A section of the exhibition dedicated to the city of Tharros, founded by the Phoenicians between the 8th century and 7th century BC and populated until the Middle Ages, offers a broad picture of the results of various archaeological excavations conducted primarily in the tophet and in the Punic industrial workshop area.
This section displays the archaeological finds from the tophet, the typical public Phoenician-Punic sanctuary, consisting of a large open area, surrounded by a sacred enclosure in which were placed urns containing cremated remains of children and small animals. The tophet was discovered in 1962 and explored in the years 1962-63 under the direction of the Archaeological Superintendence of Cagliari and Oristano (G. Pesce, F. Barreca) and between 1974-1986 by a mission of the CNR of Rome (A. Ciasca, E. Acquaro).
In this open-air sanctuary, located on the northern boundary of the town on the remains of the Nuragic settlement on Murru Mannu hill, thousands of terracotta urns (amphorae, jugs, pots), dating from the 7th century BC and the 2nd century BC were found. These urns were associated with about 300 cippi and votive stelae that were also discovered. The urns contained cremated remains, mostly of children from 0 to 6 months ad rarely up to 5 years old, in combination, in about one third of urns, with small bones of sheep and lambs, apparently sacrificed to the deities. About 20 percent of the urns for which the content was analyzed, contained only the remains of small sheep, often mixed with the bones of adult animals. Small children’s ornaments and amulets were discovered in some of the urns.
On the stelae, introduced in the sanctuary during the 6th century BC and in use until the 4th, deities were depicted as aniconic or anthropomorphic images and were often shown in small Egyptianising aedicule (temples characterized by typically Egyptian architectural elements).
It is assumed that, at some point, sacred buildings of modest size, probably chapels were built in the tophet. In fact, the remains of a wall found in the adjacent workshop area was constructed entirely of re-used materials, including several blocks with Punic votive inscriptions engraved on the plaster, which are assumed to have come from those chapels.
A secondary space in the exposition is devoted to the results of excavations conducted in the 1990s by the National Research Council in Rome (CNR) in the vicinity of the metallurgic workshop district. The area was characterized by a succession of dark burnt layers containing metallurgy waste (fragments of the walls of furnaces, slag, etc.), mixed with a large amounts of spoil materials coming from residential, funerary, and sacred areas.
The laboratory tests performed on these metallurgical materials have made it possible to establish that the area was intended for the manufacture of iron from the Montiferru mine and the metallurgy of bronze, demonstrating a very advanced knowledge of technological processes. The most representative finds from the handicraft district, including ceramic vessels, terracotta figures, and other artifacts, are also on display in this exposition space.
In the same room, there is a selection of artifacts discovered in the 1950s by G. Pesce, including a significant number of Punic and Roman oil lamps that exemplify the types documented as being used in Tharros during the early periods of the settlement.