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Megalithic Temples of Malta

Malta
Factors affecting the property in 1994*
  • Erosion and siltation/ deposition
  • Legal framework
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Quarrying
  • Storms
  • Other Threats:

    Worrying state of conservation of some temples; Fragility of the structures (cracks, etc.)

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Need for a larger buffer zone
  • Need for better legal protection
International Assistance: requests for the property until 1994
Requests approved: 1 (from 1981-1981)
Total amount approved : 1,625 USD
Missions to the property until 1994**

August 1994: UNESCO mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 1994

UNESCO sent a mission to Malta from 21 to 25 August, 1994, at the invitation of the Museums Department which is responsible for the conservation of the archaeological heritage of the island.

The six temples inscribed on the World Heritage List share a number of general problems, but two of them (Mnajdra and Ggantija) are also cause for great concern.

 

a)  General problems

1.  None of the temples are sufficiently guarded, but particularly those at Mnajdra, Hagar Qim, Ta'Hagrat and Skorba.

At Skorba, no guard was present on the site and a large opening had been made in the fence surrounding the monument, thus allowing free access to it. This insufficiency or absence of surveillance is due both to the lack of personnel available to the Museums Department and the absence of minimal conveniences (water, electricity...) in the guard houses, even though permanent 24-hour surveillance should be ensured to avoid theft, vandalism, displacement of the stones or deterioration of the structures.

2.  General erosion of the stones was observed, especially the most fragile limestone (globigerina). This erosion affects the general state of conservation, the structural stability of the buildings, and the preservation of the sculpted figures which have not yet been transferred to the Museum and replaced by copies.

 

b)  Special problems

1. Mnajdra

The Temple of Mnajdra is in great danger. The violent storms of 4 and 5 April 1994 caused huge mudslides which resulted in the destabilisation of the waterlogged earth. This in turn caused the slipping of the earth between the stone walls of the temples, and the disappearance of support materials between the stones of the wall. The combined strength of the wind and rain has caused the total collapse of the upper third of a wall located between one of the temples and a lateral chamber, and the fall of blocks weighing several tons. This accident is already extremely serious, and is aggravated by the hole thus opened in the two walls and in the reduced level of the earth separating them, making the entire structure particularly vulnerable to further assaults of wind and rain.

Rebuilding the wall and resetting the fallen stones is especially delicate since no precise record, photogrammetric or other, has ever been made. In addition, resetting blocks that are so heavy and of such irregular shapes raises major statical problems, and any error might cause an overall collapse of the walls concerned.

A scientific committee composed of five experts has been set up by the Museums Department and has already prepared a detailed report including a description of the most urgent repairs to be made and the long-term conservation measures. Within the Government, the Ministry of Finance has agreed to an allocation of funds totalling 120,000 LM (approx. US$ 380,000), spread over three years. But as of September 1994, the first portion had not yet been unblocked and it is not certain that the total sum will suffice to ensure the repairs and the long-term conservation of the site.

In addition, vast stone quarries are exploited in the immediate vicinity of the monument (extraction beginning at about 30 meters from the surrounding wall of the site). After considerable efforts on the part of the Museums Department, the use of dynamite in these quarries was abandoned. However, it appears that the continued exploitation of the site -- because of the constant vibrations produced by the use of heavy machinery and trucks, noise, pollution and dust -- remains not only a permanent threat to the conservation of the site (recent breaks, cracks and splinters have appeared in the megaliths which could have been caused by this exploitation) but also, more generally, for the entire natural environment of the site, which has a particularly attractive setting beside the sea. This quarrying activity must not be allowed to develop, and all efforts must be made to halt any further activity.

Once these two serious problems are resolved, the Archaeological Park of Mnajdra and Hagar Qin, presently in a preparatory phase, will represent considerable progress in protecting the site and welcoming visitors. To achieve the project, sufficient funds must be provided to set up the visitor centre, finish the construction of the encircling wall and especially to ensure permanent and effective surveillance, through the attribution of a sufficient number of well-qualified personnel.

