University of Malta

Malta Survey Project 2008
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Project partners:
Department of Classics and Archaeology, University of Malta; Ghent University, Belgium; the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, Malta
Directors: Prof. Anthony Bonanno (University of Malta), Nathaniel Cutajar (Superintendence), Prof. Roald Docter (Ghent University), Anthony Pace (Superintendence) and Prof. Nicholas Vella (University of Malta)

Field directors (2008, 2009):
Prof. Roald Docter and Dr Nicholas Vella

Main sponsor:
Ghent University, Belgium


  • Finds processing: Prof. Roald Docter, Dr Babette Bechtold (independent researcher), Dr Boutheina Maraoui Telmini (Facultés des Sciences Humaines at Sociales de Tunis), Winfred van de Put (Ghent University), Nathaniel Cutajar (Superintendence) and Maxine Anastasi (University of Malta)
  • Geophysics: Lieven Verdonck (Ghent University)
  • Geomorphology:  Prof. Morgan De Dapper (Ghent University)
  • Topography: Dr Alain De Wulf and Timothy Nuttens (Ghent University)

Logistics: Guy Dierkens (Ghent University)

Aims of the project
  1. To understand the long-term development and exploitation of an island landscape using geomorphological study, systematic survey, geophysical prospection and excavation, with an emphasis on the Punic period.
  2. To create a reference collection of reliable period-specific diagnostic sherds and fabrics to allow surface finds to be identified and dated under conditions of severe abrasion.
  3. To provide students with training in field-walking methods, techniques and finds processing.

In September 2008 the University of Malta, Ghent University and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage embarked on a pilot survey involving intensive systematic field-walking in the north of Malta. Two teams of Maltese and Belgian students systematically walked an average of 1.5 square kilometres over a two-week period collecting all visible finds within their paths such as pottery, sea shells, tile and pebbles whilst recording many features such as rock-cut tombs, cisterns and corbelled huts (giren). 

The Belgian team used equipment to survey already known sites such as the Żejtun Roman villa, Għar ix-Xiħ (Gozo) and the Kordin III prehistoric temple complex. During the survey, Lieven Verdonck conducted a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey in two fields where high concentrations of pottery were noted. The existence of Roman remains here have long been known; however, the extent and type were unknown. The aim of the GPR survey in the area was to establish the extent of any structural features below the surface of the soil.

A team of topographers led by Alain De Wulf spent the two-week period digitally surveying rock-cut features. This included a number of Punic tombs hitherto unrecorded.

The project is completely financed by Ghent University. It is planned that the project will run annually until 2012.

Docter, R., Vella, N.C., Cutajar, N., Bonanno, A. & Pace, A. 2012, "Rural Malta: First Results of the Joint Belgo-Maltese Survey Project", BABESCH 87: 107-149.


Public lectures:
The Malta Survey Project 2008: scope and preliminary results of a joint Belgian-Maltese fieldwalking survey in northern Malta by Anthony Bonanno, Nathaniel Cutajar, Roald Docter, Anthony Pace and Nicholas Vella, 18th February 2009 for the Malta Archaeological Society.

To listen to the recording, prepared by CampusFM, of the lecture delivered by Anthony Bonanno and Nicholas Vella, click here. To view the images used for the presentation delivered by Nicholas Vella click here.


Last Updated: 31 July 2017

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