Inside the historical setting of ŠRDN – From Bronze and Darkness – #3 Shardana: “Mediterranean Vikings”

We finally arrive to the main question: who really were those people responsible for the great monuments of Sardinian Nuragic Civilization? Archaeology itself remains uncertain, and Shardan’s identity has to be reconstructed through a criss-cross of ancient literary sources, all of them “foreign”. In fact, the Shardans left magnificent stones but no proof of alphabet or written documents.

This lack of evidence left space for the most imaginative interpretations about their origin but, on the other hand, under a strict historical point of view it sadly contributed to read every hypothesis as one of those reveries. Avoiding spoilers of possible future developments of the novel’s plot, let’s try to begin with the little evidence we have: Egyptian sources. Inscriptions mentioning the Shardana date back to the period of three pharaohs: Akenaton, Ramses II and Ramses III, in between 1355 and 1100 b.C.. Two main sources – the Tanis’ stele and the walls of Medinet Habu temple in Thebes – refer to the Shardanas as the enemies that the Egyptians fought: the “Sea People”, a dreadful population of sailor raiders coming from the West.

The very word ŠRDN – the title of the novel – is Phoenician alphabet, it is transliterated as “Shardan” and it was found in Sardinia carved in the Nora’s stele, one of the most ancient written sources of the island and the first Phoenician text ever found on the west of Tyre (Lebanon). Based on this discovery, Shardan(a)s were thought to be a not-native population that settled on Sardinia only afterwards, conquering the natives. This speculation just pushes their real origin somewhere else in another mysterious land for no real sake, ignoring another meaningful source of the time: the mention of Tyrrhenians.

This was the Greek name with which many authors referred to non-Greek western Mediterranean populations. A
Homeric Hymn referred to them (like the Egyptians about the Shardana) as “pirates”, and although the origin of the name is uncertain, the root tursis is clear: tower. Does it suggest something? Hesiod goes a step further and refers to them as Tyrsenoisin (“builders of towers”) together with the adjective “very famous” and “inhabitants of holy islands”. Now, the question is: where could these “raiders”, creators of “holy” towers, possibly have come from at that time in Western Mediterranean if not from Sardinia? This answer would mean re-write history, and it is known that such enterprise is rarely easy. Tyrrhenian origin was therefore “safely” set in the Italic peninsula: among the well known Etruscans. But exactly because Etruscans are well known, it is proved that – at the time to which Hesiod writing referred (XII-XI b.C.) – their civilization was far to be “famous”, neither remarkable for any architectonical monument nor certainly for “towers”. Such instead was the Sardinian Nuragic Civilization.

Another undeniable hint comes from the comparison between Egyptian iconography and Sardinian bronze sculptures. More than 500 bronze little statues were found on Nuragic sites, from 15 to 39 centimetres tall, which resembled figures and clothing of how Shardana populations could have looked like at that time. Among them, there are many warriors and they look exactly like the Shardana warriors represented in Egyptians carvings. And they had horned helmets! Basically, the quintessential helmet of fantasy literature that had demonstrably never been used by Norse Vikings was archaeologically proved to have been worn by an almost unknown population of “Mediterranean raiders”. I find this hilarious.

In conclusion, building up on these results, many other (more or less) fanciful conjectures about Shardanas’ journeys were made, all born from the evidence of traces of Shardana material culture found all along the Mediterranean and even outside. We already mentioned the similitude between the ziggurat of Monte D’Accoddi and that of Sumerian Uruk. Moreover, a village with a similar Nuragic structure was found in el-Ahwat, in Israel, thought as the fortress of the biblical character Sisara. Monuments similar to the nuraghes were found in the Balearic Islands, and what seems a Sardinian holy well rises in Bulgaria, the capital city of which – Sofia – in ancient time was called Sardica. The farthest (and most fragile) speculations arrive to Zimbabwe, southern Africa, mostly for the structure of the
Great Zimbabwe archaeological site.

We are at the end of this third article about the historical background of Š
RDN– From Bronze and Darkness. Between fantasy and reality, the Nuragic Civilization remains a fascinating mystery. On the fourth and last episode I will talk about those pagan rituals and masks that from ancient times crossed the centuries and lasted until the very present.