Detailed sheets

The lithic cistas: function and use (funerary ritual)

During the fifth-fourth millennium B.C., at the same time as the custom of underground burials began, the custom of burying the dead inside a stone cista spread throughout Spain, France, Corsica and Sardinia.

This aspect of megalithic burial is documented in the necropolis of Li Muri, and dates to Sardinian Late Neolithic Culture (3400-3200 B.C.).

Fig. 1 - Plan (from ANTONA, LO SCHIAVO, PERRA 2011, p. 242, fig. 1).

The cista, single or combined with other small necropolis, is generally formed by four blocks of stone placed side by side and buried; it can be underground compared with the ground level or visible on the surface, of rectangular, square or trapezoidal shape, without a protection structure or enclosed within a ring of stone slabs arranged with small and medium size rubble and a circular mound structure or with a ring of single stones, a double external wall circle or large vertical stone slabs (fig. 2).

Fig. 2 - Arzachena, Necropolis of Li Muri, lithic cista of circle 2 (photo by Unicity S.p.A.).

The type of cover of the burial cistas of Li Muri is unknown, as they have always been found without any possible top slab.

The same situation was discovered in comparable monuments in southern Corsica, similar to those of Gallura, a fact which has led some to hypothesise the original existence of a wooden cover.

Fig. 3 - Necropolis in circles with cista at Monte Rotundu, Corsica (from ANTONA, LO SCHIAVO, PERRA 2011, p. 245, fig. 3).


  • ANTONA A., LO SCHIAVO F., PERRA M., I tumuli nella Sardegna preistorica e protostorica, in A. NASO A. (a cura di), Tumuli e sepolture monumentali nella protostoria europea, Atti del convegno internazionale, Celano 21-24 settembre 2000, RGZM-Tagungen, Band 5, Mainz 2011, pp. 237-258.
  • ANTONA A., Arzachena. Pietre senza tempo, Sassari 2013, pp. 72-83.