Understanding the territory of the Żejtun Villa in Antiquity – three new archaeological discoveries

Anthony PACE, Nathaniel CUTAJAR, Bernardette MERCIECA, Christian MIFSUD, Mevrick SPITERI


 The setting of the Żejtun villa is a complex landscape which has been densely occupied and used since antiquity. Much of this landscape is now partly obscured by a combination of ancient field systems, roads and cemeteries, as well as by early modern to contemporary urban sprawl and infrastructure. Increasingly, surveillance work by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and its predecessor the Museums Department has enabled a better understanding of this ancient landscape. Through a variety of interventions a number of important sites have been examined and noted. This presentation will provide an overview of some of the more significant of these sites. These include cemeteries and burial grounds, sites that illustrate aspects of the ancient economy in the Żejtun area, and how these are related to road systems some of which have been absorbed by modern road networks. The key sites presented will include: the Late Roman and Byzantine Catacomb at Tal-Barrani, the ancient tomb cluster and field systems at Tal-Ħotba and the Roman tomb-cluster and quarries at Bulebel. The significance of each site will be briefly described, together with the current state of study, as well as an outline of the measures that have been taken for their physical conservation.

 Dr. Anthony PACE

is the first appointee, in 2002, to the position of Superintendent of Cultural Heritage for the Maltese islands. Prior to this he worked as s research assistant at the CathedralMuseum (Mdina), then successively as Curator, Chief Curator and Director of the Museums Department. Dr. Pace graduated in History and Archaeology at the University of Malta, and pursued his post-graduate studies within the University of Cambridge. His research and publications focus on the prehistory of Malta and on the philosophy of heritage and conservation, heritage management and public policy. (Contact: anthony.pace@gov.mt)

Nathaniel CUTAJAR

is a graduate in History and Archaeology (University of Malta) and has obtained an MA in Archaeological Heritage Management form the University of York (UK). He has worked in the Cultural Heritage Sector since 1991, when he joined the Museums Department as Assistant Curator of Archaeology, becoming Curator in 1996. Since 2003 he has worked in a senior management position with the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage. He has extensive archaeological fieldwork experience and has published works on various aspects of cultural heritage management and on Maltese archaeology. (Contact: nathaniel.cutajar@gov.mt)

Bernardette MERCIECA

is a qualified Osteo-Archaeologist, having obtained in 2006 an MSc in Human Osteology and Funerary Archaeology from the University of Sheffield (UK). Her first degree in Archaeology was obtained in Malta in 2004, and has since obtained extensive archaeological fieldwork experience, having practiced as a professional archaeologist.  She has been working with the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage since 2010.  (Contact: bernardette.mercieca@gov.mt)

Christian MIFSUD

graduated in Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Malta in 2006. Following his degree, he worked for a three year period as a freelance archaeologist and as a research assistant for Fondazjoni Wirt Artna. Since 2010 he has been employed with the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage where he is responsible for various aspects of archaeological fieldwork and site management. (Contact: christian.b.mifsud@gov.mt)


graduated in Archaeology and History at the University of Malta in 2006. Between 2008 and 2010, Mevrick Spiteri worked as a freelance archaeologist and as a research assistant, working both for the Superintendence and for the University of Malta. In 2010 he started working at the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, where he is responsible mainly for archaeological and cultural heritage surveillance issues. (Contact: mevrick.spiteri@gov.mt)

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