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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

Archaeology Field Trip to Malta 2013

Ħaġar Qim

Ħaġar Qim

19-23 March 2013

This year, our Department of Archaeology field trip was to the Maltese Islands, in the sunny - if windy - centre of the Mediterranean Sea.

We began by visiting the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta, with its outstanding collection of prehistoric Temple Period sculptures and a colourful new display of Bronze Age artefacts. Later, we explored many of the prehistoric sites where these objects had been found, including the tunnel-like cave of Għar Dalam, the best-preserved of Malta's unique megalithic temples (Tarxien, Ħaġar Qim, Mnajdra, and the Ġgantija), two fascinating underground burial complexes (the Xagħra Circle and the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum), not to mention countless 'cart-ruts' at a site known as 'Clapham Junction'.

But the Maltese Islands are also rich in historical archaeology. We admired some well-preserved Roman mosaics in the Domus Romana and Roman artefacts in the Gozo Museum of Archaeology, as well as the extensive late Roman St. Paul's catacombs. For seventeenth and eighteenth century Baroque art and architecture, we inspected the richly decorated Cathedral of St. John and Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta, the walled town of Mdina, and the Citadel of Victoria on Gozo. We also visited some less well-known historic places, including the monumental Addolorata cemetary, the cave-dwelling of Għar il Kbir, and the Ta' Kola windmill. We even made a brief detour to Strait Street in Valletta, the former seedy 'Gut' of Malta's capital city, where British navy men used to visit the now boarded-up bars, dance halls and brothels.

Throughout our trip, the sea was almost always in sight: right outside our hotel, on our boat trip to the island of Gozo, at the picturesque Marzaxlokk harbour, and - just before we left for the airport - at the appropriately named Golden Bay. A return trip is certainly on the cards.