The Superintendent of Cultural Heritage is investigating construction works going on in very close proximity to a protected Punic-Roman tower dating back hundreds of years in Mqabba.

Photos show heavy machinery and materials dumped next to the Class A protected Tal-Wilġa tower.

The president of the Archaeological Society of Malta, Patricia Camilleri, called the activity “disgraceful”.

“Tal-Wilġa is a very significant Roman site and well deserves its Grade A scheduling. The situation should be rectified swiftly, before the tower and its historical context are further obliterated.”

The tower has had a 100-metre buffer zone since it received protection in 1994, she said. This helped retain the historical context of the structure and created a protected environment for the structure, that could easily be damaged by vibrations.

“These towers are fragile. The adjacent field has been levelled and heavy machinery has been passing alongside the tower. This could damage the tower unless it’s already been damaged,” she said.

The Superintendent of Cultural Heritage, Kurt Farrugia, said investigations were under way.

“We are looking into the permits issued for the works to be carried out,” he said.

Tal-Wilġa is one of six Punic-Roman towers identified in Malta. It was first excavated in 1910 by British archaeologist Thomas Ashby, who determined the earliest activity on site was Punic.

Some scholars claim they were initially built to defend a hamlet or village, possibly forming part of the island’s defences during the Second Punic War (218 to 201BC). Others propose they were lookout posts to protect the surrounding fertile land.

Anger has been expressed on Facebook about the wilful neglect of the tower. “We should be ashamed of ourselves,” one person said, adding the “vandals” had arrived.

“There’s no value in publishing beautiful books and expressing our pride in the unique archaeological remains the country has, when they are being reduced to nothing.”

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