The Mysterious Horned Warrior — Torreans of the Isle of Corsica.

James Thomas
Published in
16 min readJul 28, 2013




(The following Article is reproduced in whole from the 1966 Antiquity Journal Vol.XL., for the benefit of the reader, and introduces the less well known though equally mysterious people from the Isle of Corsica in the Western Mediterranean whom we know as the Torreans and their possible connection with the Horned Warriors of the Sea Battle frieze at Medinet-Habu, Egypt).

Monsieur Grosjean is a former pupil of the late Abbe Breuil and has, since 1954, been excavating and conducting fieldwork and research in the prehistory and protohistory of Corsica. He is a member of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique attached to the Laboratoire de Palethnologie in theInstitut de Paleontologie Humaine. His work during twelve years has revealed a wide variety of antiquities in Corsica and has removed the feeling that Corsica was archaeologically unknown and was a gap in our knowledge of wet Mediterranean prehistory. Recently he described to the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres the discovery of an important alignment of statue-menhirs in the south-west of Corsica, and he summarizes these discoveries here and evaluates the light they throw on the Megalthic and Torrean cultures of the island.

CORSICA is now, without any doubt, regarded in the Mediterranean as ‘the island of statue-menhirs’. These Corsican monumental statues are 2 to 3m. in height — well above the size of a normal human being — and are the work of artists belonging to the last phase of the island’s megalithic culture which we would date from the middle of the 2nd millennium B.C. [1].

These statue-menhirs of which at least 60 are now known from all over the island, are almost all of a very hard granite: all worked without the use of metal tools.

Since the first publication of the important site of Filitosa [2] there have been many excavations, and we can now see clearly the succession of cultures in prehistoric Corsica, and particularly the succession and interrelation of the two important cultures which interest all prehistorians so much, namely the Megalithic Culture, that is to say the culture of the builders of the megaliths, and the Torrean Culture, that is to say the builders of the torre or stone towers.

This latter, the civilisation torreenne as it is described in French was entirely unknown in Corsica before 1954.

Since then tens of sites have been excavated and studied of the Torrean cultures-cult-sites, fortified towers, and living sites — of which at least a hundred are known south of a line from Ajaccio to Solenzara [3].

The present writer has already proposed [4] the division of the Corsican megalithic culture into three periods, and the subdivision of the third period into four phases. It may be convenient to summize these here for the benefit of English and American readers.

Megalith Period I is characterized by cemeteries of stone-cists, many of large stones, with a circular peristalith. Menhirs or menhirs-steles are closely associated with these megalithic cists, sometimes set in the cists themselves, and sometimes near by. Contemporary and similar stone-cists are known from Li Muri in Sardinia and from Catalonia. The distribution of these cist-cemeteries is confined to the south of Corsica, and five groups have so far been studied.

Megalith Period II consists no longer of stone-cists buried in the ground as in Period I but are ‘dolmens’ or megalithic chamber tombs of uncomplicated plan built on the surface of the ground and sometimes with peristaliths. There are associated menhirs but they are found further away from the dolmen, and are grouped into alignments, and begin to adopt a form which eventually becomes a statue-menhir. Tis period occupies the first half of the 2nd millennium B.C. Remains of this period are found all over Corsica, and comprise a hundred dolmens and many hundreds of isolated menhirs and alignments.

Period III of the Corsican Megalith Builders comprises all the developed artistic culture of these people, and lasts from the middle of the 2nd millennium B.C. to the end of that millennium. In this period the dolmens of Period II style were still used, but new dolmens were built of a different form. The following division of this period is suggested:

Sub-Period III-1. This period sees the transition from the characteristic Corsican menhir to the statue-menhir via the menhir anthropomorphe , that is to say a menhir of human form but without any engraving or sculpture. This phase or sub-period is restricted to the south of the island, and 12 sites belonging to it have been described.

Sub-Period III-2. This comprises statue-menhirs found only in the south of Corsica, from a period immediately prior to the invasion of Corsica by the Torreans; 13 of these are known and none bears any representation of weapons.

