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History of the first Sardinian Town

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Most probably Nora�s site was anciently inhabited by nuraghi population: some ceramics remains dated back to the nuraghi civilisation have been found in an area called �Punta di Coltellazzo�. And in the South-East corner of the thermal baths, near the sea, there is a nuraghi well (that hasn�t been excavated as yet) with several steps that go down to the water.   At the moment no other nuraghi remain has been found within the ancient town area, but it is most probable that the tower of Coltellazzo has been built over an older nuraghi tower.   Whereas the hinterland is quite rich of nuraghi buildings: on the hill of �Sa Guardia Mongiasa�, quite close to the town, there are the remaining of a small nuraghe. 

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Nora - V
iew of the thermal baths from the sea

About the Phoenician colonization we have more certain information.  The Greek historian Pausania, tells that the Iberian, led by Norax, arrived to Sardinia and founded the first town: Nora.  Since the Phoenicians had the trade control on the Iberian peninsula, the historians believe that the Iberians who founded Nora were actually Phoenicians. 

Some Phoenician stone inscriptions dated VIII century b.C., found in Nora, indicate that the town must have been the first in Sardinia. 

The Phoenician sailors came from the sea, not as invaders, but to trade; at first they started with temporary settlements to be used as storehouses for the raw materials.  Certainly the typology of the place agreed with the Phoenicians demand, because Nora represents a sheltered port for the ships in case of storms.  The height of �Coltellazzo� has probably hosted the first urban centre (about 750 b.C.).     The Phoenicians certainly had a commercial and pacific relationship with the inhabitants of the area.   As commerce increased the town grew and expanded over the promontory all along the lower part of the peninsula. 

In the VI century b.C. the Carthagine marine power (situated on the African North coast).   At mid. century the Carthaginian invaded the West side of Sicily, where they the towns of the Magna Grecia  put up resistance.   At the end they forwarded towards Sardinia and attacked the Phoenician towns.  A first expedition headed by general Malco was defeated, but by the end of the century a second expedition led by the generals Asdrubale and Amilcare obtained the alliance with Tharros (near Oristano) and Karalis (Cagliari).  The Carthaginian conquered also Sulcis and Nora, that had opposed resistance, hence from 509 b.C. Sardinia became a Carthaginian domain. 

There are not many Phoenician archaeological remains in Nora, we may count the foundations of the Temple of Tanit, the fortifications on the �Punta di Coltellazzo� and some ruins of houses and walls.  The Romans have built over all the Carthaginian buildings so very little is visible. 

During the Carthaginian domain Nora became important for the maritime trade throughout the Mediterranean, as evidenced by the rich ornaments and linens found in the Punic tombs: ceramics, Greek pieces of jewellery, talismans, African or Italian jewellery.    The town must have been quite rich and active.  Probably the Carthaginian market �Piazza� was where we can still see the remains of the Roman forum.   It must have been the centre of a dense trade exchange: there was copper coming form central Sardinia, Etruscan dishes, attic ceramics, lead and silver from Sulcis (in Sardinia), gold from Sahara, copper objects coming from Cyprus,  handicrafts in African ivory.  Very few traces remain of the Punic town, such as the Tophet and the necropolis destroyed by the sea. 

In 238 b.C., Sardinia was conquered by the Romans, therefore also Nora passed under the Roman domain.  It started off as the main town of the island and the governorship�s site, but soon Karalis took its place. 

Anyhow also later on Nora remained an important town: it was �Caput Viae� (town cape of a road, from which distances were calculated).   The importance of the town was testified by the presence of four (not one) Thermal Buildings, of a theatre and an amphitheatre (not yet excavated) and of some elegant villas situated at a certain distance from the urban centre of the town.   The common people�s houses were quite small and usually consisted in a single room at the bottom with a wooden intermediate floor on top used as bedroom. 

The archaeological findings preserved in Pula Museum give a good idea of the daily routine of the town: there are common use objects built in Nora or imported from the various Mediterranean coasts. 

The slow decline of Nora began in the IV century a.C., with the falter of the Roman Empire and when the seas became unsafe.   The Vandals (455 a.C.) the town ended its vital cycle and was gradually abandoned by the people who chose safer inland areas. 

In the VII century a.C., the Saracen pirates incursions started and by then Nora was considered more a �Presidium� (military fortress) than a village. 

There are traces of a fire in the area of the sea thermal baths during the VIII century a.C. and most probably the area was consequently completely abandoned. 

So the story of Nora lasts the space of 1600 years, from the VIII century b.C. to the VIII century a.C. 

From a project on Nora performed by  the pupils of Class 2nd C �Scuola media B. Croce� of  Pula in school year 1997/98

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Isola Sarda 1997-2005 - Associazione Culturale Ciberterra - Responsabile: Giorgio Plazzotta
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