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Port of Cagliari from the prehistoric period to Roman era PDF Print E-mail

by Vincenzo Santoni

Place for departures and landings in prehistoric period.

Archaeological researches in XIX and XX century provided us with a relatively clear frame about prehistoric pre-existence on the territory of modern Cagliari. They were mostly found on the promontory from S.Elia /Calamosca, with different cultural contests from Neolithic to Cardial impressed ceramics in the middle Tyrrhenian area (VI mil. B.C.) until the Final Bronze age of Grotta dei Colombi (end of XII, beginning of XI century B.C.). In urban area, there is an Ancient Neolithic contest in Viale Bonaria, Middle Neolithic of geometrical microlites of Santa Gilla pond, Final Neolithic Proto-Eneolithic (end of the IV, beginning of the III mil. B.C.) in Viale Trieste, via Po/via Brenta (excavation Tronchetti/1993), in via Is Maglias, Su Planu - Su Pirastru, in Cucurru Biancu and Cucurru Serra. Late Eneolithic horizon of San Michele (first middle of the III mil. B.C.) is present in places of Monte Urpinu, Terramaini, Serriana and Su Coddu di Selargius and in contest of plausible funereal derivation of the Bonaria hill. Eneolithic cultural contest of Monte Claro is present in parietal sections along Is Mirrionis, and in tombs of Villa Claro/Psychiatric hospital, and in via Basilicata and Sa Duchessa. Presence of Nuragic contest is limited to sporadic findings, head hammers and stone crushers, on the hills of San Michele and Tuvixeddu, an andesitic head hammer found in the cave of Santa Restituta and a form of cast stone in via Po, via Brenta (excavation Tronchetti/1993); in the western periphery of Pirri is famous the village of Is Bingias/Terramaini RB/FB (from the XIII to the X century B.C.).

For identifying possible landing places in prehistoric period, we find very important evaluations of Pecorini, in geomorphologic analysis of S.Igia, and other settled places of ancient times (Nora, Tharros, Bithia, S.Andrea di Quartu Sant’Elena), interested in submersion phenomenon, where the geological substratum is represented in Tyrrhenian quay; referring to present-day Cagliari the quay extended up from piazza del Carmine to S.Avendrace-Fangario, under this part of the city there is a phreatic layer from where is obtained the biggest well of water, near Il Mercato, on the angle of Via Nazario Sauro.

We should imagine a landing place in Prenuragic and Nuragic period on one of the spots along this coast line, in the way that it can correspond to one from Phoenician and Punic era, and to those chosen by port in the ancient times, up to present-day with gradual movements “only along the western coast of limestone promontory of Tuvixeddu S.Elia” that “represented a hospitable and accessible platform”. Prehistoric findingss in Viale Trieste, via Po/via Brenda and Tuvixeddu show a dislocation of the port along the coast line between via S.Avendrace-Fangario.

As it is well known, prehistoric underwater findings around the island were very rare. One of them is a Nuragic wreck of “boat laden with lead, transporting also other things”, not far from Rio Dom’e S’Orcu di Arbus, 200 m away from the coast. Other findings are single hole stone anchors of Nora, useful for mooring according to Cassien, and other two single hole anchors of Plag’e Mesu di Gonnesa, confronted with those in the coast of Turkey, of Uluburun shipwreck submersed at the end of the XIV century B.C. and of Capo Gelidonia, of Late Helladic IIIB /IIIC, with findings between 1300 and 1050 B.C. and of Port Cugnana di Olbia. Other coastal findings of sub-trapezoidal three-holed stone anchors, so-called composite anchors were related on the island Bisce near La Maddalena, Stintino and Santa Teresa di Gallura. One head hammer in hard rock very common types of nuragic sites inside the Gulf of Cagliari of RB/FB was found around middle ‘80-ies of last century by Honorary Inspector Mr. Nicola Porcu, on the seabed near Piscinnì di Teulada. We cannot exclude the appearance of two exemplary water animals in Nuragic area, found in the water of Villasimius, correspondent to those ones from Final Bronze or Iron Age.

