In 1936 the excavations of Serra Orrios began by Doro Levi, subsequently Giovanni Lilliu contributed to the knowledge of the Dorgali territory, publishing his impressions on the well-known Nuragic village and later on the excavations at the Bue Marino Caves and the Dolmen of Motorra.
In 1955 the research of Carlo Alberto Blanc indicated the presence of traces of human presence in the Pleistocene in the caves of the Dorgali coast. In 1978 the excavation of the Tomb of Giants of S’Ena 'e Thomes was carried out by Fulvia Lo Schiavo and her study on the anthropomorphic figures of the Grotta del Bue Marino was published. In the same year Maria Luisa Ferrarese Ceruti gave news of the discovery of Sisaia, the female burial found in a cave in the Lanaitho Valley.
The first important publication came in 1980, with "Dorgali archaeological documents", in which various scholars gave their contribution for a greater knowledge of the area, in conjunction with the inauguration of the Archaeological Civic Museum of Dorgali. This is the first census edited by the Archaeological Superintendence for the provinces of Sassari and Nuoro, with the collaboration of the municipal administration and the Dorgali Grotte Group.
The second catalog dates back to 1995, in “Dorgali, ancient monuments”, in which M. Rosaria Manunza illustrated her research which included the cartographic positioning of the sites, the survey of numerous monuments and the excavation of some structures. The volume can be considered the reference point for the knowledge of the archaeological heritage of the Municipality.
Starting from 2006 and 2007, the Municipality of Dorgali, with the help of the service company for territorial development assistance, coordinated by Professor Giuseppe Scanu, conducted a study aimed at creating the P.U.C. (Municipal Urban Plan) from which we learn about more than 400 archaeological sites starting from the Neolithic to late antiquity: 55 Domus de Janas, 3 Menhirs, 16 Dolmens, an area with high reliefs, 44 nuraghi, 111 settlements / villages, 5 walls megalithic, 19 wells, a fountain, 45 tombs of giants, 88 Roman / late-Roman sites, 4 long stretches of road presumably from the Roman age.
Compared to what has been exposed so far, however, it must be ascribed that from the archaeological point of view the caves have no longer been the subject of a precise archaeological scientific research. Fulvia Lo Schiavo in the publication of 1980 states: "We know that the density of settlement in caves in the Dorgali area was very high, since there is practically no cavity that has not returned archaeological materials, from the Ozieri culture to the Roman age, but the characteristics of these settlements and their reciprocal connection, the relationship between use as a dwelling and as a burial or sacred place, the interrelationships between caves and the surrounding area, are, for the various eras, burning questions that require a prompt answer ".
The domus de janas in the Dorgali area
The domus de janas are prehistoric burial structures dug directly into the rock typical of pre-Nuragic Sardinia. They are found both isolated and in large concentrations, forming real necropolis.
From the recent Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age, these structures characterized the entire island.
In Italian, the Sardinian word domus de janas has been translated into "fairy houses", while in other areas they are also known by the name of forrus or forreddus.
Although present in other Mediterranean sites, on the island they acquire a character of uniqueness and extraordinariness due to the careful processing, for the characteristic architectural aspects and the rich decorations that recall those who were the homes of the living, giving a precise idea of how in in reality the houses were built five thousand years ago.
It is therefore possible to find caves in the shape of a round hut with a cone-shaped roof, but also with rectangular spaces and sloping roofs, equipped with doors and windows. The walls were then often adorned with magical symbols in relief, representing stylized bull horns, spirals and other geometric designs.
Rather numerous are in fact the naturalistic or schematic representations of the bull or ram's head, or of the horns alone, which testify to the cult of a deity symbol of regeneration for the dead as an emblem of life and fecundating power.
The Dorgalese ones are very simple and not grouped with the exception of Conca 'e Janas where there are 8 domus, s have a simple plan, usually with a single room and almost never exceed two meters in width. The decorative element of both an architectural and a symbolic ritual character is missing in all. Three of them can be easily located near the town.