Excavations for road construction being carried out in Marsa, have revealed archaeological remains of a Muslim cemetery dating from 1675, confirming the historical beliefs of the existence of a Turkish slave cemetery in the area.
The discovery is being excavated and documented by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and an archaeologist specializing in documentation of human remains is closely following the investigation.
Road construction work has been temporarily halted until conservation work has been completed. The sections that may be affected will be scientifically extracted and made available to the superintendency to carry out tests, analysis and their subsequent conservation. The parts that are not affected will be protected and will be left in place, unflappable.
Two archaeologists worked hard documenting the discovery yesterday afternoon. The remains run various points of a chiseled rock where bones sometimes appear outside. "We are working throughout the entire section, cleaning the debris surrounding the bones and reporting everything we find", He says Marvin demicoli.
His partner and colleague archaeologist Michelle Padovani says that most of the remains are in good condition and that the work is developing rapidly, although he cannot specify how long it will last. "We are working hand in hand with Transport Malta and everyone involved on site to ensure that things move as quickly as possible”Says Michelle Padovani.
The two archaeologists pointed to the north wall of the trench (a vertical wall about five meters high with boulders and other rocks at the bottom) and say they have asked authorities about health and safety to avoid further work on it for now.
Initial ideas indicate that the remains are part of the necropolis granted to the Muslim slave community by the great master Niccolo Cotoner in 1675. The graveyard replaced an earlier one that had been destroyed by the knights to make way for the Floriana fortifications.
Slavery in Malta ended the Napoleon's arrival in 1800 but the cemetery continued serving as a Muslim burial place until the middle of the century according to historian Godfrey Wettinger. "At that time, the British Admiralty decided to expand the entry of Maltese ships"Says Wettinger,"but unfortunately in doing so they buried the cemetery”.
An agreement between the English and Turkish authorities soon resolved the situation. In 1874, the Muslim cemetery in Malta was transferred to another place in Marsa very close to the existing one in the area commonly known as Iċ-Ċimiterju tat-Torok (The Turkish cemetery).
Professor Wettinger yesterday called the archaeological discoveries "very interesting." The discovery would confirm his belief in the existence of a Turkish slave cemetery in the Marsa area mentioned in his book 'Slavery on the islands of Malta and Gozo’.
The human remains are oriented to the southeast, facing Mecca. As is the custom in a Muslim burial, the remains are not accompanied by relics or artifacts.
Some historians had also raised the idea that the remains could be part of a makeshift cemetery built by the Ottomans during the Great Siege of 1565.
The Ottomans had chosen to base their camp at Marsa during the three months that the siege lasted. But archaeologists working in the area think it is a improbable hypothesis. “In my opinion, these remains have been placed very carefully and sparsely to have been a cemetery of a war camp.”Says Demicoli.
Some of the remains extracted and taken to the laboratory for analysis could be subjected to a series of tests. The Carbon testing will determine the age of the remains, confirming or denying the existing hypothesis that they belonged to a cemetery of knights of the time.
DNA tests, which archeology professor Anthony Bonanno has described as “a very complicated and complex process”Could be used to determine the origin of the remains.
Source: Times of Malta
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