Cluster of seven ancient tombs, human skeletons found in Tarxien

Archaeologists are investigating a cluster of tombs discovered in Tarxien, which date back to the Punic and Roman periods

A cluster of seven tombs was discovered during construction work on a site in Tarxien and is being investigated by archaeologists
A cluster of seven tombs was discovered during construction work on a site in Tarxien and is being investigated by archaeologists

A cluster of seven tombs, one which included the remains of two adult skeletons, were discovered during construction works in the limits of Tarxien, the Heritage Ministry said.

The discoveries were made in 2018 and 2019 but only made public now.

The plots, all neighbouring each other, included land that had not been developed before in the south-eastern limits of Tarxien.

The area is known to have had a tomb discovered in 1974. The ministry said the tombs mainly consist of the typical shaft and chamber tomb which were in use about during the Punic and Roman periods, found across the Maltese Islands, about 2500 to 1800 years ago.

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage ordered archaeological monitoring during the early stages of development as a permit condition in view of the known archaeological sensitivity of the site.

An excavation team from the Superintendence, which includes an osteologist, carried out the investigation of two sealed tombs.

One tomb included the remains of two adult skeletons, an amphora (large water jar) and a patera (a double handled bowl). After the burial of the two individuals, the tomb was sealed with a large stone slab.

The second tomb included a number of funerary pottery urns containing burnt human bone. The urns were covered with either bowls or plates. Deposited inside the chamber together with the urns were a trefoil jug, an oil lamp, a number of small pottery vessels, an amphora and another patera.

This chamber was also sealed with a large stone slab. This tomb was used between the Punic and Early Roman Period, between the 4th and 2nd Century BC.

Two of the tombs were discovered intact and sealed with a large stone slab
Two of the tombs were discovered intact and sealed with a large stone slab

This necropolis shows that burial practises in the classical period varied within the same context, including both inhumations and cremations.

“Discoveries in this condition are becoming increasingly rare because archaeological remains are finite and non-renewable. More importantly, this discovery further proves the need to have monitoring conditions included in development permits as well as to have professional archaeology monitors on site to be present during development works,” the ministry said. 

In the coming months, the Superintendence will continue its archaeological investigations in other tombs found at this site. The contents excavated, including the human remains and the ancient objects are also currently being studied.

“The studies will give us some information about the individuals buried in the tombs and help us understand the funerary practises at the time of burial,” the statement read.

On completion of these studies, the results and site context will be published.

Currently, the Superintendence has set up a temporary exhibition at its offices in Valletta, displaying information on the site and showcasing some of the objects from one of the tombs excavated.

The Superintendence is also planning to embark with an information campaign on the site for the local community.

The Superintendence acknowledged the co-operation and support of the developers of the site and their architect, and is working with them so that the tombs can be preserved and integrated within the development project.

More in National