Sub-Period III-3. This is a period of the war between the Megalith Builders and the invading Torreans. The statue-menhirs of this period unquestionably portray the Torrean enemies of the indigenous Megalith Builders, and show their weapons and equipment. Ninteen of these are known so far and they are all in the south of the island.

Sub-Period III-4. This is the period during which the Megalith Builders, defeated and decimated by the invading Torreans, have retreated to the north of the island, outside the Torrean territory, and where they have left behind a certain number — 18 are known so far — of statue-menhirs different from those of sub-periods III-2 and III-3. None has representations of weapons; they date from the end of the 2nd millennium B.C.


Fig.1. The coastal regions west of Sartene and the plateau of Cauria in relation to the island of Corsica as a whole.

The purpose of this present article is not to describe new discoveries made in 1964, which included statue-menhirs forming an alignment of 20 menhirs on the plateau of Cauria in the commune of Sartene, a few kilometres inland from the coast (Fig.1.). The fresh information provided by these discoveries not only confirms our earlier hypotheses but also allows us to record for the first time new facts about the Megalithic and Torrean cultures.

According to our interpretations [5], Period III-3 of the Corsican Megalithic Culture is that when the statue-menhirs portray weapons which the Megalith Builders themselves did not possess: The statue-mehnirs of Period III-3 portray the enemies of the Megalith Builders. We have already said elsewhere that it is because the indigenous Megalith Builders were so astonished by the weapons and equipment of the invading Torreans that they were especially anxious and interested in recording them on the statue-mehnirs [6].

We have on several occasions noted the evidence for violent antagonism between the two civilizations or cultures — Megalithic and Torrean: here is some of it, the fortifications set up at this time by the Megalith Builders, the Cyclopean Forts of the Torrean peoples, the arrowhead typical of the Megalith Builders found buried in the outer wall of the central Torrean site of Tappa (Porto-Vecchio), other ‘stray’ arrows found in the interior of the Torrean citadel of Cucuruzzu (Levie) [7], not to mention the destruction by the Torreans of the statue-menhirs of Filitosa after the conquest of that favourite Megalithic high-place, and the reutilization of fragments of these slighted statue-menhirs in the building of the central Torrean cult-site there.

The reasons for this antagonism lie in the two completely different traditions of the two cultural groups. The Torreans, skilled in navigation, war and building, were essentially stock-breeders and more especially cattle-breeders, and they wore leather garments; they were addicted to a bull-cult and never represented the human figure in their art.

By contrast the indigenous Megalith Builders of Corsica were shepherds and goatherds, they wore woollen garments, and had a religion based on special funerary ceremonies and a religious art which included representation of human beings-either themselves or their enemies.


Almost all the Megalithic monuments on the plateau of Cuaria about 35 miles south of Ajaccio (FIG.1.), i.e. the dolmens (PL. XXIXa) and the two most important alignments, Rinaiu consisting of 45 menhirs (PL. XXIXb), and I Stantare consisting of 20 menhirs, have been very well known for a long time (FIG.2.).


Fig.2. Schematic plan of the distribution of dolmens and alignments of the plateau of Cauria.

Despite their difficulty of access they have been visited by many archaeologists including Prosper Merimee in 1839 [8] who was agreeably surprised by the beauty of these sites and the interest of the monuments: of the alignment of Stantare he recorded nine menhirs, of which five were standing and four fallen down, but he was of the view that originally there must have been many more. Adrien de Mortillet, in 1893, published a description and drawing of them [9] which we reproduce here (FIG.3.); his account is still useful, although he recorded only seven menhirs, mostly built into a wall.


PLATE. XXIX. (a) The dolmen of Fontanaccia. (b) Part of the alignment of Rinaiu which consists of 45 menhirs.

