We’re beginning to hear about this dig on Malta on a somewhat more regular basis. It first hit the news (for our purposes) back in 2011, when funding had been obtained to preserve it (see, e.g., Zejtun’s Roman Villa to be preserved | Times of Malta
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20110514/local/zejtun-s-roman-villa-to-be-preserved.365287 ). Last summer, our Explorator newsletter picked up this (excerpt):
This year, the archaeologists are focusing on exploring a cistern and investigating the structures in more depth, while coming up with unexpected finds: the latest discoveries are fragments of a tobacco pipe, probably dating to the 18th century.
“We are trying to identify whether or not the rest of the structure and the olive press also date back to the Punic times,” said Maxine Anastasi, one of the trench supervisors. “Everything we discover during our excavation will be forwarded to specialists to study and date the finds.”
During the first full-scale excavation in 1972, the section containing the olive oil pressing equipment was cleared. A system of flat floor slabs was also exposed.
Through further investigations conducted in 1972, archaeologists found a series of rectangular rooms paved with lozenge-shaped tiles in the residential area.
A year later two fragments of a cooking pot were discovered, which were of significant importance because one of these fragments carried an inscription written in Punic characters. This was interpreted as a dedication to Ashtart, a fertility goddess worshipped by the Phoenicians.
Similar discoveries have been made at the Tas-Silġ archaeological site, situated close by. Much more pottery was found during both excavations, including local, handmade pottery dating to the Punic period and imported red-slipped pottery from North Africa, which dates to the Roman period.
- Uncovering Punic remains in Żejtun | Times of Malta
The dig has continued, and this year’s efforts add, inter alia:
Roman villas were essentially large farming estates that combined areas intended for living and working. The Żejtun villa was an olive oil hib, with stone blocks used to extract the oil and vats used to decant it discovered in the 1970s.
We now know that the villa complex was built over an abandoned vineyard sometime after the first century BC, with archaeologists finding traces of the long rock-cut trenches where vines were planted. Experts are also sure that the site was occupied during Punic times, when a large cistern was built to store rainwater.
- A Roman villa inside a Żejtun school| Times of Malta
- GSD Marketing Ltd supports the UoM during the archaeological excavations at the Zejtun Roman Villa | The Malta Independent