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10 January 2010
Brockdorff Circle report literally rewrites Maltese history

The long-awaited official report into the excavations of the Gozo Stone (aka Brockdorff) Circle in Xaghra - a unique underground prehistoric burial site near Ggantija temples - may have rewritten Maltese history in more ways than one: by failing to properly acknowledge that the site was originally discovered by Gozitan historian Joseph Attard Tabone, whose extensive research led to its precise relocation in 1965.
     Recently launched at the Gozo Ministry, Victoria, the 521-page volume purports to be an exhaustive collection of articles and papers related to this unique underground Neolithic burial complex. But a seminal paper written by Attard Tabone in 1965, detailing the precise circumstances of the burial site's discovery, was neither included nor even mentioned in the entire book. And yet it was Tabone who first alerted archaeologist Prof. David Trump, who oversaw the initial excavations, to the discovery of three previously unidentified standing stones in a farmer's rubble wall in 1959; and it was also Attard Tabone who later understood the significance of the find, recognising them as the only external remnants of a stone circle that had been described in historical writings, but subsequently lost.
     "In 1959 I reported this megalithic wall to Dr David Trump, then Curator of Archaeology," Mr Attard Tabone said in a 2002 interview. "We inspected the site together and he included it in the 1959/60 Museum Report; but we did not realise then, that under our feet lay a great wealth of archaeological material and that this wall was part of the Gozo Stone Circle. The secrets of the site were still hidden in libraries, archives and underground."
     It took Attard Tabone another five years to identify the site as part of the lost underground ruin, having established the location through visual evidence in the form of an 18th century illustration by French artist and writer, Jean Houel.
Attard Tabone wrote about his discoveries in 1965, detailing the research and surface observations that led him to identify this field as the site of the complex later named the 'Brockdorff Circle'.  But he limited his contribution only to making public the exact location, leaving the actual excavation to professional archaeologists.
     "How do I feel about it? Hurt, mostly," an aggrieved Attard Tabone said when contacted. "After all that hard work - not just to discover the monument, but also to conserve it: I have had to put up with years of abuse by builders who would willingly have reduced it all to rubble, if they had their own way... And then, after all this, to be left out completely... it's a great disappointment."

Source: Malta Today (6 January 2010)

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