Maltese Temples Landscape Project

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Investigating the development, social context, and landscape-setting of Malta’s Neolithic temples by focusing on the site of Skorba and its surroundings.

Malta, an archipelago in the Mediterranean between Italy and Tunisia, is rich in prehistoric heritage, especially its famous stone-built temples. More than 30 such temples are known, and a selection of the best-preserved was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1980. Increased visitor numbers at these sites over recent years has prompted imaginative and innovative solutions to their presentation and display. But relatively little is known about the wider context of these sites in terms of their landscape setting, spatial relationships, use and purpose, or economic basis.

 

Entrance to the Neolithic temple at Skorba, Malta

Entrance to the Neolithic temple at Skorba, Malta

The Maltese Temples Landscape Project (MTLP) started in spring 2010 with a short reconnaissance programme, followed in subsequent seasons by fieldwork around Skorba and the analysis of finds, samples and records. This has involved a wide variety of studies including:

Magnetic susceptibility surveys of extensive landscape areas to reveal patterns of settlement activity and soil movement.

Magnetic susceptibility survey in progress

Magnetic susceptibility survey in progress

Magnetometry on selected targeted areas to investigate sub-surface features.

Gradiometry survey using a multi-channel cart

Gradiometry survey using a multi-channel cart

Electro-magnetic and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey of targeted areas to investigated buried features and soil profiles.

GPR Survey in progress

GPR Survey in progress

Test-pit transects from the hilltop above Skorba to the valley floor below to investigate terrace formation, buried land surfaces, and collect environmental samples.

Test-pit excavated in a ploughed field reveals a stone floor about 70cm below the modern surface

Test-pit excavated in a ploughed field reveals a stone floor about 70cm below the modern surface

Auger transects across the landscape to assess soil depth, buried deposits, and collect environmental samples.

Illustration 6

Augering in fields south of Skorba to determine the depth of deposits in the valley bottom

Re-excavation of Trench M originally investigated by David Trump in 1961 to investigate the stratigraphy of an area beside the main temple structure, recover artefactual material, and collect samples for dating and environmental analysis.

Re-excavation work at Skorba Trench M

Re-excavation work at Skorba Trench M

Quantified sampling of spoilheaps from the 1961-63 excavations for the recovery of cultural and ecofactual material. This provided additional assemblages of ceramics, worked lithics (chert, flint and obsidian), worked stone, animal remains, and the head of a small ceramic figurine.

Sampling spoil taken from earlier excavations by sieving

Sampling spoil taken from earlier excavations by sieving

Soil chemistry of investigated profiles to investigate the development of terrace soils.

PXRF in use to characterize the soil chemistry of field surfaces around Skorba

1PXRF in use to characterize the soil chemistry of field surfaces around Skorba

Laser-scanning and topographic modelling of the extant structures and surrounding landscape to investigate the form and construction of the monument.

Laser-scanning the standing remains of the Skorba Temple

Laser-scanning the standing remains of the Skorba Temple

Research in the landscape around Skorba is ongoing and a detailed report on investigations between 2010 and 2015 is in preparation. An interim report outlining results from the first season of work is available here: MTLP Interim Report

The project is multi-disciplinary collaborative venture  involving specialists from Bournemouth University in the UK, the Berlin office of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut in Germany, Heritage Malta, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage in Malta, and the Department of Archaeology in the University of Malta.

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Tagged:Megalithic architectureNeolithic EuropePrehistoric Malta

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