Giant statues which are over 3000-years-old may have been guardians of an ancient graveyard, according to experts.
The peculiar Bronze Age structures are said to be the oldest human-shaped sculptures ever found in the Mediterranean, having been discovered near Cabras on the Italian island of Sardinia.
The giants, known as Kolossoi, date back to the 11th and 8th centuries BC. A recent excavation recovered 5,000 pieces including 22 torsos and 15 heads.
When fully reconstructed the limestone statues stand at 2.5metres tall. They also resemble similar giants discovered in 2014, known as "boxers" due to the shields that appear on their left arms.
Italy's Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini described the discovery as "exceptional" with "no equal in the Mediterranean".
He added: "Two new jewels are thus added to this statuary group with a mysterious charm, capable of attracting the attention of the whole world."
Archaeologists are still working to fully excavate the massive artefacts.
Monica Stochino, who participated in the dig, explained: "While the small and medium-sized fragments are brought to light daily, documented in situ on the ground and recovered, the two large and heavy blocks of the torsos will need time to be freed from the earth around them."
The statues were constructed by the Nuragic people who lived on Sardinia from about the 18th century BC until Roman colonisation in 238 BC.
The exact location of this latest discovery was Mont'e Prama, a necropolis or cemetery dating from the 9th century to the first half of the 8th century.
It is thought that the statues were actually shattered in ancient times, with fragments then placed on or by tombs. It isn't known where they were originally erected.
Some experts reckon the pieces were used to mark out the sacred burial area. Others say they were used to cover slabs on the tombs.
It also isn't clear why they were destroyed. Theories range from internal strife among the Nuragic people to attacks from the nearby Phoenicians or Carthaginians.
Expert Alessandro Usai, who has also been digging at the site, said: "The two torsos found with the elongated shield that takes on a slightly enveloping shape with respect to the left arm and which flattens on the belly bring the findings back to the category of boxers."
He noted that the 170 tombs almost exclusively contained young men, suggesting that the site was where the Nuragic people honoured heroes.
"Boxers" are thought to Nuragic warriors and may represent the civilisation's ancestors or Gods.
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