The Malta Independent 19 April 2024, Friday
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Archaeological Interpretation Centre at Victoria school to showcase part of ancient quarry

Sabrina Zammit Monday, 1 April 2024, 09:03 Last update: about 17 days ago

An Archaeological Interpretation centre, which is being included in the extension plans for the middle school in Victoria, Gozo, will showcase part of an ancient quarry that was uncovered back in 2020.

In comments to the Malta Independent, Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools Managing administration officer Jonathan Brimmer said that this new room can also be used by students for lessons. He said that history lessons, in particular, would be the most fitting given the surroundings.

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The findings emerged during an archaeological investigation which was being directed by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage. In a written report, it explained that based on the pottery found on the site, the Roman times quarry dates back to 3rd and 4th century AD. Moreover, ashlars were also discovered, and “these quarries would be the first recorded discovery of Classical period quarrying in Gozo,” it said. The quarry complex is estimated to be over 5,000 square metres.

The ashlars were extracted by ancient traditional manual methods, which were still employed in local quarrying up to the introduction of machinery in the early 20th century, though in more recent times the size of the ashlars is much smaller. This ancient quarry is about 1 to 2 metres deep and has two distinct characteristics: the clearly defined uncut blocks waiting to be extracted, and the negative void of the already extracted blocks. The quarry cuts and unfinished blocks still on site indicate that various types of blocks are being quarried, including ashlars, slabs and possibly corbels. Evidence of stone dressing on site is also evident. A vaulted cistern connected to two wells has also been discovered within the quarry. This is currently being studied to understand whether it was constructed as part of the quarry activity or is of a more recent date. Also of interest is a number of amphorae laid out radially, discovered in a different section of the quarry. Amphorae were usually used for the transportation of food and drink and it is not yet clear whether they were being used in conjunction with the quarry or whether they were being stored on site,” the Superintendence reported.

The destination of the stone blocks from this quarry was possibly for building projects in the ancient city of Gaulos (Both the island and its city Gaulos/Gaudos are mentioned by a number of Greco-Roman authors in their texts, such as Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, Pliny the Elder, Ptolemy and Procopius amongst others) in the location of the present Cittadella and Rabat in view of its proximity. Of particular interest to Gozo in this context is the Punic inscription known as the Melitensia Quinta (CIS, 1, 132) discovered in Gozo, which mentions the keeper or inspector of the quarries, although it cannot be identified with the site in question with any certainty.”

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage has been deeply involved in this project from the beginning, actively participating in the consultation process of the planning application. They provided recommendations to both the Planning Authority and the project team. One of these recommendations was to have the works monitored by an archaeological monitor approved by the Superintendence. This monitoring was instrumental in the discovery, investigation, documentation, and preservation of the archaeological features found on site.

Despite the construction of the school grounds and a car park over it in the 1960s without excavation of a basement, the state of preservation of this ancient quarrying is relatively good, notes the Superintendence.

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