Points of interest

The archaeological monuments of Dorgali and Cala Gonone

The richness of the Dorgali archaeological heritage has been highlighted by various authors since the end of the 19th century.

The first studies are due to Domenico Lovisato who collected numerous lithic hatchets, now exhibited in the Archaeological Museum, and took care of some Domus de Janas. In 1911 Ettore Pais made known the Village of Tiscali, located inside a sinkhole on top of the mountain of the same name. Later Antonio Taramelli published the first archaeological map of Sardinia, giving brief information on the monuments then known

  • Read more

    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.


Guided tours


Group rate:

  • for groups of visitors consisting of no less than 20 people (not entitled to another reduction)

Reduced Rate:

  • for children aged between 6 and 13;
  • for groups of students organized by schools
  • for groups of students organized by schools for people over the age of 70 (with a suitable document);

Free for:

  • for children under 6;
  • for disabled people and their accompanying persons (in the maximum number of one companion for each disabled person);
  • for teachers accompanying groups of students (up to a maximum of one free ticket every 10 students)


Ticket price



Apr | 10.00/13.00 – 15.00/18.00
May – Jun – Jul – Aug – Sep | 09.00/12.00 – 16.00/19.00
Oct | 10.00/13.00 – 15.00/18.00

Serra Orrios

Ticket price

TICKET: € 5 


Jan – Feb – Mar | 09.00/13.00 – 14.00/17.00
Apr – May – Jun | 09.00/13.00 – 15.00/18.00
Jul – Aug | 09.00/13.00 – 16.00/19.00
Sep | 09.00/13.00 – 15.00/18.00
Oct – Nov – Dec | 09.00/13.00 – 14.00/17.00


Ticket price

TICKET: € 5 


Jan – Feb – Mar – Apr | 9.00/17.00
May – Jun – Jul – Aug – Sep | 9.00/19.00
Oct – Nov – Dec | 9.00/17.00


Ticket price

from 01/07 to 31/08
TICKET: € 10

from 01/09 to 30/06
TICKET: € 8 


Jan – Feb – Mar – Apr | 9.00/17.00
May – Jun – Jul – Aug – Sep | 9.00/19.00
Oct – Nov – Dec | 9.00/17.00



Apr: 10.00 - 11.00 - 15.00
May: 9.00 - 10.00 - 11.00 - 15.00
Jun - Oct: 9.00 - 10.00 - 11.00 - 12.00 - 14.00 - 15.00 - 16.00

Ticket price

South Branch

Apr - May - Jun and Sep - Oct
Ticket - € 10.00
Reduced ticket - € 5.00

Jul - Aug
Ticket - € 12.00
Reduced ticket - € 6.00

Early morning visit h 9.00 am - Ticket € 8.00



Ticket – 15.00€
Reduced ticket – 7.50€
Groups – 10.00€

POI MAP(Updating)

The Domus de Janas

The Domus de Janas, elsewhere known as forrus o forreddus, are prehistoric burial structures cut straight into the rock, and typical of pre-Nuragic Sardinia. They are found both isolated and in groups where they form real necropoli.

These structures were characteristic across the whole island from the Late Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age

The Sardinian Domus de Janas can be translated into the English “Fairy Houses”.

Although they exist in other Mediterranean areas, here in Sardinia they are noted for their uniqueness and extraordinarily accurate finishings, for their architecture and rich decorations which reflect the houses of the living, giving us a precise idea of how the houses of 5,000 years ago were built.

Thus you can find grottoes shaped like round huts with conical roofs, but also rectangular spaces and pitched roofs, with windows and doors. The walls were often decorated with incised magic symbols, representing stylized bulls’ horns, spirals and other geometric designs. The natural or schematic representations of bulls or rams’ heads or just horns are evidence of a divinity, symbols of regeneration or resurrection of the dead and emblems of life’s power and fruitfulness.

Those from Dorgali are very simple and not found in groups – with the exception of Conca ‘e Janas which contains 8 domus – they have a simple layout, with usually only one room and never exceed two metres width. None of them are decorated either architecturally or symbolically. Three are easily reached from the town.