According to the appearance of boats used in prehistoric period, for Prenuragic area we can refer to cultural wreck of fassonis of Cabras together with ethnological evidence in Peruvian balsas of lake Titicaca, documented in the state archive of Cagliari on 12th of December 1616. They were already presented on parietal graffiti of hypogeum of San Salvatore di Sinis, according to what was written by D.Levi, in order to show a possible boat suitable for fishing in Santa Gilla pond, and in parts near to the port, even from the prehistoric period. Other proposed boat because of its lagoon and sub-coastal adaptability was an Ancient Neolithic dugout of lake of Bracciano, obtained from the oak tree (Quercus sessilis Ehch), around 6565+/- 64 B.P., actually around the 5450 B.C.

We do not know anything about Neolithic boats that brought Sardinian obsidian in central and north regions of Italian peninsula, in Corsica and in central France; and in Advanced Eneolithic fragments of Abealzu vases was found in piazza della Signoria in Florence. Little is known also about boats that have brought ideas and beaker culture incentives between Final Eneolithic and Ancient Bronze (end of the III/beginning of the II mil. B.C.). Later they were elaborated with a sign and a stamp of the island and moved to Ancient Bronze, together with other cultural inputs of megalithic nuraghi aisle, towards central and western parts of Sicily, as stimulus for creation of sesi of Pantelleria, and for activation of Sicilian beaker culture, according to recent writings proposed by S.Tusa. On the other hand, we have a lot of information about types of vessels used during Final Bronze (end of the XII, beginning of the XI century B.C.), and in the first stage of Iron Age (beginning of the XI, middle of the VIII century B.C.), owing it to rich documentation of models of bronze boats, coming from different sanctuaries and cult places; those small boats are a transposition of flat-bottomed vessels and round-hulled vessels, classified by Marco Bonino as “correspondent to sutiles naves, “sewn boats”, documented from Archaic to Roman period.

Vessels had to be used for overseas connections with the area of Ausenio II of Lipari, maybe departing from the gulf of Cagliari or/and Oristano, and, more in general, from Sardinia towards other parts of Mediterranean, in the area of Etruria, Calabria and Catania, Kaniale Tekkè of Crete, in Carthage, in Iberian Peninsula, in El Carambolo, Huerva and Gadir. It is not excluded that this kind of vessels or similar were used for overseas connections with Ausenio II of Lipari, with Cannatello in Sicily, with Kommos in Crete, during Recent Bronze in XII-XII century B.C. In the period of XIII/XII century B.C. Mycenaean contest arrived in Antigori of Sarroch, in the heart of the gulf of Cagliari, bringing rich production of gray ceramics from the land of Campidano, similar to the one produced in southern part of Italian peninsula, in Broglio di Trebisacce (Cosenza).


Port in Phoenician and Punic period

According to the structural elaboration of Cagliari in Phoenician and Punic period, the analysis given by Barreca after exploring S.Igia, at least in the major part, showed the resistance of the city during this time; he confirmed that “Karali arose as permanent Phoenician stop” and that “localities of S.Avendrace/Tuvixeddu, San Paolo and S. Gilla/Campo Scipione result as only places that have saved manufactured goods until now, between the VI and the II century B.C. (…), meanwhile “Kalari in the IV and III century B.C. was taking approximately the actual part of old Cagliari, more specific the area of Castello, where the Acropolis was located; Stampace and Marina in the lower part of the city with the square of market (…) adjoining to port, using the lagoon of Santa Gilla; S.Avendrace/Tuvixeddu and Villanova/Bonaria with necropolis northern and southern from Cagliari; San Paolo where almost certainly the tophet had to be located. Following researches in S.Gilla by D.Salvi, in via Brenta by C.Tronchetti and in Vico III Lanusei by R.Martorelli, D.Mureddu, enrich very well the frame with some integrations. C.Tronchetti notes that “Phoenician foundation of Cagliari in VIII and VII B.C. is real and probable, but also only hypothetical”. Various materials for import (bucchero vase fragments, Etruscan-Corinthian ceramics, Greek-oriental cups, Corinthian globular aryballos), according to Tronchetti, “allow us to confirm that Phoenician settlement in Cagliari can be located on the shore of Santa Gilla lagoon and it dates at least from the end of the VII century B.C.”. The following hypothesis suggested by Barecca still needs to be confirmed: “establishment of Phoenician settlement that has started in Sa Illetta, later it has extended and moved to the shores of lagoon of Santa Gilla/Campo Scipione, keeping up with the typology of urban development of some other Phoenician area (for example Mozia, with necropolis of Birgi)”.

