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Archaeo News 

30 November 2011
Monte 'e Prama ancient statues on display - at last!

37 years after their discovery, the stone giants of Monte 'e Prama are being shown to the public for the first time in the gallery of Li Punti in Sassari (Sardinia, Italy), for the exhibition 'La pietra e gli eroi' (Stone and the heroes). On display 25 impressive statues about two metres tall and 13 models of nuraghi, the ancient Sardinian towers. Ten tons and 5,178 fragments of white limestone have been reassembled in 16 statues of boxers (some with a curved and rectangular shield above their heads), 5 of archers and 4 of warriors (with a round shield), characterized by magnetic eyes represented by two concentric circles.
     The extraordinary collection of prehistoric sculptures, unearthed in 1974, will soon be separated: one part will be housed in the Museum of Cabras, near Oristano, the other in the Archaeological Museum of Cagliari. The Superintendency of Cagliari, in agreement with the Sardinia regional Council, has decided to take the route that most of the scientific world and public opinion had not recommended. "My idea is that all the finds should stay together, but it is true that an important museum such as Cagliari should have at least one find of such a great discovery," said professor Carlo Tronchetti, the archaeologist who in 1976 led the first excavation that brought to light the sculptures
     Everything started in the spring of 1974, when the plow of Sisinnio Poddi, in Monte 'e Prama, near Cabras, came up against something very hard. After removing the earth, the farmer was amazed by a two wide-eyed stare framed by a stone face. The report to the authorities was immediate and between 1974 and 1975, the Archaeological and the University of Cagliari set up the first excavation. The campaign got to the heart a few years later, in 1979, under the guidance of professor Tronchetti and along with his team he brought to light an entire necropolis.
     Speaking of dating, scholars currently are supporting two timeframes: the first one places the statues around the seventh century BCE, the other one goes to the end of the first millennium BCE. After the discovery, the debate went on for a while, but it was followed by a long period of silence. The entire complex was closed and the findings stored in boxes in the basement of the Archaeological Museum of Cagliari. From that moment on, the curtain fell over the ancient sculptures. A silence kept for more than thirty years, broken only in 2005, when the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and the Sardinia regional Council allocated 1.2 million euros for the restoration of which the recent exhibition in Sassari marks the conclusion.
     Archaeologists will soon return to Monte 'e Prama, perhaps as early as next spring. The Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage has in fact already allocated an additional 250,000 euros to launch a new excavation campaign, along with restoration and consolidation works. However, the ancient giants are now threatened to fly to Korea: they could become guests at Seoul Expo even though it is still unclear whether the Sardinian authorities will send the original statues or only a few copies. "The final decision still rests withthe Superintendency of Cagliari," Regional Councilor for Culture Sergio Milia said.
     The exhibition in Sassari will be open until December 30, 2011 from Thursday to Sunday, booking is available calling the toll-free number 800 148 776.

Edited from La Nuova Sardegna, L'Unione Sarda (23 November 2011)

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