Domus de Janas PascheddaSu Acu

Excavated in a slab of basalt, the tomb’s entrance is to the west 0.80 metres below ground level. The entrance is rectangular and well carved, surrounded by a deep recess. By the threshold there is a drainage channel, whilst in the thickness of the walls, near the jamb, there are two facing cavities, perhaps to allow the cover to close better. The irregular semi-circular cell has a flat floor and a rounded roof with curved walls.

Domus de Janas Pirischè

Located on a ridge of basaltic rock, it comprises a rectangular door that leads to a small ante- chamber which originally had a door. After there is a small doorway with four stepped recesses to hold the door. The tomb is made up of a single room that, through the wall, leads to a small room where the walls are carefully worked. In the small antechamber, on the right wall and in the ceiling of the left, there are vestiges of red ochre that originally coloured the whole room. In this domus were found Copper Age (Monte Claro) materials.

Domus de Janas Isportana


The hypogeum lies in an isolated basalt mass. The door opens at a certain height from the ground level and is surmounted by two deep horizontal and parallel grooves carved in the rock. The door still clearly has the recess for the door. A thin groove carved into the thickness of the door, outlines all four sides. The cell is oval with rounded roof. The tomb was explored in 1927 by A. Taramelli who found it had been robbed and emptied long before.

The Dolmen

The word dolmen is from ancient Breton and means “stone table”. In its simplest shape the dolmen comprises a stone slab placed across three or more standing stones (the orthostats) enclosing a space underneath. Originally it must have been covered by a tumulus of earth or stones, delimited and sustained by one or more surrounding rings of stones.  Like the Domus di Janas its had a funerary function. The discovery of San Michele pottery, dated to the Late Neolithic, is proof that this type of structure can be dated to this period, agreeing with the dates from outside Sardinia.


The Motorra Dolmen

This lies on a small basalt plateau at 287 a.s.l. near the nuraghe if the same name (of which little remains) and not far from the Campu de Pistiddori, Cucché, Mariughia and Neulé dolmens. As with all dolmens it must have hosted a collective burial. It comprises 8 basalt slabs forming an hexagonal shape with a single large cover slab. The entrance, with its cover still in place, is preceded by a corridor built of two orthostats on each side, originally covered by three slabs. The corridor gives onto an external double stone circle, the outer one of which only remains a few blocks, whilst the internal one is complete. From the tomb comes material from the Ozieri culture (Late Neolithic) and the Copper Age Beaker Culture. These are kept in the Dorgali Archaeological museum.


The Monte Longu Dolmen

Also known as S’Aspru, this dolmen is found on the southernmost slopes of monte Bardia not far from the Monte Longu Rock, at 513 a.s.l. and dominates the wide valley that looks towards Cala Gonone. It can be reached by a short hike. It is rectangular, made in limestone and comprises four rectangular slabs (originally there must have been five) which delimit a large room covered by a five-sided slab.

The Giant’s tomb

Tumbas de sos gigantes, Tumba de is gigantis or – in some parts of central Sardinia – di gigantinu, are the popular names used to indicate the “Giant’s Tombs”, the funerary monuments that were typical of Nuragic Sardinia, in use from the Mid- Bronze Age (the period also known as “Sa Turricola”). These tombs have a long body and from the exedra extends a wide semicircle with stone benches.

Based on their design these monuments can be divided into four main types:


  • Dolmenic or orthostatic type: formed by a wall made up of different sized upright slabs covered by a series of flat slabs (an example is S'Ena and Thomes - Dorgali);


  • Row type: walls made of rows of roughly hewn stones that protrude almost to join under the flat covering slabs, forming a trapezium shape (this is the case of the tomb of Is Concias in Quartucciu-Cagliari);


  • Isodomun type: like version 2 but with much more accurately worked blocks; those used are better squared and with the exposed surfaces accurately cut on a slant; the segments used in the construction of this type appear well squared and with slanted exposed surfaces (one example is that of Biristeddi - Dorgali) quite similar to those found on the steps of certain wells and sacred springs (see Su Tempiesu - Orune or Cristina - Paulilatino).


4)  Mixed type: includes both the "dolmenic technique" and the "row technique" in the same tomb.