In his drawing there are four upright menhirs labelled A, B, C and D. On no occasion was any mention made by early archaeologists of any sculptures on the whole of the plateau of Cauria, and indeed, from the beginning of this century until now, the Megalithic monuments of Cauria were forgotten: this is not surprising as they were buried in thick maquis.


In 1964, as part of a scheme for preserving ancient monuments and making them available to visitors, the maquis was chopped away from the area where prehistoric monuments were known to exist. As a result of this clearance and the subsequent careful re-examination of the I Stantare alignment, it was observed that one menhir had a feature with which the present writer was very familiar, namely the back of the head of the statue-menhir.

It was decided to excavate this site, the wall in which many of the stones were incorporated was removed, and the whole length of the alignment revealed for detailed study (FIG.4.).


Fig.3. The alignment of I Stantare in 1893 (after A. de Mortillet).

It should be noted that stones 1, 5, and 8 in our plan are A, C and D in de Mortillet’s plan (FIG.3.), and are in the same position, whereas our stone 3 which was B in de Mortillet’s plan has been cut down to the level of the ground. The actual number of stones in the alignment is considerably more than previously recorded and it is also likely that there are more stones lying buried.


Fig.4. The alignment of I Stantare completely uncovered (1964).

The first menhir at the north end of the alignment is a statue-menhir of the type which the present writer calls a statue-stele, that is to say it is large but thin flat stone; any head that may have existed has gone and all that remains is the curve of the shoulders and the back-bone.

This statue-menhir we describe, for purposes of reference, as Cauria I. Proceeding southwards, and very close to each other, are Cauria II which was completely buried in the ground and which we were able to recover by excavation; Cauria III, of which unfortunately only the base remains, because 20 to 30 years ago, it was broken up to provide stone for constructing a shepherd’s hut nearby, and Cauria IV, which was beyond the wall and set us on the track of the others. Carrying on to the south there are at least fifteen menhirs (PL. XXXa) and these may well include several statue-menhirs — but the test of this must await further excavations.


PLATE. XXX. (a) The alignment of I Stantare with Cauria II and IV restored to their original positions. (b) Cauria I, II, II and IV (from right to left).


Close-up of the two main statue-menhirs from Plate XXXa.


The statue-menhirs of Cauria are important because they themselves provide for us more interesting novelties than all the dozens of other statue-menhirs in Corsica which we have found and described. We have here new details of arms and hands, we have the feet especially bevelled to be more firmly rooted in the ground, and we have depressions on each side of the top of the head to take external ornaments.

It has already been noticed that the Megalith Builders painted their statues — only red has so far been observed — but now we can be certain that they were decorated with external features. These menhirs represent dead people, and this is true of all the Corsican menhirs from Period I to Period III-4. This fact is very important for prehistoric archaeology in general, since we generally do not know the reason for the construction of menhirs.


Two of the new statue-menhirs of Cauria, and they are both surprisingly alike, give us information about the people who were the invading Torreans. In front view (PL. XXXb) in side view (FIG.5.) and from the back (FIG.6.) the representation is clear, accurate and unmistakable. The weapons, the equipment and the clothing are very well represented.


Fig.5. An impression of the statue-menhirs Cauria II and IV with horns in place.

The short sword, of the type B rather than type A in our classification [10], is slung in a scabbard from the shoulder. Lower down the statue at right-angles to the tip of the sword, a sort of loincloth or girdle has been carved round the statue and beneath the belly there appears to be a vest or devanteau, and on the backside, a curvilinear motif suggesting another garment.


Fig.6. A suggested reconstruction, from the back, of the northern end of the I Stantare alignment. The details of 3 and 5 (from the left) have not yet been established.

On the backs of these statue-menhirs there is engraved the vertebral column (or is it perhaps just a Lanyon joining the baldrick to the girdle?).

The treatment of the faces suggests a beard as we have already argued for the statue-menhirs of Filitosa V, VI, VII AND XIII and those of Petra-Pinzuta and Valle. But the most remarkable feature is on the top of the head where, as can readily be seen (PL. XXXa) there are lateral holes 7cm. in diameter and 3cm. deep, (Among all the Corsican statue-menhirs, only Scalsa-Murta has cupules on both sides of the top of the head as well as two others at the back of the head).

