The countryside of Oniferi features several finds dating back to the Nuragic Age. The area surrounding Oniferi actually boasts numerous one-tower nuraghi built with large dry-stacked stones dating back to the long time-span of the Nuragic Civilization (from the Middle Bronze Age, around 1700 BC, to the Iron Age, 900 BC). Some of them are the nuraghe Ola, still intact and located on the highway SS 128, the nuraghe Murtas, visible from the highway SS 131, the nuraghe Badu Pedrosu, located on the highway SS 129 and the nuraghe Brodu, located on the highway leading to Benetutti. Almost all the nuragic sites, made by a clever and hard-working people, are visible to each other and placed as to control and protect local resources.
In Roman times the town was presumably a barn where the food for the troops stationed in the territory was harvested. The very name of the village, according to some interpretations, derives from omnia ferunt, which means "everyone carries” and refers to the Romans’ usage of the place as a barn. According to other interpretations, the local toponym Onieri, Onniveri or Univéri, which is related to the word Olivéri that means olive tree, might mean the "place of olive trees, olive tree grove”.
The village was founded in the Middle Ages, as evidenced by the presence of the Romanesque Church of San Gavino that dates back to the fourteenth century. Oniferi was one of the villages of the “Curatoria di Dore” in the Giudicato of Logudoro, or Torres, which also included Orani, Sarule Ottana, Orotelli, Oddini, Nuoro and Orgosolo. In the thirteenth century, following the fall of the Giudicato, these villages passed under the rule of the Pisans, the Genoeses, the Papacy and the Giudicato of Arborea and, eventually, under the domain of the House of Aragon that created the County of Goceano through the union of the Curatoria di Dore with that of Anela.
After being granted as a fief to the judges of Arborea, who were related, but hostile, to the crown of Aragon, the County experienced thirty years of bitter and bloody conflicts. On January 12th.1388, Eleonora d'Arborea and the King John I of Aragon signed the peace treaty, which represented a guarantee of compliance with all the agreements, in the presence of all the villages and their representatives, that were «majore ville de Oniferi Joanne Manchosu, Arsocho Pischas, Aramo Murgia, Paulo Carbone, Andriuco de Simala, iuratis Gavino Murellu, Blasio Penna, Joanne Pischalis, Oleiferi Simala, Leonardo Contona et Petro Monne, ville Oniferi predicte».
When the Giudicato of Arborea was disestablished, the area passed under the rule of the Marquisate of Oristano, ruled by Leonardo Alagon, who was defeated in the battle of Macomer (1478) when he tried to distance himself from the crown of Aragon. Following the feoffment of this piece of land, even the Curatoria of Dore, which was one of the losers, was lost by the County of Goceano in 1499, given in fief to the Carroz of Arborea, and included in the Marquisate of Orani.
In 1617, under Philip III, the Marquisate included the encontrada of Orani, which consisted of the villages of Orani, Oniferi, Orotelli, Ottana and Sarule, the encontrada of Nuoro and that of Bitti. In 1630, even the encontrada of Gallura, which consisted of the villages of Tempio, Calangianus, Nughes, Luras, Aggius and Bortigiadas, was included in the Marquisate of Orani. In 1682 the Marquise of Orani, Agostina Fernandez Porto Carrero, asked Madrid to confiscate the Marquisate by taking possession of the villages and the relevant states. On October 2nd, 1753, the Administrator of the Marquisate of Orani took the oath of allegiance to the new king of Sardinia, Carlo Emanuele III, and was invested with the Marquisate and the encontradas of Tempio, Bitti and Nuoro.
In the first half of the 19th century, 200 people, members of 50 families, lived in Oniferi. In 1832 many enclosures (forbidden by the Edict) were built throughout the territory of the village and ruined the road to Nuoro, some springs and public and private properties. Therefore, the way to Nuoro was longer (one hour and 30 minutes’ walk), steep and dangerous (due to the presence of criminals) for the people from Oniferi. People’s complaints led the King to send a delegation that ordered the demolition of two gates and the reopening of the road.
At that time the area surrounding Oniferi was a baronial property. The Municipality’s rights only included the area of the “Prato bovinale”, which had been abandoned and only used by wild grazing animals, and that of the “Prato di vigne”, which had been tossed aside. In 1841 the Prato bovnale was rented for sheep-grazing for two months to raise the money to repair the parish Church and the Church of Sant’Anna.
Environment and land
Oniferi is a small village with a population of 900 located in the Ollolai district of Barbagia with a site area of 35.62 km2, including the suburb of Sos Eremos.
The village, with an elevation of 478 meters above sea level, is located at the foot of the wooded hill “Sa Costa”. The area is mostly hilly and used for grazing. The territory is full of forests of cork oaks, oaks, holm oaks and oleasters. The southern area, including the sites Sa Chessa and Sa Mata, is characterized by the presence of the macchia. The soil of the areas of Sos Settiles, Berrinas and Sos Ruvos is manly formed by trachyte and basalt, whereas that of northern areas, such as Su Berre and Sa Serra, is formed by granite.
The main waterway is Su Rivu Mannu, a tributary of the River Tirso that originates from the Nuoro’s countryside, located east of the territory of Oniferi; other waterways, including the Rio Calluzzi, near the nuraghe Ola, and the Rio Predosu, a mix of the streams of the area of Sa Serra, flow into Su Rivu Mannu.
The village, easily accessible from the main roads, is located alongside the highway SS131, is 18 km away from Nuoro and is crossed by the highway 128 Centrale sarda, the link road to the northern highway Abbasanta-Nuoro.
