Deepwater Archaeological Park in Xlendi Gozo

The world’s first Deepwater Archaeological Park has been inaugurated off Xlendi in Gozo.The park, sponsored by the Malta Airport Foundation, is the result of a collaborative effort between Heritage Malta’s Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, the University of Malta, and the Munxar Local Council.

Designated as an Archaeological Zone at Sea in 2020, this unique park encompasses a rectangular area of significant archaeological value, covering a total of 67,000m². It is located approximately 540 metres to the southwest of Ras il-Bajda and the coastal watchtower of Xlendi Bay. Pottery artefacts from a Punic shipwreck forming part of the Xlendi Underwater Archaeological Park are exhibited in the newly-restored tower.

The park’s depth ranges between 105 and 115 metres, where the seabed consists of fine silt and sand punctuated by a series of rocky outcrops formed by extinct coral reefs. Around these outcrops are concentrations of archaeological objects, mostly amphorae. It is highly likely that more archaeological remains are buried in the sediment, based on the continuous deposition of sediment from Xlendi Valley and the presence of partially buried objects.

The general public may explore the park virtually on, or by means of Heritage Malta’s Dive Into History 360 experience. The physical display at Xlendi Tower also makes for a better understanding of the park.

Speaking during the park’s inauguration ceremony on the Xlendi waterfront, Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government, Owen Bonnici, remarked that thanks to the park, researchers and technical divers from all over the world can explore the history of Malta from the completely different perspective that archaeology offers. By means of the virtual museum, on the other hand, more people can appreciate the unique sites of our seas.

Minister for Gozo, Clint Camilleri, expressed his satisfaction that the first deep sea archaeological park in the world is being inaugurated in Gozo. He said that the park is an additional eincentive for travellers to opt for Gozo as their destination of choice, offering them a distinct and unparalleled stay. Yet, the main mission transcends the enhancement of the tourism facet; it encompasses safeguarding our  cultural legacy and all that our ancestors bequeathed to us, thus upholding our unique identity and defining attributes.

Professor Timmy Gambin, who heads Heritage Malta’s Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit, spoke of how Xlendi has witnessed innovative undersea technologies since the late 1950s. The launch of this unique park elevates the submerged deposits off Xlendi and enhances Gozo’s cultural heritage as well as its tourism product. Through future collaborative efforts and thanks to the generous support of the Malta Airport Foundation, Gozo will continue to develop as a centre of excellence in the fields of underwater archaeology and heritage management.

The Malta Airport Foundation’s Chairman, Josef Formosa Gauci, stated that the foundation’s decision to support this project was easy, as our underwater heritage is a crucial part of the Maltese Islands’ tourism offering as well as our identity. Although the depths at which this park is found make it accessible only to a niche of technical divers, Heritage Malta is doing an excellent job in bringing the discoveries made closer to specialised audiences and the general public. The Malta Airport Foundation feels honoured to have contributed to the milestones achieved so far and is committed to continue supporting this unique endeavour, which is not only important locally but also to the history of the wider central Mediterranean.

Damien Spiteri, Mayor of Munxar, said that such initiatives offer a unique dimension of Xlendi’s cultural and historical heritage and the promotion of its rich history. It is such initiatives that Xlendi deserves – initiatives and projects that are in harmony with the village’s natural environment and unique characteristics. Initiatives like these make it possible to preserve and enjoy the true spirit of Xlendi

Source: Heritage Malta

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