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Department of Archaeology


The Gozo Project


Research Aims and Current Results

The Gozo project was started in 1987 to investigate unsolved problems of the fourth and third millennium BC in Malta, the phase of temple construction. These problems were defined as 1) the reconstruction of funerary ritual (investigated through excavation at the Brochtorff Circle), 2) the understanding of settlement organisation (investigated through regional field survey and limited excavation) and 3) the investigation of environmental change (investigated through the study of environmental indicators such as molluscs).

In practice, most effort has been invested in the excavation and study of the patterns of art and mortuary ritual at the Brochtorff Circle and this is the principal focus of publication. The seven fieldwork seasons of excavation at the Brochtorff Circle, based on a unique Anglo-Maltese collaboration, were completed in 1994. The achievements comprise the substantial excavation of the largest and most intact funerary temple hypogeum discovered and analysed under modern conditions in the central Mediterranean; a sequence of 19 radiocarbon dates for the principal phases (Zebbug, Tarxien and Tarxien Cemetery); recovery of prehistoric art and architecture in context; meticulous in situ recording of a substantial sample of human bone. The 1994 excavation season uncovered substantial deposits of super-imposed, articulated individuals (some with simple grave-goods of cowrie shells and pottery) adding a further dimension to the complexity of human burial. There is now substantial evidence for many phases of funerary ritual, including the manipulation of human bone in various stages of articulation.

An associated project was also undertaken in collaboration with the Department of Computer Science of the University of Bristol and the University of Malta to make computerised reconstructions of the Maltese temples and subterranean mortuary structures such as the Brochtorff Circle at Xaghra.


Project Directors

  • Prof. A. Bonanno (University of Malta);
  • the late Dr Tancred Gouder (sometime director of the National Museum of Malta)
  • Dr Caroline Malone
  • Dr Anthony Pace (Superintendent of Cultural Heritage);
  • Dr Simon Stoddart (University of Cambridge);
  • Dr David Trump (Cambridge).


Project Phase

  • Publication
  • Reinterpretation

A new phase is currently under development seeking to answer questions raised by the initial project. The first relates to chronology and the second to sustainability and collapse.

  •  Projects suitable for NERC or AHRC Studentships on fluoride and teeth and animal bone.
  •  A project suitable for AHRC funding is on the micromorphology of ritual


Collaborating Institutions and Project Members

  • Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge
  • Department of Classics and Archaeology, University of Malta
  • Heritage Malta


Financial Support

  • British Academy
  • McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research (University of Cambridge)
  • Smuts Fund (University of Cambridge)
  • Society of Antiquaries of London



  • Malone, C.A.T., Stoddart, S.K.F. and Trump, D. 1988. A house for the temple builders. Recent investigations on Gozo, Malta. Antiquity. 62, 297-301.
  • Bonanno, A., Gouder, T., Malone, C. and Stoddart, S. 1990. Monuments in an island society: the Maltese context. World Archaeology 22 (2), 190-205.
  • Stoddart, S., Bonanno, A., Gouder, T., Malone, C. and Trump, D. 1993. Cult in an Island Society: Prehistoric Malta in the Tarxien period. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 3(1), 3-19.
  • Malone, C., Stoddart, S. and Townsend, A. 1995. The landscape of the island goddess ? A Maltese perspective of the central Mediterranean. Caeculus (Papers on Mediterranean Archaeology, Archaeological Institute, Groningen University) 2, 1-15.
  • Malone, C., Stoddart, S., Bonanno, A., Gouder, T., and Trump, D. 1995. (eds.) Mortuary ritual of fourth millennium BC Malta: the Zebbug tomb from the Brochtorff Circle (Gozo). Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 61, 303-345.
  • Malone, C. A. T., S. K. F. Stoddart, D. Trump, A. Bonanno & A. Pace 2009. (eds.) Mortuary ritual in prehistoric Malta. The Brochtorff Circle excavations (1987-1994) Cambridge: McDonald Institute.



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