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This blog is dedicated to Malta - my island home. My aim is not to bore you with history but to share my thoughts and a few facts together with a photo or two. For a more in -depth background of the island please go here. The purpose of this blog is not to point out the short-comings of the island. There are plenty that do that already. My wish is to show you the beauty of an island at the cross roads of the Mediterranean, a melting pot of history; a place where fact and fiction are sometimes fused to create unique myths and legends; a country that has been conquered so many times that our culture is a mish mesh of the lands that surround us and of lands far away. I confess that my greatest desire is to make you fall in love with this tiny enchanting island.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Our Distant Past – Ghar Dalam

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Ghar (the gh is silent) Dalam which literally translates to Cave of Darkness is one of the most important prehistoric archeological sites in Malta. The cave is about 144 metres deep but only the first 50 metres are accessible to visitors. In this cave, which is found on the outskirts of Birzebbuga, archeologists discovered the earliest evidence of human settlement on the islands. The remains found here date back 7400 years.

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This column shows the different layers that were excavated

Excavations have revealed that the floor of the cave is made up of 5 different layers. In the lowest layers large quantities of fossilised tusks, teeth and bones were found. These remains were found to belong to species which are now extinct such as the dwarf elephant and dwarf hippopotamus. Other remains in subsequent layers were from red deer, brown bear, wolf, fox and giant swan. These animals are no longer found on the island and scientists believe that this proves that Malta once formed part of a land bridge connected to the European mainland. It is thought that after the last Ice Age the rising sea levels trapped the animals here and they slowly died out from lack of food once  Malta became an island.  Pottery shards and other human artifacts were retrieved from the uppermost layer of the cave.

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Ghar Dalam is thought to have been formed by an underground river which, over time, wore away the soft limestone. The cave also has a number of stalactites and stalagmites. During WW2 it was used as an air raid shelter.

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Prior to entering the cave there is a museum which houses hundreds of bone fragments from the animals mentioned above. There is also an explanation of the geological activity that took place in the Mediterranean following the last Ice Age.

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For more detailed information about this fascinating site visit Heritage Malta.

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Ghar Dalam Cave & Museum

Zejtun Road

Birzebbuga

7 comments:

  1. Fascinating. I love archeology so really enjoyed this one.

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  2. Loree, this is incredibly fascinating. You have such a rich history, ancient history! I took geology classes (3 semesters!) and love your stories and the surrounding mystery. With archeology, we peel back the story one layer at a time.

    Love this post.

    Bises,
    Genie

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  3. Very interesting ! I like to visit those grottos, there are a few once here too. Those elephant molars are very impressive and the skeleton too !

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  4. I did not know there were such things as dwarf elephants, dwarf hippos and giant swans. How interesting that they once lived on the island and that Malta used to be connected to the European mainland.

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  5. This makes me want to brush & floss better. ~Mary

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