Malta’s iconic golden limestone granted global heritage stone status

The soft golden limestone that gave Malta its traditional houses, corbelled country walls and its temples joins a global league of top rocks

Top rocks: limestone was used for the construction of megalithic temples such as those in Tarxien
Top rocks: limestone was used for the construction of megalithic temples such as those in Tarxien

The honey-coloured limestone used to build Malta’s houses has been granted a special heritage designation alongside other national rocks and stones by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS).

The Maltese Globigerina limestone now joins an exclusive family of 15 designated Global Heritage Stone Resource which have been historically used for a significant period of time and have common recognition as a cultural icon.

It was recently added together with six other stones: Lioz from Portugal; Lede Stone from Belgium; Jacobsville stone from the USA; Kolmården serpentine marble from Sweden; Welsh slate from Wales; and Piedra Mar del Plata from Argentina.

The other designated stones are: Portland Stone (UK), Petit granite (Belgium), Larvikite (Norway), Podpêc limestone (Slovenia), Hallandia gneiss (Sweden), Carrara marble (Italy), Villamayor Stone (Spain) and Estremoz marble (Portugal).

The Maltese stone was promoted for global recognition by the Department of Conservation and Built Heritage, and involved also the Department of Geosciences of the University of Malta. 

 “The process for designation is now well-established and painstaking, and the initial nomination by the interested party is followed by a long and detailed review procedure by selected experts in the field, as well as by the sub-commission itself,” the University of Malta said.

GHSR designation is independent of World Heritage status, granted under the 1972 UNESCO Convention, and is separate from any other national or international designations or standards. However, GHSR designation may specifically complement the efforts of UNESCO World Heritage in helping to safeguard stone resources that are needed for preservation of historic stone constructions at certain World Heritage sites. 

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