The Malta Independent 17 June 2019, Monday

We are erasing history to our future generations - Temple Rescue Malta

Giulia Magri Tuesday, 2 April 2019, 08:17 Last update: about 3 months ago

Last week, news came from Temple Rescue that the archaeological site of Tal-Qares in Mosta, situated next to LIDL and which dates back to the Bronze Age, is being demolished to make way for a new development.

In 2014 the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage had carried out an investigation which identified a high field wall of the land which includes large “ashlar blocks” deserving conservation, and numerous experts had warned that the area deserved further investigation.

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Temple Rescue began out of the team’s own sense of helplessness and need to become part of the solution. Temple Rescue wanted to give local archaeology a voice and to create a social media platform which promotes inclusion and to boost awareness on the hundreds of lesser known archaeological sites around the Maltese Islands.“We want the Maltese people to reconnect to their ancestral land and heritage, and for the world to know about our own, awe-inspiring Maltese Archaeology.”

What would you say is the current situation Maltese archaeological sites are facing today?

Right in front of our very own eyes, we are erasing not just Maltese, but the world’s history. We are currently taking away real evidence of this islands history form our children and from future generations.

What would you say is the main cause of the new developments on lesser known archaeological sites?

The lack of awareness is the number one reason, how can you protect something which you are unaware about in the first place? Over the last 50 years, thousands of local archaeological discoveries have been kept from the local and global population, so it’s no surprise that people are not connected to their local archaeology anymore.

There is also neither sensitivity nor respect towards the land we all walk on, and we do not pay attention to our ancestral heritage anymore. We have become desensitised from nature and from our past. We have easily forgotten our roots as we blindly try to keep up with a race that has no finish line. We forgot what an incredible and magical place Malta truly is and we forgot that sites are the oldest gifts we can offer to the world.

Have you seen other sites, like that of Tal-Qares, which are being destroyed for new development?

There are Christian catacombs being used to house chickens, ancient dolmens being used to construct store rooms, Punic tombs littered with rubbish, temple stones moved to build on sacred land. Over the years, we have witnessed many archaeological sites being destroyed, vandalised or mishandled. Salina cart ruts and quarry, Mellieha burial site, Manikata catacombs, Maghtab tombs, Qormi Tomb, Marsa necrepolis, Marsaxlokk, Sliema, Zurrieq, the list goes on and on.

Would you say there is enough safeguarding and protection of archaeological sites?

There is definitely not enough. We have visited over 150 lesser known sites around the island last year and most of them are full of trash, decomposing farm animals, car parts, plastic poles, barbed wires, washing machines and all sorts of rubbish; showing us that the lesser known archaeological sites aren’t even being cared for. When it comes to safeguarding and protecting archaeological sites that are unlucky to be located on land that is targeted for new development, the odds of that site surviving are close to zero.

Archaeological site destruction comes from unconscious and irresponsible development, regardless of what business it is.

“The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage’s mission is to fulfil the duties of the State in ensuring the protection and accessibility of Malta’s cultural heritage.” As Temple Rescue Malta, do you believe that the Cultural Heritage Surveillance is fulfilling its statement?

We believe the one’s track record speaks for itself.

How do you think lesser known archaeological sites can be treated and preserved better?

Introducing quality control spot checks on the lesser known or abandoned sites that fall on private or even public land is a good start. Some sites are misused, maltreated, illegally locked off and sometimes mistakenly damaged by the owners of the land themselves.

If the site is safe and in good condition, and assuming no damage can be caused by visitation, why not open a simple Archaeological Family Park instead of building over it? A place for families to enjoy an open space, whilst teaching their kids about the people who lived there before us, a place to host archaeology oriented events, a site can be restored, saved and enjoyed by many for years to come.

Also such sites will be taken care of much more; the Xemxija Heritage Trail for example is taken care of by people and is accessible for many visitors. Also with the care and attention of this site and the effort of this community, a new site was discovered a few minutes away!

There are numerous organisations, societies and highly educated people who are doing these things, or are supposed to be doing this. In the meantime, we shall keep on creating platforms for people to fall in love with Maltese archaeology in hope that love will one day save a site or two.


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