Għar il-Kbir: Its place in Mal­tese his­tory

Malta Independent - - LIFESTYLE & CULTURE -

Flimkien għal Am­b­jent Aħ­jar is or­gan­is­ing a talk, “Għar il-Kbir: Its Place in Mal­tese His­tory”, by Gor­don E. We­ston at Hill­top Gar­dens on Tues­day 22 Novem­ber at 6.30pm. Re­fresh­ments will be served af­ter the talk. En­trance €7. Please book on­line at www.faa.org.mt to avoid dis­ap­point­ment.

“There are many troglodytes in Malta. They dig caves and th­ese are their homes.” So wrote Jean Quintin d’Au­tun af­ter his visit to the Mal­tese Is­lands in 1533. In­deed, a study of mi­nor place names in­di­cates there may have been around ninety nat­u­ral or man-made caves that might have been used for domi­cil­iary or re­li­gious-cult pur­poses. Għar Dalam (Birżeb­buġa), aside, Għar il-Kbir(The Great Cave) in the lim­its of Dingli is by far the most well-known for its use over the cen­turies as a place of hu­man habi­ta­tion. Although the cave was in all prob­a­bil­ity orig­i­nally a nat­u­ral karst so­lu­tion void, no trace of such ori­gin re­mains to­day. In fact, what can be seen of Għar il-Kbir­shows it to be a com­plex of rock-cut (man-made) in­ter­con­nect­ing caves.

Re­gret­tably, the Great Cave has not as yet re­ceived ar­chae­o­log­i­cal at­ten­tion, so, in con­trast to Għar Dalam, we have no idea if the cave was used for shel­ter by pre­his­toric peo­ple. Nev­er­the­less, there is strong cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence sug­gest­ing use of the cave, at least in part, dur­ing very early his­toric times. Għar ilKbir has re­ceived in re­cent times a con­sid­er­able amount of at­ten­tion from lead­ing Mal­tese schol­ars, and it is thanks to their ef­forts that we know a lot about the cave and those who fre­quented it dur­ing the early mod­ern pe­riod. Gor­don E. We­ston, au­thor of The Mal­tese Cart-Ruts: Un­rav­el­ing and Enigma and Clapham Junc­tion 3000 Years of Mal­tese Her­itage, will be draw­ing on the work of many schol­ars to present a syn­the­sis of many dif­fer­ent strands of thought about this mys­te­ri­ous place, look­ing at the so­cio-eco­nomic re­al­i­ties of life in this cave over the cen­turies.

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