Thursday, November 25, 2010
GHAR DALAM - THE CAVE OF DARKNESS - MALTA
250.000 years back - in the Pleistocene - Malta was not yet an island but still attached to the European mainland. Various kinds of animals roamed the land. Imagine prehistoric mammals, like dwarf elephants and pygmy hippopotamus, giant dormice, very big turtles and many species of birds living there undisturbed. Those animals became extinct and large deposits of fossilized bones were found in Malta at different locations. In one of them extra vast quantities have been discovered - in a cave, hollowed out of the limestone by a river over the course of millions of years, in the cave Ghar Dalam near Birzebbugia.
Excavated in the beginning of the 20th century it was opened to the public in 1933. It bears the oldest witness to animal and human life in Malta. Being 144 m deep, only a third from the entrance can be visited. The bones were carried by the flood of the water and accumulated at the bottom of the cave. In five layers material of different times was found. In the upper layer, around the Neolithic period, about 5000 BCE, proof of human habitation, like tools made of flint stone and pottery sherds, was located. The lowest level contained bones, teeth and tasks of long extinct species, the hippopotamus being extinct about 180.000 years ago. In the more upper levels bones and fragments of bones give evidence of red deer, bear, fox and wolf, dating back to about 8000 to 10.000 BCE. That was about the time when the island was detached from the continent.
The entrance to the cave is through a small museum which showcases a remarkable wealth of bones detected right there. Some full scale models of the animals are also displayed, like a juvenile elephant, but they are animals of modern times, created to help the imagination going!
Another place of great interest to explore in Malta, providing a very fascinating experience!