The Malta Independent 25 February 2020, Tuesday

‘Rigorous process’ in place when archaeological discoveries during road works occur

Friday, 7 February 2020, 11:57 Last update: about 18 days ago

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage and Infrastructure Malta said they are working together to safeguard the country’s cultural heritage for future generations whilst implementing the national plan for better quality, sustainable road infrastructure.

The Superintendence reassures the public that Infrastructure Malta works, above and below ground, that may impact known or unknown structures or remains of archaeological importance, are being closely monitored by qualified archaeologists under its supervision.

Archaeological discoveries during such projects do not happen by accident. The supervision of excavation and other civil works is one of several measures that the Superintendence requests from Infrastructure Malta and any other developer intending to carry out works that may somehow impact known cultural heritage or uncover new remains that can enrich the understanding of Malta’s past. The Superintendence includes these measures as necessary conditions that the Planning Authority eventually imposes on developers when it grants the relative development permits for such works.

In some cases, the Superintendence requests archaeological studies, such as geo-radar scanning and field surveys even during the planning stages of such developments, so that any modification of plans or other site-specific protection measures can be requested from the developers before permits are issued. For example, it is currently working with Infrastructure Malta to carry out several studies as part of the planning of the Kirkop Tunnels and Airport Intersection Project, which the agency is proposing to implement in the near future. 

It is in fact thanks to the adoption of these protective measures, through the work of the on-site archaeologists and through the ongoing collaboration between the two entities in infrastructural projects that many new features of potential archaeological importance are uncovered, analysed, documented and where necessary, protected for future generations.

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage and Infrastructure Malta are following this rigorous process in the implementation of a number of ongoing national road upgrades, including the Marsa Junction Project, the Santa Lucija Underpass Project, the L-Avjazzjoni Avenue Pedestrian Overpass Project, the Central Link Project and the Il-Kuccard Road (Safi) project.

The two entities affirm that allegations that any important historic features that merit conservation are being destroyed during the implementation of these projects are untrue.

Archaeologists approved and answerable to the Superintendence monitor the implementation of such projects and when features of interest are uncovered, they set in motion an established procedure to bring them to the attention of the Superintendence and to study them carefully. In the case of discoveries during excavations, this process includes securing the site and carefully uncovering and documenting them. The Superintendence specifies the excavation method that the archaeologists would need to adopt to remove and inspect the rest of the soil and other materials, and the underlying rock surface, where the features of interest are identified.

Infrastructure Malta supports the archaeologists by providing the human resources and the equipment to carry out these archaeological excavations and documentation works. At times, this work may require laborious cleaning and brushing of rock surfaces with hand tools. Once this stage of the process is completed and all required data is compiled, the Superintendence guides Infrastructure Malta on any additional requirements, which may, or may not necessitate modification of approved project plans to safeguard findings that warrant protection.

Photos of cleaned rock surfaces in the Central Link Project and the Santa Lucija Underpass Project sites, which are being shared by the public on social media confirm that this procedure is being followed and that the Superintendence and Infrastructure Malta are taking all necessary measures to safeguard Malta’s cultural heritage.

The Superintendence and Infrastructure Malta also encourage the public not to trespass in construction sites and other project areas. This does not only pose a health and safety risk to trespassers but can also hinder any ongoing archaeological investigations. Publicising potential archaeological discoveries which have not yet been documented and secured by the Superintendence may also lead to pilfering, vandalism and other crimes.     


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