Updated | Santa Lucija tunnel works unearth potentially significant archaeological remains

An Infrastructure Malta spokesperson has said that works on the project will go ahead as planned, with some minor alterations to preserve the remains

Infrastructure Malta said that changes have been made to the planned works in order to preserve the remains
Infrastructure Malta said that changes have been made to the planned works in order to preserve the remains

An underground shaft and other underground rock-cut remains of potential archaeological significance have been unearthed during works on the Santa Lucija tunnel project, Infrastructure Malta has confirmed.

The project will be going ahead as planed, with some minor changes implemented in order to preserve the remains.

On Sunday, the residents group Save Santa Lucija Open Spaces Network said in a Facebook post that archaeological remains had been discovered. Photos posted online by the group shows archaeological remains, including tombs and other other structures.  

A spokesperson for Infrastructure Malta confirmed that remains had been discovered, adding that it’s project team, as well as a number of archaeologists were on site and were following an established procedure to preserve the structures that were discovered.  

“Infrastructure Malta cordoned off and covered these areas whilst archaeologists started recording them and studying them in further detail.”

The spokesperson said that the authority’s architects had shifted the route of planned culvert which will accommodate one of the country’s principal 132kV high voltage electricity network connections, linking the Delimara Power Station with the distribution centre at the site of the former Marsa Power Station. A water main and internet network ducts will also be moved by a few metres to an area where there is no indication of archaeological findings.  

Moreover, it said that a rock excavation plan for this part of the project had been altered in order to use rock-cutting techniques that do not pose any risks to the shaft.

A separate entrance will be created to access the remains. “Thus, once the project is completed, these previously inaccessible structures can continue to be studied by archaeologists, and if deemed necessary by the authorities even made accessible to the public,” the spokesperson said.

Infrastructure Malta said that similar access structures were built last year over archaeological remains uncovered during the Xarolla Avenue project in Zurrieq.

Superintendence monitoring the situation

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage said in a statement on Monday that archaeological monitoring of works in Santa Lucija had lead to the discovery of “cultural heritage features of various degrees of heritage value."

The heritage watchdog confirmed that the works taking place had abided by the development permit conditions which had been imposed by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage as recommended during the consultation period of the planning application.

"Constant archaeological monitoring is being carried out by qualified archaeologists included in the Register of the Superintendence, and under the supervision and direction of the Superintendence, as is the standard procedure for development projects within archaeologically sensitive areas,” the statement read.

The heritage watchdog said that it was in constant discussions with Infrastructure Malta to mitigate impacts of the proposed works on cultural heritage items.

"The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage also points out that the trespassing and pilfering within development sites containing cultural heritage under evaluation or monitoring by the Superintendence constitute a breach of the Cultural Heritage Act as these may damage the remains and jeopardise the investigations and therefore may lead to legal action."

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