University of Malta

Tas-Silg Excavation Project
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Institution: Department of Classics and Archaeology, University of Malta

Prof. Anthony Bonanno (1996-2005), Prof. Anthony J. Frendo (1996-1999)
Assistant Director: Dr Nicholas Vella (2000-2005)

Main sponsors:
University of Malta, Din L-Art Ħelwa, the OTS Foundation; additional sponsors: Simonds Farsons Cisk plc., Calypso Manufacturing Ltd, Brandstätter Group Malta, Marsovin Ltd, Portanier Brothers Ltd, H. H. Ltd, Bitburger Brauerei of Germany, The Mediterranean Academy for Diplomatic Studies and Ms Mabel Brook.


  • Animal bone: Andrè Corrado, Carmel Mifsud (independent researchers)
  • Art: Prof. Anthony Bonanno (University of Malta)
  • Coins: Dr Suzanne Frey-Kupper (University of Lausanne)
  • Inscriptions: Prof. Anthony J. Frendo (University of Malta)
  • Lithics: Clive Vella (independent researcher)
  • Molluscan remains: Dr Katrin Fenech (independent researcher), Prof. Patrick J. Schembri (University of Malta)
  • Palynology: Dr Chris O. Hunt (Queen’s University Belfast)
  • Pottery: Dr Claudia Sagona (University of Melbourne)
  • Stratigraphy: Simon Mason (Kent County Council), Dr Nicholas Vella, Rebecca Farrugia (independent researcher)
  • Worked stone/architectural fragments: David Cardona (Heritage Malta)

Tas-Silġ is a multi-period sanctuary site located in the south-eastern part of the island of Malta, close to Marsaxlokk harbour. The site has a long history of antiquarian research and archaeological excavation. The Missione Archeologica Italiana carried out excavations between 1963 and 1970, identified the site with the famous sanctuary to Juno (Astarte of the Phoenicians) mentioned in Cicero’s Verrine Orations and given coordinates in Ptolemy’s Geography. The Italian team resumed work on site in 1997. In 1996 the University of Malta started its own excavation project in the area south of the main sanctuary complex consisting of four trenches, A to D.  The table below briefly highlights the results of the excavations in the southern sector of the Tas-Silġ site.

Area A
Area B
Area C
Area D
(Temple Period)

A series of sealed occupational deposits containing Temple period (Tarxien phase) pottery and lithics.
Not present
Not present
Not present
(Bronze Age)

Present as residual Borg in-Nadur phase sherds.
Present as residual Borg in-Nadur phase sherds
An accumulation of deposits containing Bronze Age pottery (Borg in-Nadur phase) and stone tools.
Not present
Punic period
A series of ashlar foundation walls which make up the foundations for a platform built to the south of the main sanctuary in the 3rd/2nd century BC.

In limited areas the masonry cuts into an accumulation of 4th-century BC deposits consisting primarily of discarded pottery, ash and other cultural material.
A 3rd-century BC midden consisting mainly of discarded pottery, ash, animal bone, coins and other cultural material; some pot sherds carry votive inscriptions.
A series of fills and levelling deposits containing pottery (some inscribed), ash, bone, and construction waste cut into by 3rd-century BC activity related to the construction of the platform.
Stratified secondary deposits containing Late Punic material.
Roman, Byzantine and Medieval periods
No stratified deposits containing material for these periods were uncovered.
Late Punic/Roman as well as Late Roman material has been uncovered in several deposits associated with a well located in the lower terrace of the site.

Early Modern/Modern
The formation of a terrace and retaining rubble wall for agricultural use.
Not present
Not present
Modern material has been recovered from the well.

The University of Malta excavations at Tas-Silġ have been instrumental in the development of archaeological research and study in the Maltese islands. Besides offering excavation experience to undergraduate and graduate archaeology students, a specialist team has adopted a diverse range of archaeological and scientific methods to study the wealth of material recovered and attempt environmental reconstruction. The final report of the excavation has been published by Peeters (Leuven, Belgium).


BONANNO, A. & VELLA, N.C. (2015) Tas-Silġ, Marsaxlokk (Malta) I: Archaeological Excavations conducted by the University of Malta, 1996-2005 (Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Supplement 48), Leuven: Peeters.

BONANNO, A. & VELLA, N.C. (2015) Tas-Silġ, Marsaxlokk (Malta) II: Archaeological Excavations conducted by the University of Malta, 1996-2005 (Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Supplement 49), Leuven: Peeters.

BONANNO, A. &  VELLA, N. C. (forthcoming) Tas-Silġ excavations by the University of Malta: preliminary results, in K. Gambin and S. Sultana (eds), Tas-Silġ: past, present and future (a symposium). Malta: Midsea Books.

BONANNO, A. &  FRENDO, A. J. with  VELLA, N. C., (eds). 2000. Excavations at Tas-Silġ, Malta: a preliminary report on the 1996-1998 campaigns conducted by the Department of Classics and Archaeology of the University of Malta. Mediterranean Archaeology 13: 67-114. [contributions by A. Bonanno, A. Corrado, A. J. Frendo, C. O. Hunt, S. Mason, C. Sagona, P. J. Schembri, N. C. Vella]

CORRADO, A.,  BONANNO, A.J. &  VELLA, N. C.  2004. Bones and bowls: preliminary interpretation of the faunal remains from the Punic levels in Area B, at the temple of Tas-Silġ, Malta, in Jones O’Day, S., W. van Neer & A. Ervynck (eds), Behaviour behind bones: the zooarchaeology of ritual, statues and identity. Oxford: Oxbow: 47-53.

MOMMSEN, H.,  BONANNO,A.,  CHETCUTI BONAVITA,K.,  KAKOULLI, I.,  MUSUMECI, M.,   SAGONA,C.,  SCHWEDT,A.,   VELLA, N. C. & ZACHARIAS, N. 2006. Characterization of Maltese pottery of the Late Neolithic, Bronze Age and Punic Period by neutron activation analysis, in Maggetti, M. & B. Messiga (eds) Geomaterials in Cultural Heritage. London: The Geological Society: 81-89.

VELLA N. C. (forthcoming) Reaching out at Tas-Silġ: archaeology, ritual, and the sea, in K. Gambin and S. Sultana (eds), Tas-Silġ: past, present and future (a symposium). Malta: Midsea Books.


Aerial photograph courtesy of Daniel Cilia


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