Ghar Dalam Cave

Situated in the valley of Birzebbuga, Ghar Dalam cave is a natural water-torn cave in the lower coralline limestone. It is only 10 minutes drive from Marsaxlokk fishing village and 10 minutes from Tarxien Temples. Ghar  Dalam cave is 144 meters deep of which only 70 meters is accessible to the public.

Ghar Dalam cave contains the oldest remains which were ever unearthed in Malta. The deposits dates back to Pleistocene, ice age period and include dwarf mammalian fauna, mainly elephants, hippopotamus, red deer, brown bear, wolf and fox.

These ice age period fauna which dates back to 180,000 years ago, reached Malta from mainland Europe at the time when land-bridges existed between Sicily and Malta. The level of the Mediterranean sea was considerably lower than it is at present. These land-bridges provided the possibility for the European fauna to escape the unfavorable environmental conditions of Europe, when most of its northern and central regions were covered with ice sheets.

Malta was never covered with ice sheets but the effects of the ice age were considerable. The torrential rain that occurred during the Pleistocene period caused rivers, which excavated most of the Maltese valleys. At Ghar Dalam valley, the river gradually eroded its bed into a subterranean tunnel until it finally reached and penetrated the tunnel’s roof. Large numbers of Pleistocene mammalian fauna carcasses were washed and deposited in the cave.

A strati graphic wall, inside Ghar Dalam cave, which was left unexcavated by the former archaeologists, gives us the opportunity to understand the sequence of deposits.  The lowest deposit is a clay layer that contains no remains. On top of it one finds the hippopotamus layer with a considerable amount of remains of Maltese Pleistocene hippopotamus and elephant. Then follows a pebble layer on which was deposited the Deer layer. Remains of Wolf, Fox and Brown bear were discovered as well.

Ghar dalam cave first inhabitants of Malta

A thin calcareous sheet capped the Ghar Dalam cave Pleistocene deposits. On top of this sheet is the cultural layer, were Arturo Issel, an Italian archaeologist, in the 19th century, was the first to excavate and unearth remains of the first inhabitants of Malta which are dated to the Neolithic period (5200 b.c.). Considerable amount of pottery remains, stone axes, shell beads, flint and obsidian flakes were recovered. Some of these remains are exhibited at the National museum of Archaeology in Valletta.

The original Victorian museum which houses a considerable amount of animal remains, is still open for the public.

Ghar Dalam Cave can be booked as a prehistoric tour or else customized.