From Phoenician horizon there were two routes, with one it was possible to get to the north of Etruria from the north of Sardinia (see the port S.Imbenia in Alghero) until the middle of the VIII century B.C. , and with the other one it was possible to get to the area of middle Latium Tyrrhenian area, from both Sardinia and Carthage in the third quarter of the VIII century B.C.). Together with Phoenician wine that arrived in Etruria and Latium Vetus, in amphora of Carthaginian or Sardinian production, arrived also Phoenician products like metallic cups, jewelry, ostrich eggs, pendants and scarab beetles in Egyptian faience, from Sardinian allocation with Phoenician mediation. In simple words, in the traffic of Phoenician places there is a combination of people and goods of different cultures. Diffusion of bucchero (type of black pottery) is confirmed in 630 B.C. in Sardinian ports, with drinking vases and oinochoai of prevalent production of Cerveteri, in fan-shape or linear decoration. Phoenician ports in Sardinia received Etruscan ceramics produced in poleis of southern Etruria; above all it is the matter of Etruscan-Corinthian pottery between 580 and 540/530 B.C. .

Phoenician navy, together with Greek and Etruscan, in the battle of Alalia around 535 B.C. used warships famous by the name of penteconter, already in use since the VIII century B.C.; they were almost 30 m long, large less than 5 m, with a yard , and pushed by 24 oarsmen, with 2 helmsmen at the stern.

With the transfer to Carthaginian domination around 510 B.C., Sardinia took a central place in development of cereal-culture. This was a very important period for a production of amphora, so-called “bag-shaped” in the V and beginning of the IV century and “torpedo-shaped” amphoras at the end of the V-IV century B.C.. Recently has been confirmed that Sardinian wheat had been cultivated in Neapolis, a cereal port for supplying Athens, and from there a red-figure pottery with black paint has been imported in Sardinia. As it is well-known, bag-shaped and torpedo-shaped amphoras emerged with first underwater exploring, in the coastal site of Su Mòguru of Santa Gilla (excavation Filippo Vivanet 1891/1892) and with more recent excavation exploring, in the same lagoon, by R.Zucca e G.Nieddu, 1988 and by P.Bernardini, R.Solinas 1987/1988. R.Zucca pointed out that, not by case, together with these amphoras, “there were also Ionian amphoras from the VI century B.C., Massaliote amphoras from the VI century B.C. and Corinthian type A from the VI century B.C.

Analogically, with other Punic contests (Nora, Othoca, Olbia and Ibiza), amphoras contained sheep-goat and bovine slaughtered meat with cores of olives and pine kernel. As it is well-known, the underwater deposit of S.Gilla revealed by Vivanet was divided in two sectors with different functions: “sector with figures of terracotta” and “zone of amphora”. The first sector includes a big number of ex voto anthrophomorphic male and female, Silenus masks, many hands, palms, feet, bulls, greyhounds, molossers, crocodile heads, griffons. From Moscati’s point of view, it is supposed that figures of terracotta refer to the contest of sanctuary “that should be in the zone and whose nature should not be much different from the one of a big number of Italic sanctuaries that flourished in the late Hellenic period and in the beginning of the Roman period” between the end of the III and II century B.C..

A different cultural and chronological orientation has been pointed out by Nieddu who puts in comparison production of silver of the second part of the IV century B.C.. On these two positions distinguished by Moscati and Bartoloni, leans on Salvi, regarding the frame of clay materials, partly similar to the one of Su Mòguru, already revealed in 1936 and 1937, in the part of the sea opposite to the port “where is the berth for boats”, in Molo di Ponente (Pier of Ponente).

Actually Salvi claimed on the one hand that deposit of Santa Gilla “presented only Punic materials of different typologies: amphoras, ex votos, dishes”, and was also represented partly on the land with different types in via Brenta - fish, mouse, lion, hand, and female bust”. On the other hand, considering the appearance of clay-sculpted ex voto, a hand with Punic writings placed on two feet of clay, also coming from the port of Cagliari, we have to confess Punic attribution to the production of ex voto and ceramics “until the first part of the III century B.C.”, because of eventual continuity of production in republican period happened after Roman conquest of Sardinia (238 B.C.).

