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The Tower Wreck – World’s First Deep-Sea Archaeological Park

Published: September 19, 2023 - 09:07
Updated: September 19, 2023 - 09:07
The Tower Wreck – World’s First Deep-Sea Archaeological Park
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The establishment of the world’s first deep-sea archaeological park in Xlendi, Gozo, represents a remarkable achievement, granting experienced divers the opportunity to explore a unique and historically significant site!

The collaboration between various entities such as Heritage Malta, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, and the Munxar Local Council underscores the importance of collective efforts in conserving and promoting cultural heritage. The involvement of the Malta Airport Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to environmental and heritage conservation, demonstrates the commitment of different sectors toward the preservation of our shared history.

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Deep-Sea Archaeological Park
Divers starting exploration of the Deep-Sea Archaeological Park photo: Malta Heritage

During the inauguration, the Munxar Council expressed its gratitude and acknowledged the beauty and cultural heritage of Xlendi. This reflection emphasizes the deep connection between the villagers and their surroundings. Xlendi is not merely an archaeological site; it thrives as a fishermen’s village that welcomes numerous tourists each year. This perspective highlights the importance of preserving both the existing heritage and the natural environment as an interconnected whole. By recognizing the symbiotic relationship between the villagers, their traditions, the historical artifacts, and the environment, the Munxar Council emphasizes the sustainable management of these valuable resources for the benefit of present and future generations.

Additionally, the insights shared by the Malta Airport Foundation further emphasize the treasure trove that lies beneath the waves in Xlendi Bay. By appreciating the value of the artifacts found at the underwater site, the Foundation acknowledges the potential for significant contributions to historical research and a broader understanding of the Mediterranean’s past.

The Foundation’s support for initiatives that enable non-technical divers to experience the site demonstrates a commitment to making cultural heritage accessible and engaging. This approach transcends any notion of a “Not In My Back Yard” mentality, highlighting the importance of spreading awareness beyond the immediate vicinity and showcasing the hidden depths of history and heritage that exists beneath the surface raising awareness of the fact that there is more than meets the eye.

Deep-Sea Archaeological Park in VR
Expierencing the Deep-Sea Archaeological Park in VR

Historical Context of the Deep-Sea Archaeological Park

In terms of a historical approach, throughout the 1950s, divers began to retrieve historical objects from the seabed, setting the stage for further investigation in the following decades. Projects undertaken in the 1960s and 70s delved deeper into the area beneath the distinct cliff faces of Xlendi, unearthing valuable artifacts such as lead anchor stocks and amphorae from depths of up to 60 meters. This early exploration provided a glimpse into the historical treasures hidden beneath the sea.

The breakthrough came in 1993 when a submarine dive revealed a significant concentration of historical artifacts and rocky outcrops resting at an impressive depth of 105 meters. This discovery shed light on the extent of the underwater archaeological site, sparking curiosity about its origins and purpose.

The composition of Punic amphorae scattered across the seafloor forms a key element of the site. The central question revolves around the formation of this deposit. The prevailing hypothesis suggests that the area served as a dumping site during the Punic period, likely adjacent to the location where the present-day watchtower stands. This insight offers a fascinating glimpse into the practices of the time, adding depth to our understanding of ancient maritime activities.

The connection to the 17th-century watchtower built by Grandmaster Lascaris adds another layer of historical context. This tower was part of the watch system that spanned the islands, serving as a sentinel against potential enemy fleets. The standing tower that remains today lends its name to the underwater park, “Tower Wreck”, forging a link between the past and the present.

Malta Heritage Xlendi bay
photo: Heritage Malta

The Way Forward  with Deep-Sea Archaeological Park

Incorporating modern technology, a 3-dimensional model was developed to enable non-technical divers to experience the site virtually. By wearing a virtual headset and immersing themselves in this underwater simulation, individuals can gain a sense of the unique environment and historical significance without requiring specialized diving skills. As for those who are certified divers and eager to explore this extraordinary archaeological deposit firsthand, the process involves registering with dive centers authorized by Heritage Malta. This ensures that the exploration in Deep-Sea Archaeological Park is conducted responsibly and in alignment with preservation efforts.

As the first of its kind, this deep-sea archaeological park sets a precedent for similar initiatives around the world, potentially encouraging the exploration and conservation of underwater cultural heritage in other locations. It also highlights growing awareness and efforts to protect our history legacy, even in challenging and unconventional environments.

Overall, the inauguration of the world’s first deep-water archaeological park in Xlendi Bay marks a significant achievement in the field of underwater archaeology and heritage preservation. It showcases the importance of collaboration, innovation, and environmental stewardship in safeguarding our cultural heritage for generations to come. The archaeological park is just a glimpse of what Gozo has to offer.

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About author

Jasmine Mifsud
Jasmine Mifsud, who hails from Malta, has an incredible interest in the water surrounding the small island. Her passion for the sea is not surprising, since as a little girl, her biggest dream was to explore the oceans. This ambition created its own pathway as every decision she ever made led her to become an influential woman who decided to create a life for herself instead of living in someone else’s shoes. As time flew by, she became more adventurous and curious about our blue planet. She specialized in environmental sciences and took a tangent route into maritime archaeology, which she considers to be one of her best decisions to date. Throughout her journey, she has built friendships with some of the most inspiring divers globally, all of whom share unique experiences and stories worth listening to. As a young woman in the industry, her journey has only just begun.
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