The report on Taċ-Ċawla (July 7) suggests that this archaeological site has just surfaced, a sort of falling from the air, only to be cleared from “old bicycles and dead rabbits”.
Readers with a slightly longer memory know better. The site was discovered in 1987 and, as early Neolithic, in 1991 by the Dutch archaeologist Adrian van der Blom and his wife, archaeologist and cultural anthropologist Veronica Veen. She was instrumental in saving it and preventing it from further damage during the crucial summer months of 1993, supported by Maltese friends, also from among the press. Without the intervention of these two brave Dutch scholars there would not even exist an archaeological site to excavate at Taċ-Ċawla and the officials and the Anglo-Irish team know this very well.
Yet, the couple was hounded and persecuted from the discovery and its (critical) publication onwards only because they had the nerve to oppose the Director of Museums who maintained “there is nothing there”. A court case against them was started and lost by the Museums Department.
But the official hate campaign and negative publicity caused serious harm to the couple’s field work, especially Veen’s, whose sensitive position in the field as a cultural anthropologist has been destroyed. Similarly, a large part of Gozitan heritage, since she was collecting and recording the last remains of the female storytelling tradition in Gozo.
However, by publishing their book The First Maltese with a firm role for Taċ-Ċawla and Veen by writing her two-part article ‘The Importance of Taċ-Ċawla’ in The Malta Independent of May 23 and 30, 1993, they generated so much support and credibility that the authorities had no option but to freeze the building campaign.
In her two articles, Veen described what could be expected to be found at the site and she also predicted much of the results we are seeing now.
In none of the publications by the Anglo-Maltese Archaeological Mission has any mention of the book and articles been made. The Dutch scholars’ work, which resulted in many more articles and books, has largely been silenced and kept out of sight. The two pioneers’ theories have now proven completely valid.