A harmless family day out “fossil hunting” has had unintended consequences for environment shadow minister Marthese Portelli, who is now being ‘investigated’ by the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage.

Ms Portelli  uploaded photos on Facebook of a day spent “excavating” fossils in Baħrija. But this is prohibited by the Cultural Heritage Act.

The photos showed her son happily chiselling away at the soft limestone landscape along the Baħrija coastline and were uploaded on her personal Facebook page with the caption “snapshots from yesterday – at Baħrija fossil excavation. Breathtaking landscape”.

Superintendent of Cultural Heritage Anthony Pace was asked about the matter by this newspaper after a reader flagged up the pictures and questioned whether the activity was legal. “Fossils are items of geological importance and fall within the meaning of ‘cultural heritage’ as defined in the Cultural Heritage Act. The excavation and recovery of such items are regulated by the law,” said Mr Pace, adding he would be working with other authorities to look into the matter.  

Insisting the day was merely a bit of fun with her son, Ms Portelli said no actual excavation was carried out. Her son had chosen to call the activity fossil hunting and had even picked the photos himself.

“Really what we did was just go out for a walk, and you know how it is with children, they see the limestone and think it’s the place where the dinosaurs are. We didn’t even have the tools for excavation,” she said.