Mankind is distinguished from any other species in the kingdom of animals by its ability to handle fire and in metal rich Sardinia; the progress in the art of making heat and metallurgy is first witnessed by the appearance of little funny figurines, made of bronze (1000 oC) about 4000 years ago before the arrival of the Age of Iron (1500 oC) some 1000 years later when copper became scarce. At least 7000 prehistoric sites are scattered on the island, consisting of the remains of sacred wells, burial tombs, towers, huts and in the end even castles surrounded by villages, all made of stones stacked without cement by the people of the Nuragic civilization of the Bronze Age.
Within these prehistoric sites, many ingots of bronze, a mixture of copper and tin, have been found; together with over 500 figurines once produced by pouring the molten metal alloy into a wax cast surrounded by a clay mold according to the lost wax casting method. Lacking scriptures from the Sardinian Bronze Age, there is ample room for ones imagination as concerns the origin and meaning of the little sculptures. Some of them resemble oriental gods such as the horned Baal from Mesopotamia, while others look like a Pan, a Pietà, like chieftains, soldiers, boats or three dimensional versions of hunter and animal drawings also found on rocks as far north as Scandinavia. Apparently there has been intensive and widespread trade in bronze and the analysis of metal isotopes suggests that copper may have been mined mainly in Cyprus and was then mixed with tin that could have been imported from Spain or even Great Britain.
When entering the ‘Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Cagliari’, you will first see stone carvings of the oldest, fat, mother earth, fertility goddesses from the Stone Age and then the slender metal figurines from the Bronze Age, together with replicas of the Nuragic buildings and burial tombs. Try travelling back like Pablo Picasso once did and remember your own prehistoric time, when as a child that could not yet read and write, you held on to charm puppets for protection against fear and evil lurking in the dark. Then see if you can dream up the four eyed warrior Siamese twin or that short legged deer, the prehistoric basset hound, or is that a crocodile witnessing the trade and wide travels of the seagoing Sardinians?