University of Malta

Ghar ix-Xih (Gozo) excavation project
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Project partners:
Department of Classics and Archaeology, University of Malta; Superintendence of Cultural Heritage; the Mġarr ix-Xini Regional Park Project

Collaborating partner:
Ghent University, Belgium

Directors: George Azzopardi (Sannat and Xewkija local councils representative), Prof. Anthony Bonanno (University of Malta), Nathaniel Cutajar (Superintendence), Anthony Pace (Superintendence) and Prof. Nicholas Vella (University of Malta)

Site supervisor: Rebecca Farrugia

Main sponsor: Sannat and Xewkija (Gozo) local councils


  • Pottery: Dr Alessandro Quercia (independent researcher) assisted by Maxine Anastasi (University of Malta)
  • GPR survey: Lieven Verdonck (Ghent University)
Għar ix-Xiħ is a modified cave site located on the outskirts of Xewkija within the valley overlooking the bay of Mġarr ix-Xini, Gozo. The importance of Għar ix-Xiħ as an archaeological site was realized recently by a Gozitan archaeologist George Azzopardi who noticed several rock-cut features carved on the cave walls and surrounding garigue. Intrigued by the discovery of such markings George scoured the area for more signs of anthropogenic presence. Lying on the rubble wall that defines the southern extent of the site, he discovered the head of a terracotta figurine which is now on display at the Museum of Archaeology in Gozo.

These discoveries prompted annual excavation campaigns since 2005 in which a series of rich cultural deposits have been uncovered and are in the process of being studied. The initial findings, including terracotta figurines, pottery sherds, marine shells and bones, point to the existence at Għar ix-Xiħ of a ritual site, possibly a shrine dating to the Late Punic/Early Roman (Republican) period. Due to its close proximity to an ideal anchorage at Mġarr ix-Xini bay, the shrine might have been linked to seafaring activities.

The primary aim of the Għar ix-Xiħ excavation project is to assess the type and extent of cultural activity on one archaeological site within the Mġarr ix-Xini valley. The project also aims to provide fieldwork experience to undergraduate and graduate students reading for a degree in Archaeology at the University of Malta.

Public lectures:
The Għar ix-Xiħ archaeological excavations (2005-2006) presented by Nicholas Vella and The Mġarr ix-Xini regional park project by Nathaniel Cutajar. The lecture was recorded by CampusFM.

11th August 2007 – Sannat, Gozo

20th February 2008 – the Malta Archaeological Society, Valletta

To view the images used for the presentation click here

Excavations at Ghar ix-Xih, Gozo 2005-2008 by George Azzopardi, Anthony Bonanno, Anthony Pace, Nathaniel Cutajar and Nicholas Vella

4th February 2009 - Din L-Art Helwa, Victoria, Gozo

To view the images used for the presentation click here

A temporary exhibition displaying some of the finds from the site at Għar ix-Xiħ was inaugurated on the 11th August 2007 in Sannat, Gozo and was on display until the 18th August 2007. The same exhibition was set up in Xewkija, Gozo between the 20th and 26th August 2007.

Where to find us
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MA (taught) Archaeological Practice
Being offered in October 2019
Student Handbooks

You can now download this year's course handbooks here:

  • BA/BA(Hons) Archaeology
  • BA/BA(Hons) Classics
  • MA (taught) Global Maritime Archaeology 
Last Updated: 31 July 2017

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