The cultic part of the tomb is the exedra and for this reason is the most monumental. There are two techniques employed in its construction:

– the orthostatic construction: slabs placed upright with the “curved stele” in the middle pierced by a small door leading to the funerary chamber – either monolithic or bilithic. 

The row technique: created with blocks arranged in regular rows that, at the centre of the semicircle, delimit the architraved entrance to the funerary chamber.

The stele is the only element that can be considered really ‘megalithic’ as it can reach up to 4 metres high (e.g. the stele of Li Lolghi - Arzachena). 


Of particular interest is the “lunar” shape at the top, but also interesting and not fully understood is the decoration on the front; this is a relief frame that follows the whole profile of the slab plus a strip that crosses it at about half height.


The entrance door, which opens at the centre of the stele, can be trapezoidal, rectangular, quadrangular or arched, often surrounded by a recessed frame. Originally the opening was provided with a door or a cover - which has rarely been found in situ - in some cases with lateral sockets and a recess, to allow better insertion into the doorway.

Several writers have attempted to reconstruct the original appearance of the Giants' Tombs. To do this, they have used two types of documentation: the reproduction of the tombs found in the rocks in the province of Sassari and the interpretation of the relief pattern on the surface of the curved stele. The shape of the tomb, especially that of the dolmenic one, seems to reproduce a bovine protome where the corridor and the tomb body would be the head, with the wings of the exedra being the horns. The monument was usually also provided with architectural elements linked to the cult, such as the niches - used to deposit the votive offerings - the cup marks and benches, used during funeral ceremonies. Also important from a cultural point of view, are the menhirs that are usually found in the area surrounding the tomb. These signify fertility and prosperity.



This type of tomb is typically Sardinian and seems to represent the conclusion of a long evolutionary journey, starting with simple dolmen - in the final phase of the Ozieri culture - passing through the "gallery" tombs - the Allées Couvertes of the Eneolithic (first part of the Early Bronze Age), to reach the final stage of evolution in the mid-Bronze Age, with technical-constructive characteristics that were established during the Nuragic age and lasting until the beginning of the first millennium BC.  Concerning the chronology of this type of tomb we might suggest an evolutionary line that starts from the tombs with dolmenic structure, which may be considered older than the row ones, ending up with those with a more elegant isodomic structure, with notched blocks like Biristeddi. The final stage, would be those that cover the corridor with monolithic arches (Sa Sedda 'e sa Cadrea - Sindia) and, perhaps coeval or slightly earlier than the latter, are those like Tamuli II of Macomer-Nuoro. However this chronology is not fixed as it seems clear that the type with the curved stele is the one closest to the Allées Couvertes, while those with the little-functional entrance, such as S'Ena and Thomes, which has a dolmenic corridor, seem more recent. Thus it is not possible to fix a chronology through the tombs’ architectural features.


The S’Ena e Thomes Giant’s tomb was restored in 1977, motivated by the continual incursions of clandestine explorers, especially in the centre of the exedra. It was built using the orthostatic technique with a central curved stele. It has a rectangular room, delimited by upright slabs placed in the ground, the roof is flat using large granite slabs, three of which are still in place, whilst the other two lie upside down. The funerary chamber is covered by two smaller slabs lower down than those of the chamber itself. The floor, completely ruined by tomb robbers, still conserves traces of a stone pavement. The tomb is 16 metres long and 7 metres wide. The exedra is delimited by orthostatic slabs which gradually reduce in size from the central curved stele. In the centre the huge stele stands out, weighing about 7 tons it has the classic decoration around the perimeter. At its base opens the small door.

The Giant’s Tombs are collective tombs used for inhumation burials for primary and well conserved material, the bones are found all along the corridor. It is still not clear if they were used for all inhabitants of the village or only for a privileged group. However, there seem to be too many bones for them to have been used for the latter even taking into account the fact that they were used over several generations.

These tombs also need to be seen as part of the Nuragic religious manifestations: the exedra is the ritual space par excellence for collective ancestral rites.

You might also be interested in

Cooperativa Ghivine del G.r.a. – Dorgali (Nu)
+39 338 8341618
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Giuseppe Pisanu

Educational services:
Maria Grazia Corrias