COME WITH ME IN THE CAVE OF DARKNESS

GHAR DALAM IS WAITING FOR YOU…

ONLY IN MALTA YOU CAN GET SO CLOSE TO THE PALEONTOLOGICAL HISTORY!

 

Ok guys I cannot hide how much I’m excited for this exploration!

Why? Imagine going back in time to two millions of years ago

Welcome in the Paleolithic Era (from 2,5 millions to 10.000 years ago) where our hominids ancestors started moving around, how was the Earth in the Pleistocene geological Era (Paleolithic coincides with Pleistocene).

We are in the Ice Ages and Malta was actually connected to Sicily.

So animals and humans used to move to the warmer Maltese islands connected to Sicily through their SOUTH East extremities.

In these pictures below you can see the facinating Wied Dalam. History runs through this valley both above and below… AMAZING!!!

On the upper side you can see a ruin of a Knights Watching Tower, a II World War Pill box and also found some ruins of a Roman Villa!

It is not enough, Malta loves to surprice you even far beyond your expectation!

BE CURIOUS AND ENTER IN THE CAVE OF THE DARKNESS WITH FLORA THE EXPLORER 😉

Imagine again, while you are walking along this beautiful valley towards the Ghar Dalam museum, that close to you dwarf elephants are grazing, not so far you can see dwarf hippopotamus and gigantic swan and dormice….

If you were living in the Paleolitic Age this would have been the scenario of animals here in Malta!

Yes, this tiny rocky island was the home of those strange animals

Welcome to the Ghar Dalam Museum!

 

In the displays below you can find some more information about the Earth Ages and the different layers of the Maltese Rocks.

Basically we can classify 5 different layers of rocks:

1. The upper coralline limestone
2. The green sand
3. The blue clay
4. The globigerine limestone
5. The lower coralline limestone

malta-rocks-cake-layers

Maltese rock is sedimentary. The majority of buildings are built with stone from the globigerine limestone layer, softer and more crumbly than the coral limestone layer with which the most important buildings were built.

Each layer also differs for the content of fossils. By the overlap of each layer in the different paleontological environment also variated the nature of the animal and plant fossils contained in them.

Look where you step…. because it easily happens that you can see and touch by yourself the fossils along the rocky coast of Malta (try along the Sliema rocky promende).

What it is interesting is that bones of the animals like elephants and hippopotamos found here are showing that the animals actually adapted themselves during the Ice Ages, when the water started to isolate Malta from Sicily.

They gradually transformed their size in a smaller version so called “dwarft! An elephant could be of the size of a St Bernard dog!

Apart from the small dimension of the island, another reason that there weren’t lots of predators here, so they didn’t need to be majestic, but it is majestic the fact that we can rebuilt their skeletons and have an idea on how big or not so big they were!

 

Let’s understand deeply this fantastic cave.

Basically in a display in the musem is reported that unlike Europe, Malta never had an Ice Age, instead here there was a “Rain Age“.

The result was huge torrential rains and floods which swept away animals and excavated valleys. Most of the local valleys as Ghar Dalam were formed during this time.

We can say that Ghar Dalam cave in its 145 meters, which 80 m are walkable, thanks to the sequence of fossilized remains, tells us of a span of history from around 180.000 years ago till nowadays!!!

So how was the cave formed? The picture below shows us some factors contributing to its formation…

Now it is time to enter in 😉

For me it was like to enter in the womb of Mother Earth!

This cave  is unique for the massive discovery of animals bones! Near Palermo too there is a cave similar, but not so accessible and not with the same variety of different animal’s bones!

We are very lucky here in Malta to have the opportunity to read the evolution of life through the rocky layers in Ghar Dalam!

As we have understood this cave was originally cut by water perculating through and dissolving the Lower Cristalline limestone.

 

Its deposit shows us FOUR layers of which THREE are very interesting!

  • Rock Bed (lower coralline limestone) age: 25.000.000years,
  • Bone-free Clay Layer (max. 120cm)
  1. Hyppopotamus Layer, the lowest of the 3 most interesting. It is what the archeologists call “the hyppo breccia” (max 170cm). A layer of bones remains of Hippopotamus and Elephants, these are about 180.000 years old. 
  2. Pebble Layer (max 35cm).

 3. Deer Layer: mainly Deer bones but also bear, fox, wolf (max 185cm). This is the second interesting layer!

Over here all the species before were vanished, to be replaced by the other animals, the most popular the ‘red Deer’.

This is another Age, the early Holocene, after the end of the Ice Age, some 12-10.000 years ago.

 

Now it comes the big mistery of Ghar Dalam!

Even if no human remains have been found there was an Italian Archeologist, Giuseppe Despott who found some Taurodont teeth in the lowest layer stating that they should have been belonged to a Neanderthal man. 

Is it true?

Well, actually later dentistic reaserch can prove that those kind of teeth can be found also in the modern human being.

So probably those teeth belong to a neolitich man of 5000 years ago!

here IS the latest interesting layer

4) After a thin calcareous sheet (max 1cm) appears the “Domestic Animals and Cultural Layer”. Here were found man artifacts and domestic animals (max 74cm), Age: 5.200 B.C. – 1929.

To testify how old is this cave there are also magnificent Stalactites (from top to dow) and Stalagmites (from the floor to the ceiling).

 

During the II World War the Cave was used as a shelter from the local community and later was requisitioned by the Military as a storage place for aviation fuel.

Today, this incredible geological and archeological site can offer a walk in a beautiful garden, which hosts two endemic and National Maltese plant Maltese Rock Centaury and Sandarac Gum Tree.

 

Ghar Dalam is located between Birzebuggia and Marsaxlokk in the South East of Malta.

I walked here after a visit of St George Chapel in Birzebuggia, click here

It took me less than 15 minutes, so you can go by bus or simply by walk.

FOLLOW FLORA THE EXPLORER TO THE NEXT ADVENTURE 😉

Credits:
– “Malta Prehistory & Temples”, David H. Trump, Edited by Midsea Books

– “Malta Archeologia e Storia”, John Sammut Tagliaferro, Edited byMiller Guides, Plurigraf
– Ghar Dalam – Cave of Darkness Malta, youtube video by PJShield