Nora is a large, open-air research site offering interesting insights into archaeology and bioculture. The material evidence in the Phoenician and Punic necropolis located in this peninsula 30 kilometres from Cagliari, stretching across the blue waters of the Mediterranean, is a unique opportunity to understand who travelled across this sea of trade routes, colonisations, voyages, and conquests in the ancient world. The University of Padua’s Department of Cultural Heritage, which is currently running the excavation by means of a Government concession, and the Superintendence of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscaping for the Metropolitan City of Cagliari and Provinces of Oristano and South Sardinia (officially: Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio per la città metropolitana di Cagliari e le province di Oristano e Sud Sardegna) have been working there since 1990. The project is directed by Jacopo Bonetto, who first carried out excavation work in the urban area, including the forum, temples and other buildings. Later, he began working at the necropolis in the narrowest part of the isthmus that leads to the Spanish tower of Sant’Efisio in the town of Pula. The tombs were sometimes left untouched and were stratigraphically complex, and witnesses of long-term transformations. Throughout the entire Punic period, inhumation was the ritual that prevailed, contrary to the earlier Phoenician period that was characterized by cremation.
This project brings together archaeology, earth science and anthropology. Analyses are performed on strontium isotopes, which is a challenging task that, nevertheless, yields many results. The varying concentrations of the isotopes depend on the local geology and the passing of the strontium from the soil to the plants and, then, to the nutrition of animals, until finally reaching us. The level of local strontium is absorbed and incorporated into the mineralised tissues, particularly in certain musculoskeletal areas in the first few years of life. This allows researchers to determine where subjects spent their childhood, as well as where they came from, i.e. if they were indigenous to the area or if they were from other areas of the Mediterranean, which were often clearly identifiable. Understanding the Phoenician diaspora in the Mediterranean is a discovery that has been made possible thanks to modern archaeology, allowing experts to take on challenges, which at one time would have been unthinkable.