In the IV century B.C., Carthaginians introduced quadrireme, with only one row of oars on the side, but with four men for each oar; 25 oarsmen were planned for one side, so they needed 200 oarsmen, with 30/40 sailors on the deck. In the first decades of the III century B.C., there was a new ship “queen of the sea”, from the Hellenic period, called pentere, 40 m long and 6 m large, with 25 oars on the side, and 5 oarsmen for each one, with two castles, one on prow and one on stern; on this one on prow they put catapults for launching stones or inflamed arrows.

The port of Karales in Roman republic, Empire and late Antique period

Salvi’s point of view about cultural frame of votive terracotta and amphoras of Su Mòguru and S.Gilla derives or from dates about excavation in the area of Punic Karali in via Campo Scipione/via Po, or from cultural changing in viale Trento, where during the Punic period enters italic cult, and above all, in Tuvixeddu with introduction of funereal rituals of busta (cremation) around the end of the III/middle of the II century B.C., most probably connected to the “arrival of Italic population, after the Roman conquest of Sardinia”.

Not by case, always in the same frame, inside the temple-theatre of via Malta, formulated by Italic models by Iuno Gabina in Gabi, Hercules Victor in Tivoli and Theatre of Pompey in Rome, Colavitti locates structural epicenter and modern ideal of Roman republic, as a result of “political weight of Italic negotiators that made Karales a key point for Mediterranean, investing their capital also by buying fields on the land of Karali, in order to have monopoly over wheat –culture and re-investment of commercial products”. According to Mastino, the temple of via Malta could be identified with the temple of Venus (and Adone?), remembered on coins of sufeti Aristo and Mutumbal Ricoce, maybe connected with creation of municipality of Karales in 46 B.C..

Authoritative exponents of medium-Italic bourgeoisie were present in Cagliari in the II century B.C., like for example M.Ploti(us) Silonis f. Rufus on epigraph of fullonica in via XX settembre in Cagliari; of Italic origins are also L.Cassius Philippus and wife Atilia Pomptilla of «viper’s cave» from the end of the I century A.D. of western necropolis of Roman Carales (Zucca 1992). On the theme of reconversion of Punic Kalary into Roman Karales, R.Zucca affirms that we cannot exclude the fact that plural form of Karales-Carales was born when two different entities of Punic KRLY (Kalary) and Roman Vicus Caralis in Carales formed after the abandon of Punic modern center, placed along the western coast of Santa Gilla lagoon.

According to the news given by Livio, in 215 B.C., ships under the command of Tito Manlio Torquato land in the port of Caralis, who came to Sardinia to repress Punic-Sardinian riot of Ampsicora. The presence of shipyards in the port of Cagliari was based on Livio’s news of restore-in Karales in 202 B.C.- of boats of Consul Tiberio Claudio Nerone, half-destroyed in storm along Sardinian coast.

Localization of port in Roman period was indicated “in the present-day dock, correspondent to the area between piazza del Carmine and via XX settembre” (Zucca 2005/B).

Findings from the near via Campidano, with excavations by D.Mureddu in 1992., have been closely connected to the port area. Main ceramic finding in deposit consist of fragments of amphora Dressel 2-4 from the empire era, but also “of amphoras of African production from the IV-V century A.D., from different periods and fabrics, ceramics with black paint (II-I century B.C.), subtle walls (I century B.C.-I century A.D.), conserved in the first centuries of Roman empire. Some other findings have also been entirely conserved, among them one Punic miniature amphora, unguentarium, and among later findings, spatheion, in use at least until the end of the VI century A.D.. Cultural deposit includes late republic period and first centuries of Byzantine domination. In the same deposit has been added ashlar limestone, with straight trapezoidal section, compared by Mureddu with those brought by Mingazzini in the temple-theatre of via Malta (Mureddu, Relazione 11 July 1992: Archivio Soprintendenza).

Urban hinterland, right behind the area of excavation by Mureddu 1992, between via Campidano and Viale Diaz, was proposed by Zucca as the most suitable for settlement of the field of classiarii of Missenium fleet, actually in the close by area, eastern of viale Regina Margherita, where in the 1886, opposite the hotel Scala di Ferro, excavations of Nissardi revealed graves and incineration, with related memorial stones of milites from the I and II century A.D..

Following excavations by Mureddu in 2001/2002, revealed a rich necropolis from the same epoch inside the hotel Scala di Ferro, that seemed already built in the second part of the III century A.D., immediately after the Roman conquest of Sardinia. This area with necropolis, together with the Punic-Roman one from Bonaria, were mirrored in the Punic-Roman necropolis of Tuvixeddu.

