Shards of pottery and other archeologically significant materials were discovered in Rabat on Friday following an inspection by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage on emergency roadworks in Saqqajja Hill.

Part of the road in Triq Nikola Saura in Rabat was closed off on Thursday after a retaining wall collapsed from water damage during Wednesday’s downpour.

Upon inspection, the SCH found the collapse had exposed “archeologically rich layers” beneath the existing road build-up, including pottery shards possibly dating back to antiquity (before the Middle Ages).

The areas around Rabat and Mdina are known to be culturally sensitive and rife with undiscovered remains, having been built upon an ancient Roman city named Melite.

The superindendence and Infrastructure Malta are designing a methodology for works to continue while ensuring adequate protection and recording of the finds. All works are being monitored by a qualified archaeologist.

“The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage is well aware that the site’s archaeological potential is extremely high. The site in question is well within the confines of the Punico-Roman ancient city of Melite, which is mentioned in ancient Roman texts,” Superintendent of Cultural Heritage Joseph Magro Conti said.

“The present Rabat and Mdina formed the city of Melite and its necropolis (burial grounds), therefore were scheduled as an Area of Archaeological Importance and protected by Maltese law.

The scheduling even protects yet undiscovered remains corroborating provisions of the Cultural Heritage Act.”

Magro Conti said several remains of Melite had been discovered through various means over the past centuries.

Some are also a museum, such as the Domus Romana at Rabat, which also contains what he described as some of the finest polychromed Roman mosaics and marble statues ever found in Malta, as well as Arab burials from the medieval period.

The site of the collapse is also close to other significant archaeological remains, including a Roman domus (bath house) as well as a bath complex with a floor supported on upturned wine amphorae close to the Saqqajja petrol station.

“Within Rabat and Mdina and their outskirts the question is not whether one will find archaeological remains, but how much will be discovered,” Magro Conti said.

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