A train station, which is along the narrow gauge railway Nuoro- Macomer, is located 6 km away from Oniferi.
Oniferi decisively stands out for its immense archaeological heritage. The necropoli a domus de janas di Sas Concas is undoubtedly one of the most renowned sites of the Sardinian archaeological heritage. It is actually the largest hypogean site of Barbagia and includes approximately twenty tombs, some of which are isolated and others grouped in small groups. The burials consist of one or more rooms, entrance corridors (dromos), large anterooms and rooms with clefts for offerings, niches, fireplaces, roofs, pillars, and seats.
Inside the domus or outside, around the entrance, channels engraved on the rock to drain water and to mark the funeral area of family, are still visible. The Tomba dell’Emiciclo (or Tomba del Capo), which is overlooked by the entrances of five more funerary chambers, and the Tomba Nuova Ovest stand out for their symbolic and architectural elements. In the walls of these domus, many "petroglyphs" (stylized anchor-shaped and candelabra-shaped human figures with raised arms), engraved on the wall reversely as a symbol of death, can still be admired. Even the cup stones of most of the tombs of Sas Concas and of the menhirs and the betyls, are sacred symbols, which might represent the feminine deity or astronomical figures. The tombs also contained many other objects, some of which were mainly used in the Neolithic Age.
The nuraghe Ola is another outstanding local landmark. The monument, 364 meters above sea level and easily accessible from the highway SS 128, is a one-tower building with a residual height of 10.70 meters. The granite interior of the building is still in excellent condition: the flagged floor, much of the staircase with wide steps on the left, the niche in the hallway on the right and the ground floor are well preserved. Niches used as repositories overlook the room, built with concentric lines of protruding blocks aligned with softer rocks. The nuraghe also overlooks the remains of some circular huts that feature a dry-stone base and a cover originally made of wood, boughs or clay-covered reed. The interior of these ancient dwellings features rooms used as repositories separated by oblique schist sheets. On the Summer solstice, on June 21st. the opening of the tholos in the interior of the nuraghe Ola is amazingly penetrated by a picturesque beam of light that lights up a niche.
Another nuraghe, the nuraghe Badu Pedrosu, is located nearby the Nuraghe Ola, on the highway SS 129 that leads to Orotelli. The remains of a large village with nuragic circular huts, where even the Romans, who built the square buildings that were superimposed upon the most ancient nuragic constructions, had been, are still visible.
A few kilometers after the intersection with the highway towards Benetutti in the highway SP 129, another interesting site, the hypogean necropolis of Brodu(necropoli ipogeica di Brodu), can be admired. The site consists of four Neolithic domus carved on the side of the hill dominated by the one-tower Nuraghe di Brodu with an altitude of 423 meters above sea level and a broad view over the surrounding area. The entrance of the most renowned of the four domus features an amazing bas-relief motif with four stylized and overlapping bull's horns. The findings discovered during the excavations in the necropolis date back to the Neolithic Culture of Ozieri and were used until the Copper Age and the Early Bronze Age.
Another nuragic site, the megalithic area of Isculaccacca, is located four kilometers after the intersection towards Oniferi that leads to Ottana in the highway SS 131. This area features a dolmen burial with a short entrance corridor. A long menhir without any figurative decorations, which is located behind the dolmen, on the ground, was perhaps brought to the site during the renovation works in the area.
The Modorrocco or Soloai district, one kilometer away from the center of the town, features the ruins of another nuraghe, the nuraghe Modorrocco. The latter is a complex building with two towers, whose walls were adapted to the morphology of an ancient volcano. Only two lines of the blocks of each tower still exist: the first line is located in front of the entrance of the Church “Chiesa della Madonna della Pace”, whereas the second line is at the rear side. The remains of some circular huts of the nearby nuragic village were discovered downstream of the nuraghe, whereas sections of a wall built with carved and filled blocks were found in the surrounding area.
The tenor sing plays a crucial role in Sardinian history: it is a historical document, song of memory, a music that combines the past and the present, an opportunity for new generations to meet. This tradition is strong and heartfelt in Oniferi, where it has been passed down from generation to generation. When local people listen to the tenor sing, they actually feel like they are participating in a ritual and experiencing the excitement of a celebration: this sing makes them discover the joy of folk songs, the solemnity of religious songs, or the sweet melancholy of a young man in love; in short, the story of an entire people. Today, especially younger generations consider it a symbolic and identity heap, which has become, perhaps, even more meaningful following the decline or the weakening of other symbols. “Tenor” not only refers to the mere sing, but also to the chorus of four tenor singers. The four singers play distinct roles. The soloist, called "sa voche", sings a poem in Sardinian, while the other three singers, "su basciu, sa contra, sa mesu voche", accompany the singing with nonsense syllables, uttering (the first two singers or only one of them) guttural sounds with a peculiar vocal color. Nowadays there are several groups of active (some of them even internationally renowned) tenores.
A heartfelt event for the entire community is the carnival. As in other villages of Barbagia, the celebrations start on January, 16th, on the occasion of the feast of St. Anthony. In the country districts, bonfires in honor of the saint are lit and traditional dances are performed in the square. The typical masks "sos Maimones" are the protagonists of the carnival of Oniferi; unlike other figures of the carnivals of Barbagia, "sos Maimones" do not use wooden disguises to cover their faces, but darken them with the soot of burnt cork. During the twentieth century, the mask has become goliardic and some Maimones have their face only partially painted.