The Prehistoric Altar of Monte D’Accoddi (3500 BC) forces historian to rewrite the history of the Mediterranean
Monte d’Accoddi is an ancient prehistoric temple located on a hill of Sardinia.
Studies of the monument have described Monte d’Accoddi as a prehistoric altar, a viewing platform, a step pyramid, or even an ancient architectural ziggurat.
The site consists of two primary phases, with the earliest period of construction dating from around 4,000–3,650 BC and is generally associated with the Ozieri culture (also known as the “culture of St. Michael”) which was a prehistoric pre-Nuragic Hunter-gatherer culture later mixed with husbandry and agriculture.
This phase culminated in a raised platform to a height of around 5.5 metres which was accessible by a ramp. The monument was abandoned and possibly destroyed around 3000 BC, with a hiatus of around 200 years before the second phase of construction associated with the Abealzu-Filigosa culture (culture born in Macomer Village, Copper Age culture of Sardinia focused on pastoralism and agriculture).
This involved the earlier structure being enlarged with a covering of earth and stone, and a second tiered platform that gave the shape of a truncated step pyramid up to 10 metres in height. The summit was accessible by a larger ramp, measuring 42 metres in length constructed over the previous ramp.
A few metres from the ramp is a trapezoidal slab made of limestone that was either an offering table or a dolmen, with archaeological evidence from the Abealzu-Filigosa layers suggesting the function of sacrificial rituals for sheep, cattle, and swine. Several other altars have been identified within the boundaries of the site, in addition to carved spherical shaped boulders that functioned as sacred stones.
There is some evidence that Monte d’Accoddi continued to be occupied during the Beaker culture period (although evidence is sparse), with the monument being abandoned before the Nuragic Age of Sardinia from 1800 BC.
Excavations at Monte d’Accoddi was spread over two research projects, the first being directed by Ercole Contu in the 1950’s which studied the external architectural characteristics of the monument and a surrounding settlement. The second, directed by Santo Tiné revealed the existence of the earlier monument that led to the proposal to reconstruct Monte d’Accoddi during the 1980’s.
We are faced with an imposing cult building around which a vast village extended: a sanctuary to which the faithful had to flock, given its importance, from a very vast territory and from afar, perhaps from all of Sardinia as suggested by someone. . It has already been said about the architectural uniqueness of this monument which has not yet been found in both Europe and the entire Mediterranean basin, and for this reason the only possible comparisons lead to the Near East. It should be noted that these are completely generic comparisons which are not indicative of direct contacts of which, at least so far, there is no evidence. The step pyramids – such as the well-known one of Sakkara – would lead to Egypt, even if the Sardinian building seems to recall the mastabas, which are also truncated pyramids. But the mastabas are tombs and do not have any external inclined ramp to reach the upper esplanade, and the ascent must have had a strong symbolic meaning as an ascent towards divinity. More suggestive, however, is the reference with the most elementary type of sacred towers, equipped with ramps and steps of Mesopotamia: the ziqqurat. The most famous, besides that of Ur, is better known from the Bible as the tower of Babel, that is, the tower of Babylon. They are rather complex ziqqurat, as well as the analogous ones of Assur and Korsabad, belonging to the third millennium, while that of Aqar Quf is even of the second. But the comparison that seems most significant, at least for its greater simplicity, is that with the ziqqurat of Anu, in Uruk, built not too far from the altar of Monte d’Accoddi. The ziggurat of Monte d’Accoddi also remembers – but only as a pure literary reference – the altar that Javeh requires to build to Moses: it had to be of rough stones or earth and accessible by means of a ramp without steps, and this so that, for the short tunic, no scandal is generated. And we are around 2200 BC. Perhaps, as was the case in the Mesopotamian ziggurats, the truncated pyramid of Monte d’Accoddi was also intended for sacred festivals related to the agricultural cycle, the fertility of the fields, the propitiatory rites of fertility for men and animals and more. From the first interventions it was clear that Monte d’Accoddi was a monument prior to the age of the nuraghi, not only for its unusual architecture but for the materials that were being found, referable to the times of the cultures of Ozieri, of Filigosa, of Abealzu, Monte Claro and Campaniforme, between the Recent Neolithic and the Copper Age. To reiterate the high antiquity of the archaeological complex, there are numerous radiometric datings, among which five datings not calibrated by the Utrech Laboratory are of particular interest. In conclusion, on the basis of the data available so far, the construction phases of the “ziggurat” and the different times of attendance of Monte d’Accoddi can be determined to some extent. The area where the “ziggurat” and the village-sanctuary now stands was occupied for the first time at the time of the culture of San Ciriaco (3500-3200 BC) at the beginning of the Recent Neolithic, as documented by ceramics and the remains of circular basement huts . A new housing nucleus referable to the culture of Ozieri (3200-2900 BC) was superimposed on this first plant, equipped with a cult area marked by a menhir and a slab with through holes. Subsequently, in the final phase of the Ozieri culture itself – but for others in the subsequent Aeneolithic culture of Filigosa – the menhir area was partially occupied by the construction of the first terrace altar, equipped with a ramp and paved with a plastered and red painted chapel. The excavation data revealed that the first pyramid with the chapel was destroyed by a fire, after which it was covered with earth and stones well settled with a system of radial caissons, and then a new chapel was erected, raised by several meters, while the pyramid and the ramp were also rebuilt and enlarged. The second pyramid – built at the time of Filigosa but for others during the culture of Abealzu (2700 BC) – remained in use in the Eneolithic, as evidenced by the materials of the cultures of Filigosa, Abealzu, Monte Claro and Campaniforme found in the huts that arise in the foot of the pyramid, but already at the time of the Bonnanaro culture, in the Bronze Age (1800-1600 BC), the sanctuary must have been abandoned even if there are traces of more recent frequentations such as the very rare Nuragic, Phoenician-Punic, age Roman and medieval. To testify that already during the Ancient Bronze Age the sanctuary had lost its function as a place of worship, the burial of a six-year-old boy, found inside the filling of the south-east corner of the “ziggurat”, should be noted. It is a secondary type of burial, consisting only of the skull – brachycephalic and affected by congenital flattening of the cranial vault (platicephaly) – covered, almost like a helmet, from an earthenware tripod vase with a bowl beside it.
The accompanying ceramics attest that it is a tomb of the Bonnanaro culture (1800-1600 BC), when the great altar was already abandoned and in ruins, a place of sporadic and occasional visits.