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29 January 2007
Action taken to save graffiti on Maltese megaliths

Heritage Malta has moved two unique megaliths at Tarxien Temples in a bid to save what could possibly be the oldest representations of sea-faring vessels ever found. The initiatives forms part of a conservation project on Tarxien Temples funded by Bank of Valletta.
     Other megaliths decorated with relief carvings depicting spirals, animals and other designs were moved to the National Museum of Archaeology in the 1950s. The megaliths bearing graffiti of ships were left on site as they appeared to be in a good state of preservation. However, continuous exposure to fluctuating temperatures, wind, rainfall and rising damp were leading to the rapid deterioration of these megaliths, therefore threatening the preservation of the graffiti.
     Extensive studies were carried out by the Scientific Committee for the Conservation of the Megalithic Temples, set up by the Tourism and Culture Ministry in 2004. Following these studies, the committee recommended that the so-called ship graffiti megaliths be moved indoors. The megaliths were first treated by Heritage Malta conservators so that no more material is lost from their surfaces. An excavation close to the megaliths was also carried out by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage. This excavation enabled a study of the megaliths’ foundations and contributed to the design of the method that was to be used for their transportation.
     The transfer of the megaliths involved a delicate operation that involved both conservation and safety issues. Conservators and other professionals from Heritage Malta oversaw the complete assignment. Heritage Malta conservators will now be able to carry out additional interventions on the megaliths to ensure their preservation.
     The ship graffiti megaliths have been placed within the existing visitors’ building at the Tarxien Temples where they can be viewed by visitors. The megaliths will eventually be displayed within the new Visitor Centre, which will be built close to the site as part of the BOV Tarxien Temples Project.

Source: The Malta Independent (29 January 2006)

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