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Spectacular Archaeological Finds at Cittadella Discovered During Restoration Project

June 1, 2017

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Gozo’s Cittadella (Image 1) is undoubtedly one of the most important sites in Gozo from an archaeological point of view. This is mostly because of the concentration of human habitation on this small area in the very centre of the island where inhabitants have sought refuge at least since the Bronze Age period in 2500BC.

 

During the past few years, significant infrastructural works have been carried out at Cittadella as part of the EU co-funded project for the implementation of the Cittadella Masterplan Recommendations ERDF 246. Although all works had to be completed in a relatively very short period, these were carried out under the vigilant and continuous supervision of archaeological monitors and of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage.

 

The possibility of archaeological finds was one of the factors taken into consideration at planning stage when considering the very short timeframes available for implementation. However, the spectacular finds made during the execution of the works exceeded everybody’s expectations.

 

 

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The earliest remains uncovered during the project were a number of Bronze Age silos or ‘Columbaria’ which probably were used for burial. Though the existence of these ‘silos’ has been known since at least 1859 when AA Caruana recorded the existence of around 150 of such silos it was thought that these were completely destroyed when extensive works were carried out in the middle of the 19th Century related to the new access and the building of the water reservoirs in the ditch. At least 22 such silos were uncovered at the entrance of Cittadella since these survived on a stretch of bedrock between the reservoirs (Image 2) whilst a number of them were found on the bedrock below the South-east fortifications (Image 3). Plans of the stairs leading to the Cittadella main entrance had to be altered several times to preserve and integrate these silos in the final design.

 

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During the Roman P eriod 218 B.C. – 455 A.D. we know of the existence of Gaulos Oppidum (the Town of Gozo) which also enjoyed municipal status. Though well documented, the only physical remains of the Roman period still in existence were limited to a number of inscriptions and a stretch of wall beneath the Cathedral Vestry. During the works on the reconstruction of the main access road and the entrance to the Visitors’ Centre a significant stretch of a wall built by the use of large ashlar blocks and dating to the Roman period was uncovered. Unfortunately only a small part could remain visible though the rest was properly conserved beneath the present road (Image 4).

 

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Remains dating to the Roman, Byzantine and later periods were uncovered when works were being carried out on the re-laying of underground services and paving works within Cittadella. Only a surface investigation was carried out and after proper recording and conservation, these were covered over and protected for posterity.

 

The most spectacular and unexpected find was the old entrance way to Cittadella probably built around 1620. Though known from the drawings and engravings left by the French artist Jean Houel (Image 5), nobody suspected their almost intact existence buried within the infill material dumped to create better access to Cittadella in the mid 19th Century. This find resulted in major changes to the access to Cittadella bringing back to light the surviving parts of the access roads from the Knights’ period and British period. In the process, parts of the original ditch in front of the main entrance was emptied of dumped material and recovered for the enjoyment of all the visitors to Cittadella.

 

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Enigmatic and mysterious remain the purpose and age of the stone circle (Image 6) discovered just beneath the steps of the Cathedral Church. This circle made up of large and small pebbles set in clay in the base of a manmade depressed cavity in the bedrock was too fragile to remain exposed. Since no cultural remains such as pottery, bone or ashes were found associated with this find, it became all the more difficult to establish a date or possible purpose of this structure. Today the circle is protected under insulation layers beneath a metal cover on the side of the Cathedral Square.

 

 

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Voluminous records, thousands of photographs and loads of pottery shards were recovered during the works and these are now awaiting proper study and publication, hopefully in the coming years, shedding invaluable light on the history of Cittadella.

 

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