C., LILLIU C., PAULIS G., PIQUEREDDU P. (a cura di), Giovanni Lilliu. Stratigrafie di una vita, Barumini, 12 luglio 2013-13 marzo 2014, Centro di comunicazione e patrimonio culturale "Giovanni Lilliu", 2013.
  • MORAVETTI A., Ricordo di Giovanni Lilliu, in L'Africa romana: trasformazione dei paesaggi del potere nell'Africa settentrionale fino alla fine del mondo antico, Atti del XIX convegno di studio, Sassari, 16-19 dicembre 2010, 1, p. 61-72.