World’s first deep water archaeological park at Xlendi opens for divers

Marine archaeological park in Xlendi covering 67,000sq.m at a depth of more than 100m is inaugurated for divers

A stretch of deep water off the Xlendi coast was designated an archaeological park in 2020 and is now officially open for divers to explore
A stretch of deep water off the Xlendi coast was designated an archaeological park in 2020 and is now officially open for divers to explore

A marine park hosting historical remains has been inaugurated off the coast of Xlendi in what is being billed as the world’s first deep water archaeological park.

The rectangular area covering 67,000sq.m hosts several remains and was designated as an archaeological zone three years ago.

The park’s depth ranges between 105m and 115m and the seabed consists of fine silt and sand punctuated by a series of rocky outcrops formed by extinct coral reefs.

Around these outcrops are concentrations of archaeological objects, mostly amphorae. It is highly likely that more archaeological remains are buried in the sediment, based on the continuous deposition of sediment from Xlendi Valley and the presence of partially buried objects.

The area has long been coveted by marine archaeologists with professor Timmy Gambin, who heads Heritage Malta's Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit, saying Xlendi has witnessed innovative undersea technologies since the late 1950s.

“The launch of this unique park elevates the submerged deposits off Xlendi and enhances Gozo’s cultural heritage as well as its tourism product. Through future collaborative efforts and thanks to the generous support of the Malta Airport Foundation, Gozo will continue to develop as a centre of excellence in the fields of underwater archaeology and heritage management,” Gambin said.

Heritage Minister Owen Bonnici said the park would attract researchers and technical divers from all over the world interested in exploring Malta’s history from a different perspective.

The minister said the park can also be accessed virtually. “By means of this virtual museum, more people can appreciate the unique sites of our seas,” Bonnici said.

Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri expressed his satisfaction that the first deep sea archaeological park in the world is in Gozo.

“This park is an additional incentive for travellers to opt for Gozo as their destination of choice, offering them a distinct and unparalleled stay unlike any other,” he said, adding the park also safeguards the country’s cultural legacy.

The park, sponsored by the Malta Airport Foundation, is the result of a collaborative effort between Heritage Malta's Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, the University of Malta, and the Munxar local council.