Tharros is an archaeological site in Sardinia brimming with centuries of history. Founded in the 8th century BC by the Phoenicians, Tharros would be inhabited by the Carthaginians and the Romans, leaving behind a series of ancient structures, especially its two standing Corinthian columns.
Among the other highlights of the ruins at Tharros are the remains of the Punic tophet – a sacred space sometimes used for burials – as well as the remains of the thermal baths and the foundations of temples, houses and shops. Later abandoned due to Saracen raids, Tharros is one of Sardinia’s best ancient sites.
Tharros was likely founded by the Phoenicians towards the end of the 8th century, and is evidenced by the necropolis and tophet – both typical of Phoenician and Punic burial areas. The Phoenician necropolis was built at Cape San Marco. It was here that cremated bodies along with rich burial goods such as jewellery were buried in circular or elongated pits dug into the sand.
The tophets were used from the 7th century, an contained the burnt remains of children and sacrificed animals. Alongside the tophets were hundreds of stelae made of sandstone, often representing small temples and divine symbols. During the later 6th century, Tharros was conquered by the Carthaginians who built a massive new temple and fortified the city with defensive walls. A handicraft district thrived in the 5th century, specialising in metalwork.
Between the Roman conquest of Sardinia in 238 BC and the end of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, Tharros underwent extensive transformation. In the Republic 2nd century BC, the great defensive wall was renovated and a a new urban system connected by roads made of volcanic balsalt were established. The Romans also built a bathing complex and the Castellum Aquae to distribute fresh water from the aqueduct.
During the early Christian era however, the Roman buildings were harvested for construction and weathered the elements poorly. With Saracen raids increasing, depopulation followed. Although, Tharros remained an official church seat until 1071 when the bishop moved to Oristano, marking the end of a thriving ancient city.
From the 17th century, the necropolises in Tharros were haunted by treasure hunters and it was not until the late 19th century that excavations began. A large part of the punic-Roman city was unearthed in the 1950s including the Temple of Demeter and fortifications of Murru Mannu. In 2004, over 100 Phoenician and Punic tombs were found, giving us insight into funerary rituals of the period.
Today, the area of Tharros is an open-air museum and active excavation site. The most prominent features of the ancient landscape are the Carthaginian tophet, bath installations, temple foundations and an area of houses and artisan workshops.
With endless horizons from the coastline, you can explore the ruins via walkable tracks dotted with very informative signage in both Italian and English. If you want to see more of the ancient site, many artefacts unearthed here are held at the Museum in Cagliari. Make sure you take water as it is very hot.
Getting to Tharros
From the closest town Oristano, Tharros is a 23 minute drive via the SP6. From Cagliari, Tharros is an hour and a half long drive via the E25. There is parking on site.