These could never have had any function save as the receptacles for horns (whether true oxhorns or models is not important), so that the statue-menhirs appeared to be wearing horned helmets (FIGS.5, 6).

Our research in the origins of the Torrean culture force us to consider the origin of comparable and synchronous cultures such as the Nuragic culture of Sardinia and Talayotic culture of the Balearic Islands [11].

These three groups — the builders of the torre, of the nuraghi, and of the talayotos, suggest close comparison with one of the Peoples of the Sea who threatened Egypt in the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries B.C. They also suggest reconsideration of the Shardana whom many have thought as the founders of the Nuragic civilization of Sardinia. Most writers have been influenced by the similarity of the names Shardana and Sardinia, and forget that the archaeological evidence in Sardinia of long swords, round shields, and horned helmets, shown so clearly in the bronze statuettes, dates from the 8th century B.C., four to six centuries after the invasion of Corsica and Sardinia by the Torrean-Nuragic peoples.

There is a very great difference between the daggers represented on the Sardinian Nuragic bronze figures and those worn by the Shardana in the Medinet-Habu reliefs, and this is most striking.

It is a fact that when one speaks of the problems posed by the Peoples of the Sea one is hampered by our ignorance of them: our sole near-contemporary archaeological witness is the relief at Medinet-Habu.

But now we have from the Corsican statues, and particularly those of Cauria, evidence from the very time that the Torreans landed in Corsica and, it would appear, evidence of people who at the same time, namely the second half of the 2nd millennium B.C, occupied Sardinia — although, admittedly, this is not yet firmly established.


Fig.7. Adetail of the sea battle between the Shardana-Philistine force and the Egyptian fleet, from a relief at Medinet-Habu.

Comparisons between the 2nd millennium art of Corsica and Sardinia at Medinet-Habu are so disturbing that they cannot but be identified with each other (FIG.7.). But even a preliminary and cursory examination reveals the following parallels which can hardly be the result of coincidence.

1. At Medinet-Habu the Shardana wear horned helmets. In Corsica we have seen that the real or made horns were fitted into holes in the helmets represented at Scala-Murta (PL. XXXc), Cuaria II and Cauria IV (PL. XXXa and FIGS.5, 6).


Fig.8. Drawing of the different arms carried by the Corsican statue-menhirs and the various ways in which they are held.


Close-up of figure .8. — Swords carried transversely.


Close-up of Fig.8. — Swords carried vertically.


Close-up of fig.8. — Daggers (or short swords) carried obliquely.


Close-up of Fig.8. — Dagger carried vertically.

2. At Medinet-Habu some of the helmets are hemispherical. Hemispherical helmets can be seen in Filitosa I, III, IV, VII and XII (FIG.8; PL. XXXa), Cauria II and Cuaria IV (FIGS.5, 6.).

3. At Medinet Habu there are represented horned helmets with a wavy raised edge and a marked peak at the rear. In Corsica such helmets are well seen on the statue-menhirs of Filitosa V and VI (PL. XXXIb).


PLATE. XXXI. (a) The upper portions of the statue-menhirs Filitosa XIII (left) and Filitosa X (right). (b) The upper part, from the back, of Filitosa VI. © The upper part, from the back, of Scala Murta.

The three parallels we have listed above are parallels between the Shardana at Medinet-Habu and the Corsican statue-menhirs.


Close-up of PLATE. XXXI-(a) The upper portions of the statue-menhirs Filitosa XIII (left) and Filitosa X (right).


Close-up of PLATE. XXXI-(b) The upper part, from the back, of Filitosa VI.


Close-up of PLATE. XXXI-© The upper part, from the back, of Scala Murta.

