It is typically a truncated cone tower, in the shape of a tholos, built with huge square blocks of stone, usually located in panoramic positions. The monument has no foundations, and stands only due to the of weight of stones. Some Nuraghes are more than 20 metres in height. Today, there is more than 8,000 Nuraghes in Sardinia, though it has been estimated that once the number was more than 30,000.
Another kind of Nuraghe has a corridor or a system of corridors. Some authors are reluctant to place these in the same category as tholos Nuraghe, as there are too relevant differences, and prefer talking about "Nuragic village".
Nuraghes appeared on the island in an undetermined epoque (not earlier than 6000 BC), some elements have been dated 3500 BC, but it is supposed that most of them were built from the middle of Bronze Age (18th-15th centuries BC) until Rome entered Sardinia (2nd century BC).
The uncertainty around the dating of the Nuraghi is a constant feature of Sardinian chronologies. Of the existing 8000, as for today only few have been scientifically excavated. Although the Nuragici civilization, according to one of the outmost scholars of Sardinian proto-history and Etruscologist Massimo Pallottino, produced the most advanced and monumental architectures of the period in the western Mediterranean, included the Greek region, Italian interest for Sardinian archaeology, has been minimal, but for the illegal trade of bronze statues.
The use or meaning of Nuraghes has not been clearly identified: among the most believable theories it is supposed to have been a religious temple, or a dwelling, a military reference (stronghold), the house of the chief of the village, the place for the meeting of the wise men or the governors. It could have been as well a combination of all or some of these items. Some of them are, however, in strategic locations from which important passages could be easily controlled.
Undoubtedly Nuraghes had a meaningful symbolic content, at least recalling wealth or power, or maybe the establishment of a village (eventually in the dignity of a State-village). Recent theories are oriented to consider that Sardinian villages might have been federated (very likely they were self-governed) and that the building of these monuments could depend on a prior planned distribution of the territory. It has to be remembered that Sardinians (or Nuragici) had developed a particular skill in metallurgy, trading for bronze in many areas of the Mediterranean and being consequently a well known people.
Some famous Nuraghes are in Barumini (where Professor Giovanni Lilliu discovered a fortified village that in times had been covered by ground and had became a hill), or in Serra Orrios, Alghero, Terralba, Macomer, Abbasanta, Orroli, Villanovaforru, Sarroch, Olbia.
The people that built them is supposed to have developed a mysterious civilization (some define it as the most accomplished civilisation in the Mediterranean area at its times) and is called "Nuragici people"; forms of art were discovered, mainly in the form of little statues in bronze called "bronzetto", typically representing the chief of the village ("Sardus pater") or hunting or fighting men, animals, more rarely women.
Other monuments of Nuragicis' are Giants tombs, megaron temples, sacred dwellings, sacred fountains, sanctuaries, enclosures.
Nuragic art includes stone carvings or statues representing female divinities (Thanit, main religious entity, is a goddess); these works however have often been considered as partly a fruct of relationships with Phoenicians.
It has been recalled that round buildings, or circular plan buildings, are typical of nomad peoples, and indeed ancient Sardinians should effectively have been used to constantly move within their territory for better places or to avoid invasions or outside for new markets for their bronze.
Nuraghe is today the symbol of Sardinia and of its peculiar ethnicity.