 

2. Ggantija

The site has a serious structural stability problem concerning the facade of the south wall, which may totally collapse in the next few years if no action is taken.

Many of the wall's megaliths have recently broken or cracked. This is probably due to the settling or irregular movements of the soil, thus weakening the all-over rigidity.

In addition, certain megaliths have also shifted horizontally, and at present the entire wall has a pronounced slant, the megaliths at the top markedly jutting out over the bottom of the wall. If no action is taken and if this movement continues, the entire wall, about ten meters high, will topple, along with all hope of ever being able to restore it to its former state.

A team from the University of Florence Faculty of Architecture, directed by Professor Gennaro Tampone, carried out an in-depth study of this problem and prepared a comprehensive project for restoration, reinforcement of the structural stability and photogrammetric record accompanied by an entire group of scientific and technical studies. The cost of the project is 720 million Italian liras (about US$ 450,000) and the Museums Department has requested the necessary funds from the Government. But, here again, the delay involved in receiving the funds and the final amount are not assured.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 1994

Faced with the alarming situation at this World Heritage site, the Committee may wish to inform the Maltese national authorities of its grave concern, and insist that the afore-mentioned problems be treated at Government level, and that all the necessary technical and financial means, manpower and legislation, be urgently made available to the national authorities responsible for conservation in order to:

  1. restore the Temple of Mnajdra according to the recommendations of the Scientific Committee of the Museums Department, and take the necessary steps especially regarding drainage, so that this type of accident does not reoccur;
  2. halt the exploitation of the quarries adjoining the site as quickly as possible;
  3. finish installing the Archaeological Park of Mnajdra and Hagar Qim by providing a sufficient number of well-qualified personnel;
  4. undertake the necessary work on the Ggantija site to avoid all risk of collapse, in accordance with the project established by the University of Florence;
  5. provide all the archaeological sites inscribed on the List sufficient guards to ensure effective surveillance of the sites.

The Committee may wish to request the authorities of Malta to report before 1 April 1995 on the progress made in the conservation and management of this site.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 1994
18 COM IX
SOC: Megalithic Temples (Malta)

Megalithic Temples (Malta)

The Committee was informed by the Secretariat on the state of conservation of the Megalithic Temples of Malta and the very serious problems concerning the insufficient surveillance, particularly in Mnajdra, Hagar Qim, Ta'Hagrat and Skorba; the collapse of one of the walls of the Temple of Mnajdra as a result of the 1994 April storms; the exploitation of vast stone quarries in the immediate vicinity of the monument and the serious dangers which this activity imposes permanently upon the conservation of the Temple and its environment, the very serious risks of collapse of one part of the Ggantija Temple.

The Committee expressed to the national authorities of Malta its very deep concerns and insisted that these serious problems be dealt with at governmental level and that all necessary technical, budgetary, manpower and legal means be immediately placed at the disposal of the national authorities which have been entrusted with the conservation in order to:

a) restore the Temple of Mnajdra according to the recommendations of the Scientific committee of the Museums Department, and take the necessary steps, especially regarding drainage, so that this type of accident does not reoccur;

b) halt the exploitation of the quarries adjoining the site without delay;

c) finish installing the Archaeological Park of Mnajdra and Hagar Qim by providing a sufficent number of well-qualified personnel;

d) undertake the necessary work on the Ggantija site to avoid all risk of collapse, in accordance with the project established by the University of Florence;

e) provide the archaeological sites inscribed on the List with sufficient guards to ensure effective surveillance of the sites.

The Committee requested the Maltese authorities to prepare a detailed report before 1 April 1995 on the progress made regarding all of the points on conservation and management of the site.

No draft Decision

Report year: 1994
Malta
Date of Inscription: 1980
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (iv)
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 18COM (1994)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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