Remains of Punic Rampart Wall Discovered at Mdina

Restoration and consolidation works are currently underway along the fortifications and underlying terrain of Mdina by the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs.

During the implementation of these projects, important archaeological remains from the ancient ramparts of Malta’s oldest fortified city, the Punic-Roman fortress of Melite, have been brought to light.  This is the second major discovery of ancient and medieval ramparts made in the course of the on-going and much-needed interventions on Mdina’s fortifications. The archaeological excavations were carried out under the supervision of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage.  

The recently unearthed structures constitute a three-coursed alignment of large rusticated ashlar blocks dating from around the Punic-Roman period.  The trial excavations carried out at the foot of Magazine Curtain on the west side of Mdina (facing Mtarfa) revealed considerable stretches of the lower foundation levels of ancient rampart walls.

The latter were retained in situ by the Order’s builders and used as a footing for the early-eighteenth-century fortifications, when Magazine Curtain was constructed under the direction of the Order’s resident engineer, the Frenchman Charles Francois de Mondion.

In the past, when such ancient masonry ramparts  were encountered by medieval or Hospitaller fortress builders, it was more likely than not that the ancient ramparts were dismantled, cannibalized, and re-utilized in the construction of new works of fortifications – a convenient and readily available source of good building material. What is exceptional in this new find, therefore, is that an original stretch of the ancient wall typology has been found in situ, still intact in its form of construction and thereby giving us a clear idea on the ancient methods employed in the Punic-Roman fortifications of Malta. The archaeological excavations also revealed a medieval sloping masonry talus, the second to be encountered at Mdina.

The restoration and consolidation at Mdina comprise one of the four major projects being implemented by the Maltese government and co-financed by the European Union under Operational Programme I of the European Regional Development Fund. The other sites include Valletta’s bastioned land front fortifications, Malta’s most important and renowned architectural and historical work of military architecture, the Vittoriosa enceinte, and the Cittadella in Gozo.  The works are estimated to cost a total of 36 million Euros and will cover works over a combined perimeter length of around 6 km of fortifications.


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