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21 September 2008
New study of a Maltese stone circle

Archaeologists from Queen's University in Belfast and from Cambridge University are currently in Gozo (Malta) carrying out archaeological work in connection with excavations carried out between 1987 and 1994 on the Xagħra stone circle. The project is being carried out in collaboration with Heritage Malta and the University of Malta. The aim of this project is to extract additional samples and reorganize the finds from the site to establish and confirm dating of the prehistoric levels of the site.
     The information obtained will shed new light on the customs and way of life of people living on the Maltese islands during prehistory. Bone and pottery samples dating between 6000 and 4400 years will be studied in the laboratories of the Universities of Belfast and Oxford to attempt to refine the dating sequence of early Malta. Other studies to be carried out through this project will provide information on the diet of these people. This aspect may help in the interpretation of the changes in society and economy at the end of the Temple Period and the eventual collapse of the Maltese Temple Culture around 4400 years ago.
     Gozo Minister, Giovanna Debono, paid a visit to the archaeologists during the course of their work. Dr Caroline Malone and Dr Simon Stoddart, the two archaeologists leading this project, explained to the Minister the complex processes undertaken during the last fifteen years for the study of the material excavated from the Xagħra stone circle. Two hundred thousand human bones and almost a ton of pottery fragments were studied with the aim of building a clear picture of the customs of these people particularly connected with burial ritual. The Minister also discussed proposals for better preservation, presentation and interpretation of the site.
     Artefacts found on the site have shed invaluable light on the artistic capabilities of prehistoric people living on Gozo. A selection of the most significant and important finds, including unique pieces of sculpture, are permanently on show at the Gozo Museum of Archaeology at the Cittadella.

Source: Times of Malta (18 September 2008)

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