In the late III century B.C. and even more in the II, in coastal cities of island and on the inside, arrived Greek-Italic wine amphoras, around 150 B.C., and they were supplanted by wine amphora Dressel I of main Etruscan and Campanian production, that would conserve their use in the course of the I century B.C. With wine amphoras Dressel I in the same wrecks, land as “parasitic goods” ceramics with black paint of Campanian production (campana A) and Etruscan area (campana B), that have a very big diffusion in Sardinia; a big number of Punic, Greek and Latin graffiti were registered on them, with onomastic statements of Italic negotiators and merchants (negotiatores e mercatores) in Carales, likeSe (xtus) Herennius, Ar(untius?), Pro(culus) Met(ilius?). From the last quarter of the I century A.D. until the VII century A.D., African amphoras with oil arrived in Carales, named tripolitans I, II, III.

During the classical and Hellenistic period and especially in the era of Roman empire, arrived portraits and marble statues of magistrates and emperors. Although there were glass factories on the island, various glass products derived from Greek and eastern ateliers, instead from Italian peninsula. Table of glass production in Nora, area C, gives 79% as a production outside of the island, and 21% from Sardinian factories.

Forum of Caralis was probably situated around present-day piazza del Carmine, and by rule, it was decorated with marble statues and dedications to emperors, prefects of the municipality and other important authoritative figures.

We do not have many dates about types of ships used en route from and towards Sardinia. In larger number they were using cargo ships instead of military ships. They refer to the hull of a cargo ship landed in the port of Sulci in “’30 years of the XX century, and many hulls of Roman and Ancient ships (not only Medieval), in the port of Olbia. Two of the last ones refer to the area of Nero-Vespasian (second part of the I century A.D.)., and even 14 to the V century A.D., probably sank to the bottom in a disaster event, identified by D’Oriano in the attack of Vandals in the port of Olbia, around the middle of the century”. To this underwater discoveries, as useful help for recognizing ancient ships, we have to add iconography and picturesque documentation, mosaics, ceramics, wall graffiti and sculptures.

There are documents that refer to naves longae in Karales, represented in bas-relief on the fragment of Calene patera, deriving from excavations Mureddu 1992, from via Campidano, at the end of the III century B.C.. Represented decoration, placed around the naval of the patera, presents three treremes, three entire ones and part of the fourth one. Those are warships with a rostrum. With a representation on a bipedalis brick (with two legs of 59,5 cm on the side), deriving from Palazzo di Re Barbaro di Porto Torres from I century A.D., we are talking about navis longa with 21 oars, that is more a military then cargo ship. As much important is the representation on oil-lamp disk from 180/230 A.D. in Olbia. The other document of Sardinian navy is a wall graffiti presenting a cargo ship from the end of the I century A.D. , on the wall A in the room 7 of Domus Tiberiana of Palatino, in Rome, on the left side of the hull, that carries out the following acclamation in capital letters Tharros felix et tu.

In the Forum of the corporations in Olbia, a mosaic pavement represents a cargo ship with a tablet with handles above, carrying an epigraph navicula(arii) et negotiantes Karalitani, (190-200 A.D.) and, “on the side with two modes representing the transport of frumentum”. Painted representations of two cargo ships from the IV century A.D., are attested in so-called cubiculum of Giona, in the cemetery of Bonaria, with explicit indication of Christian symbolism of boat-church where its pastors do a service of “men fishers”. Of big interest are also ship graffiti, or better charcoal drawings, that appear on the wall of a cell in hypogeum of San Salvatore in Cabras, in the IV century A.D., among them we can recognize two exemplar cargo ships, and “and a small boat with rush that still exists in the lagoon of Oristano, fassoni.

Another representation of cargo ship of Roman tradition, from the V century A.D., carries the epigraph on a rectangular slab on a sarcophagus of cemetery Paleo-Christian area of Cornus, on behalf of the Silbanus on the grave of father Maximus. Stern and prow are raised and on both of them there is a chrismon, on the right side of the epigraph, with a dove at the end of the text who carries in the mouth an olive twig.

The most accredited studies of economical facts of ancient times and late Medieval period, agree on showing a substantial continuity in exchanges between period Roman empire and late Medieval, with a solution given by a Mediterranean revolution determined by Arab invasion.






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