14 The  Camillo Story

The Sardinian Connection

As mentioned above, the island of Sardinia was to play an important role in the Dino Camillo family and here we will take a closer look at this fascinating island and the inhabitants that became, by marriage, an integral part of the Camillo family.

A Brief History of Sardinia

In order to understand the people of a region, it is useful to know a little of their history. Sardinia is a very ancient land mass, perhaps the oldest of all Italy, going back to the Cambrian period, 570 million years ago. With the periodic fluctuation of the sea level, caused by the coming and going of the periods of glaciation, the island of Sardinia had at times a land link to the rest of Italy.  

The land-bridge that connected Sardinia to the main-land

During these periods, beginning two million years ago, many animals crossed the land bridge from Tuscany, through Elba and Corsica, then across the Bonifacio Straits into Sardinia. Of course in the interglaciation periods, Sardinia became an island once more. These animals, being cut off from any possibility of refreshing their genetic patrimony, slowly evolved into species quite different to their original ancestors. Curiously, the tendency was to decrease in size, perhaps for lack of space and food and we therefore find that the elephants in Sardinia (the climate was tropical at the time) had shrunk in size to that of a dog !

In the recent Pleistocene and in the more recent Olocene, between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago, the first man ventured across the same land bridge and was similarly trapped on the island. Today, genetically, the Sardinians are very different from all mainland populations and are in fact a breed all of their own. 

The average stature of Sardinians is rather on the low side and perhaps the same principles of the little elephants have applied, but more likely the governing factor may have been the very rocky terrain that favours a lower centre of gravity and therefore shorter bodies. In fact contrarily, the flat African plains produced long legged and fast running natives (probably to outrun the many man-eating animals there).  

Nuraghe Loelle

The scant population that lived in Sardinia from 1800 B.C. to 200 B.C. was known as the Nuragic people, who lived in stone dwellings and built the round conical towers, probably for religious - astronomical rituals, that are a characteristic feature of the Sardinian landscape. Their knowledge for the manufacture of bronze artifacts, probably came from the Etruscans on the neighbouring mainland, who most likely traded this know-how for the raw materials that were plentiful on the island.

They were mainly a pastoral people and the tradition and its very same, simple  methods, have been maintained in Sardinia for over 3000 years, right up to the present. It has only been over the past 10 to 15 years that we have seen a certain amount of mechanisation. Even today, you can still see peasant farmers travelling by donkey and up to just a few years ago, you could occasionally witness the tilling of the land with an ox-drawn, wooden plough!

An interesting note, is the intact survival of a Nuragic tribe well into the Roman times, since it lived well hidden in a wonderful "lost valley", the Valley of Lanaittu. This can be seen today, still intact, without any buildings, apart from the primitive ones. The two Nuragic villages were in an enormous natural cavern, in a very inaccessible place, Monte Tiscali, whose ceiling had caved in before their settlement, providing overhead lighting and ventilation.

Sardinia is rich in minerals, coal, silver, lead, zinc and iron and it wasn't long before the word got around the Mediterranean and many people came from afar to mine them. The Phoenicians, brave sailors and traders, made their first settlements here around the 9th century B.C. in Tharros, Caralis (Cagliari), Nova Sulcis, Turris Libyssonis (Porto Torres), Terranova (Olbia) and slowly made their way inland. Then came the Cartheginians, around the 6th century B.C., then the Greeks and finally came the Roman conquest in 238 B.C.

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