Archaeology students and their tutors are hard at work in Żejtun digging up remains of what was once a Roman villa, as a yearly excavation campaign enters its 11th year. 

The four-week project sees students and professionals working side-by-side in an effort to unravel the history of the villa, located on the grounds of the town's Middle and Secondary School, which forms part of St Thomas More college. 

Visitors keen to take a look at the villa complex remains can do so this coming Friday July 21, with tours of the site every 30 minutes between 9am and 12pm.

Workers first discovered the site while building the school in the 1960s. An excavation campaign was carried out more than a decade later, between 1972 and 1976, but left to languish for decades until University experts were invited to take a look at the area in 2006. Four-week excavation campaigns have taken place every year since.

Roman villas were essentially large farming estates that combined areas intended for living and working. The Żejtun villa was an olive oil hib, with stone blocks used to extract the oil and vats used to decant it discovered in the 1970s. 

We now know that the villa complex was built over an abandoned vineyard sometime after the first century BC, with archaeologists finding traces of the long rock-cut trenches where vines were planted. Experts are also sure that the site was occupied during Punic times, when a large cistern was built to store rainwater.

Not that the budding archaeologists and their professional supervisors will need to resort to drinking from the centuries-old cistern: General Soft Drinks Marketing Ltd has offered the team a steady stream of mineral water to keep them hydrated during the summer heat. 

 “We are proud to support the Department of Archeology in this endeavour," said the company's chief operating officer Maria Micallef. "Cultural heritage can provide an automatic sense of unity and belonging within a group and allows us to better understand previous generations and the history of our ancestors." 

To reach the site, turn left on Triq Dun Lawrenz Degabriele from the Żejtun bypass, skirt the school and turn left again on Triq Luqa Briffa.

Visit the Department of Classics and Archaeology website for more information about their activities. 

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