The world’s first Deepwater Archaeological Park has been inaugurated off Xlendi in Gozo by the Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government, Owen Bonnici and Minister for Gozo Clint Camilleri.
Speaking during the park’s inauguration ceremony on the Xlendi waterfront, Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government Owen Bonnici, remarked that this park was designated as an Archaeological Zone at Sea in 2020 and encompasses a rectangular area of significant archaeological value, covering a total of 67,000m².
Dr Bonnici also explained that: “Through the park, researchers and technical divers from all over the world can explore the history of Malta from the completely different perspective that archaeology offers.” He said that this archaeological park at the bottom of the sea will also be found on the website www.underwatermalta.org.”By means of this virtual museum, more people can appreciate the unique sites of our seas,” said Minister Bonnici.
Minister for Gozo Clint Camilleri expressed his satisfaction that the first deep sea archaeological park in the world is being inaugurated in Gozo. He said that “This park is an additional incentive for travellers to opt for Gozo as their destination of choice, offering them a distinct and unparalleled stay unlike any other. Yet, our mission transcends enhancing the tourism facet; it encompasses safeguarding our cultural legacy and all that our ancestors bequeathed to us, thus upholding our unique identity and defining attributes.” Minister Clint Camilleri concluded by extending gratitude to all those involved, whose collective efforts brought this visionary project to reality.
Professor Timmy Gambin, who heads Heritage Malta’s Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit, explained that Xlendi has witnessed innovative undersea technologies since the late 1950s.
The launch of this unique park elevates the submerged deposits of Xlendi and enhances Gozo’s cultural heritage as well as its tourism product.
Through future collaborative efforts and thanks to the generous support of the Malta Airport Foundation, Gozo will continue to develop as a centre of excellence in the fields of underwater archaeology and heritage management.
The Malta Airport Foundation’s Chairman, Josef Formosa Gauci, stated that the foundation’s decision to support this project was easy, as our underwater heritage is a crucial part of the Maltese Islands’ tourism offering as well as our identity.
Although the depths at which this park is found make it accessible only to a niche of technical divers, Heritage Malta is doing an excellent job in bringing the discoveries made closer to specialised audiences and the general public.
The Malta Airport Foundation feels honoured to have contributed to the milestones achieved so far and is committed to continue supporting this unique endeavour, which is not only important locally but also to the history of the wider central Mediterranean.
Damien Spiteri, Mayor of Munxar, said that such initiatives offer a unique dimension of Xlendi’s cultural and historical heritage and the promotion of its rich history. It is such initiatives that Xlendi deserves – initiatives and projects that are in harmony with the village’s natural environment and unique characteristics.
Initiatives like these make it possible to preserve and enjoy the true spirit of Xlendi.
The park’s depth ranges between 105 and 115 metres, where the seabed consists of fine silt and sand punctuated by a series of rocky outcrops formed by extinct coral reefs. Around these outcrops are concentrations of archaeological objects, mostly amphorae. It is highly likely that more archaeological remains are buried in the sediment, based on the continuous deposition of sediment from Xlendi Valley and the presence of partially buried objects.
The park, sponsored by the Malta Airport Foundation, is the result of a collaborative effort between Heritage Malta’s Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, the University of Malta, and the Munxar Local Council.