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16 April 2007
Tents for Maltese megalithic sites: a temporary solution

The protective structures that will be erected over two of Malta's megalithic temples, Mnajdra and Hagar Qim, are good for 25 to 30 years and will be a "means of buying time while alternatives are developed", Reuben Grima, senior curator of World Heritage Sites said. Dr Grima was speaking during a seminar marking this year’s edition of International Day on Monuments and Sites, with the theme "Cultural Landscapes and Monuments of Nature".
     While tents may not be a very attractive option from an archaeologist’s point of view, it must be acknowledged that the shelters are an 'interim measure' until experts study the situation and identify solutions for the best possible restoration and conservation of the temples, said Dr Grima. He added that a draft management plan, complemented by a conservation plan for all the megalithic temples will be delivered later this year.
     In parallel, key actions are also being instigated for the country’s six temples, which are on the UNESCO World Heritage list – Hagar Qim, Mnajdra, Ggantija, Tarxien, Ta’ Skorba and Ta’ Hagrat. Dr Grima explained that Hagar Qim and Mnajdra have been exposed to the elements since they were excavated in 1839 and 1840 respectively. Since then, the elements have taken their toll causing extensive loss of materials, which in turn poses a threat to the structures themselves.
     When studying what type of sheltering was needed to protect the temples, Dr Grima explained that a greenhouse-like structure similar to the one at Villa Romana del Casale outside the Italian town of Piazza Armerina, was unsuitable. In fact, the fabric tents will be anchored in such a manner that air will flow in from all sides. Conservation scientist JoAnn Cassar also insisted that when trying to identify a design for the protective shelters with the least possible negative impact, they wanted to avoid mistakes made on other such shelters worldwide. "We could have also considered using air-conditioning to minimise the heating effect on the stone, but introducing such technologies would only make the conservation process more complex," said Dr Cassar.

Source: The Malta Independent (15 April 2007)

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