Monday, January 04, 2010

History books were wrong on arid land

An article on the Times of Malta today reports new evidence that contradicts the common myth that Valletta was built on arid land.

Mount Sceberras had been chosen by Grand Master Jean de la Valette as the site to build the new capital city after the Great Siege in 1565.

Described in most local history books as a barren outcrop, arid or rocky, the hill had to be levelled before construction could start in 1566 and completed with bastions, forts and the cathedral, all in 15 years.

The new evidence refuting the long-repeated theory came to light last February during the first excavations at St George’s Square by the Valletta Rehabilitation Project.

The oldest part of the square dates back to classical period (circa 8 AD - 395 AD) and investigations revealed rock-cut features. However, fragments of pottery dating back to the late medieval period indicated that the area was still covered by agricultural land until it was built over, Mr Borg said.

“Enough evidence was collected to prove that this was the site of intense ancient and medieval agricultural occupation. This challenges the often-repeated idea that Sceberras Height was just an outcrop of wasteland before the founding of Valletta by the Knights in 1567,” he said.

1 comment:

  1. It turns out some history books had already indicated this according to a letter to the Times by Denis De Lucca. The gentleman goes on to write:

    "The intensity of the agricultural activity associated with these fields is not documented but it is, in my opinion, speculative and sensational to state that the Mount Sciberras was the site of "intense, ancient and mediaeval agricultural activity", given its exposure to prevailing winds and to corsair attack at a time when Malta was described as "rock in the middle of the sea, far away from help and comfort".

    For rest of letter, see