But there are parallels not only between Corsica and the Shardana, but between both and the Philistines, another group of ‘Peoples of the Sea’, and we now list some of these;

4. The Shardana and the Philistines have shoulder fillets and omoplates. See Filitosa V, VI and VII (PL. XXXIb).

5. The Shardana and the Philistines have a corselet with a belt. Se Filitosa XIII (PL. XXXIa, left) and Scalsa-Murta (PL. XXXIc). *

* In the course of the 1963 excavations at Cucuruzzu there were recovered a large number of bronze plaques, both bossed and perforated, which might have been protective cuirasses intended to be sewn in a line on a leather corselet.

6. The Shardana and Philistines have tunics with perpendicular bands, (see the back of Filitosa X — PL. XXXIa, right), long swords (see Filitosa I, V, and VI and Valle (FIG.8.0)) and daggers with garde relevee (see Filitosa VII, Scala-Murta, and Cauria II and IV (FIG.8 AND PL. XXXb). The position of the dagger (or short sword) in representations of the Shardana and the Philistines is well paralleled on Filitosa III (FIG.8.).

The theory of the very probable origin of the seafarers from the Eastern Mediterranean who were responsible for the Torrean civilization of Corsica and the Nuragic culture of Sardinia needs much more thought in relation to these questions: what is their absolute date?

Then did the Torreans, alias the Shardana, arrive on the shores of Corsica and Sardinia before or after their raids on Egypt; and then what is the precise origin of their weapons which are closely paralleled in Aegean and Mycenaean contexts, particularly from Mouliana and Zapher-Papoura; and finally whence came their technique of cyclopean masonry?

The C14 technique has given us many dates between 1800 and 1000 B.C. but does not permit us to sort out the mass of contradictory evidence relating to the origins of the People of the Sea.

But until we can advance this problem further, the evidence we have described in this article about the sculptured stones of the deserted plateau of Cauria in Corsica helps towards our researches into the origin of the constructors of the thousands of Nuraghi in Sardinia, the hundreds of talayots in the Balearics, and the dozens of torre in Corsica.


[1] R. Grosjean, ‘L’evolution artistique et culturelle de la civilisation megalithique de Corse’, C.R. du XVIe Congres Prehistorique de France, Monaco (1959).

[2] R. Grosjean, Filitosa et son context archeologique’, Monuments et Memoires E. Piot, 52, 1961, fasc. I.

[3] R. Grosjean, ‘La Civilisation ds Constructeurs de Torre’, C.R. du XVIe Congres Prehistorique de France, Monaco (1959), forthcoming; ‘La civilisation torreenne de l’Age du Bronze en Corse’, C.R. du XVIe Congres International de Prehistoire, Rome (1962), 1966.

[4] R.Grosjean, ‘Die Megalithkultur von Korsika’, Die Umschau in Wissenschft und Tecknik, 13, 1964, 403; La Corse avant L’Histoire (Paris, 1966).

[5] R.Grosjean, ‘Les Armes Portees par les Statues-Mehnirs de Corse’, Revue Arch., II, 1962, I.

[6] R.Grosjean, ‘La Statue-Menhir de Tavera, (Corse)’, B.S.P.F., LX, 1963, 418.

[7] R. Grosjean, ‘Le Complexe Torreen Fortifie de Cucuruzzu (Levie, Corse)’, B.S.P.F., LXI, 1964, 185.

[8] P. Merimee, Notes d’un Voyage en Corse (1840).

[9] A. de Mortillet, ‘Rapport sur les Monuments Megalithiques de la Corse’, Nouvelles Archives des Missions Scientifiques et Litteraires, 1893, 5.

[10] R. Grosjean [5], 3–6.

[11] R. Grosjean, ‘Rapports Corse-Sardaigne-Fouilles, Art et Monuments Circulaires du Bronze Moyen’, B.S.P.F., LVII, 1960, 296; ‘Les Baleares et leurs Rapports avec la Mediterranee Occidentale; Impressions sur la Civilisation Talayotique’, Anth., 65, 1961, 491.