The Malta Independent 20 June 2019, Thursday

Borġ In-Nadur silos destroyed

Malta Independent Sunday, 15 May 2011, 00:00 Last update: about 6 years ago

No less than 32 prehistoric silos in Borġ in-Nadur, Birżebbuġa were destroyed to build a road in that locality.

This did not happen recently: it happened on 31 May 1920. A further 41 silos were later destroyed as well when the road was widened.

Today, such wanton destruction of the country’s heritage would not be allowed. But those were early days and British colonial power was unassailable.

However, it may be that this was the only time the British colonial rulers destroyed forever parts of Malta’s historical heritage. The Borġ in-Nadur site was seen in those years as the remnant of the famous Melqart temple – at that time the Antiquities were mainly seen as ‘Punic’ remains even though they were much older than that.

A cultural talk organised by Din l-Art Helwa was given by Reuben Grima, lecturer in the Department of the Built Heritage, University of Malta last Thursday.

In his presentation, Dr Grima showed how caring for historical heritage evolved from a laissez-faire attitude in the years preceding 1870 to a more proactive role later on.

Before 1870, any initiative was the result of individual efforts with no scientific approach at all. Nevertheless, it gave us the discovery of Ġgantija and the Brochtorff Circle as well as Ħaġar Qim, which were discovered in those years.

But starting from 1873, as consciousness about the need to preserve the historical heritage arose in the UK, and legislative measures were adopted, these too were applied to Malta, as well as to India and other colonies.

Further discoveries in Malta speeded up the process – the discovery of the Roman Domus at Rabat, and more importantly that of Ta’ Kaċċatura at Birżebbuġa. The first report on Antiquities in Malta dates to 1881, and in 1882 Antonio Caruana was instructed to draw up an inventory of Maltese remains. This remains even today a seminal study, and was followed the next year by a slimmer study setting out what needed to be done and the priority to be given. Caruana proposed legal protection for the sites and a budget for expropriation and for conservation.

As a result of this report, the land at Ta’ Kaċċatura was exchanged with land at Cuttaf Gandolf.

It was a hard struggle due to the economic or even political vicissitudes of the country. It took, for instance, all of the years till 1930 for the Ġgantija land to pass to government.

If today we can rejoice that Malta has so many remains, it is due to the persistence and effort of people like Temi Zammit and his son, who built up the museums department from next to nothing.

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