Showroom proposed on archaeological site

A four-storey block consisting of a showroom, five maisonettes, seven apartments, four penthouses and 18 basement garages is being proposed in an archaeologically sensitive in Mosta 

A photomontage showing the showroom intruding on the surrounding rural environment which contains rubble walls containing megalithic stones
A photomontage showing the showroom intruding on the surrounding rural environment which contains rubble walls containing megalithic stones

A four-storey block consisting of a showroom, five maisonettes, seven apartments, four penthouses and 18 basement garages is being proposed by AX Holdings in an archaeologically sensitive area known as il-Wesgha tal-Ġganti in Mosta which was added to development boundaries in the 2006 extension of development zones.

The development will also include a car park.

A 2014 investigation by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage had identified a high field wall to the south of the property which includes large “ashlar blocks” deserving conservation. 

But experts are warning that the area may yield further findings, possibly a hypogeum in depressions under the rocks found on the site.

The “sizable boulders” in the rubble wall at the periphery of the site are a rare testimony to reports of megalithic remains in and around the Mosta fort, the Archaeological Society of Malta confirmed in submissions sent to the Planning Authority.

The society is calling for the “preservation of this feature and any archaeological feature present within the site and the surrounding area”. 

While acknowledging that the project would involve extensive underground excavations, the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has not objected to the development but has recommended archaeological monitoring during the works.

But anthropologist Michael Deguara has presented a detailed report on the area’s archaeological value. In his report Deguara insists that “further studies” are needed before any decision on development in the area is taken. Such studies should include laser monitoring or a geophysical survey of the area to complement the work already carried out by the Superintendence in 2014. 

This should ensure that if there are “any important underground remains in the site, these are at least documented before any further development takes place”.

“Lecturer and researcher Dr Suzanne Psaila has already offered to take care of the laser scanning sessions required to investigate this site that include organising laser scanning activities for data acquisition, 3D analysis and 3D modelling for records and public representation.”

The field in which the development is being proposed forms part of an area known as Tal-Qares and Misrah Ghonoq, which receives mention by E.B. Vella in his “Storja tal-Mosta”. Vella refers to megaliths dating to the Neolithic period in the area of Misrah Ghonoq. Vella also makes reference to earlier descriptions of the area by Grognet, as well as folkloric references, which suggest the presence of more complex megalithic structures in the area. 

The site is also referenced in Dr Anton Bugeja’s paper “Archaeological sites around tal-Bistra”. In this paper, Bugeja refers to “the megaliths found or documented at the northern part of Mosta between Tal-Qares and Misrah Ghonoq”. 

Significantly the report notes that the area contains two depressions cut in the rock, one small and one much larger. 

According to Bugeja “at least one hypogeum existed in the area known as Tal-Ghammariet, probably in the area now known as Tal-Qares” although it is unclear whether this is related to a depression found in the site of the development.

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