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GHAR DALAM CAVE

The underground cave of Ghar Dalam (The Dark Cave) is not a prehistoric temple. In fact, it is a cave which served as the abode of the first neolithic settlers of these islands about 6000 years ago.

Moreover, Ghar Dalam Cave provides special interest in relation to Malta's geological past.

Excavations carried out between 1933 and 1937, yielded an enormous quantity of animal bone deposits from the lower strata of the cave's subsoil. These remains belonged to prehistoric elephants, hippopotami, deer and other animals which roamed all over Europe a quarter of a million years ago. The deposits confirm that at that distant age, the Maltese Islands formed part of the European mainland.

Thousands of these bone deposits - some semi-fossilised, others cemented in hard rock, are now exhibited in showcases in the small museum on the site. Full-scale animal skeletons are also displayed to give an idea of the wild fauna that frequented these islands. The skeleton models are of modern animals.

The cave itself is 200 metres long, 18 metres wide and 3 to 6 metres high. It was formed several million years ago by chemical agents in rain water acting on the soft limestone. During the excavations a pillar was left standing in the cave to demonstrate the succession of the various layers and of the bone deposits.

The bones, which were the remains of animals that died here during many ages, were carried by torrents of water and accumulated in the cave.

It is a notable fact that when the first human settlers reached our shores on primitive rafts, they found refuge within this spacious cave.

Potsherds and scarce neolithic material were recovered from the site, and these constitute the first man-made relics found in Malta. In this context, Ghar Dalam lends its name to the first phase of our prehistory as the scene and site of the obscure origins of stone-age man in this country.

Strangely enough, Ghar Dalam Cave continued to be inhabited throughout the years up to 1911, when its last occupants were evicted by the authorities before excavation works started on the site.

Text courtesy of the National Tourism Organisation - Malta.