TAL-WEJ PUNIC TOMBS
An important archaeological and ecologically sensitive area between Mosta and Naxxar is the tract of land known as Tal-Wej. (Pron. in English as Tull, as in hull & Way)
Comprising a sacred burial ground, it comprises a network of rock pools and ancient tombs, and is considered by experts to date back to the Bronze Age.
When the Phoenician Merchant Colonisers came to Malta, around the 8th Century BC, their primary initial settlements were concentrated around Mdina and the Gozo Castello, these being two high promontories having ample observation and defensive qualities.
As trade increased, the need for expansion brought about a growing number of settlements distributed around the islands. This included settling down at some of the strongholds of the previous Bronze Age cultures.
Fellow NGO, Grupp Arkeologiku Malti (GAM), has conducted a number of studies in order to reconstruct this expansion by a re-examination of the phoenician tombs found in the Maltese Islands. This is what they have to say about such tombs:
"Phoenician tombs are usually of the shaft and chamber type. A shaft, usually square but occasionally round in shape, opens at its base to one or more chambers. When the height of the shaft exceeds 1m a number of steps or footholds are usually found making the descent easier. The entrance to the chamber is often worked to receive a closing slab stone.
The cremated or inhumed remains were usually placed on a raised ledge of rock inside the chamber itself, a measure taken to prevent destruction of the burial in cases of water seepage to the chamber. The tomb was subsequently closed and the shaft filled by small stones.
As often occurs with Phoenician tombs cart-ruts are found in the vicinity."
A number of steps descend to the bottom of a square shaft,
leading to two side-chambers
In September 2011, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (Mepa)
finally scheduled these shaft and chamber tombs, which are just of one
the many valuable features of the area. Tal-Wej was duly scheduled as an
important archaeological and ecologically sensitive site containing a
good number of archaeological and historical features including dolmens,
cart-ruts, ancient quarries, vine trenches, a 16th century chapel and
two corbelled huts (Giren).
The natural heritage characterised by karstland and dominated by a
mixture of rocky steppe and, to a lesser extent, by Garigue communities
and the ecological importance held by a number of temporary freshwater
rock pools (which are an EU priority habitat type), was also duly
recognised by MEPA, by assigning the various features individual
protection and scheduling.
As for GAM, The Grupp Arkeologiku Malti (Archaeology Group of Malta) is a
non-profit, non-governmental organisation with an aim to contribute,
educate and foster knowledge on the archaeological heritage of the
Founded in the eighties by the Ministry of Education, the Group was
instrumental in the recognition and excavation of the catacombs at
Tar-Raghad and excavation of the Punic Tombs at Santa Margherita in
After 1987, the group activities were redirected towards the provision
of information to the general public. In fact the group distinguishes
itself as the organisation that regularly visits the remote and less
known archaeological sites on the islands.
HPM congratulates this NGO for the hard work it has carried out over the years.
We are planning to visit the site and take more photographs of the tombs and entire area, also in view of ensuring the site is being given protection worthy of its importance.