At Ghajn Zejtuna, near the coast, there are the remains of a megalithic temple. Today only part of this structure remains.

The discovery of this megalithic structure goes back to1934, when Flight Lt. R. Forbes Bentley reported to the Museums Department the discovery of the ruins of a minor megalithic building at Ghajn Zejtuna. According to the archaeological report of that period, the ruins that were found were hardly sufficient to give them the outline of the original plan. In their report they say that the megaliths were inclined so as to form three circular enclosures which open on a rectangular space in the centre of the building. They reported that its main entrance was probably from the East. The structure comprised a circular enclosure, measured about 3.30 metres from its entrance to the back wall, and 1.50 metres in width. At that time the remains of an outer wall were still recognizable. 1
The report continues that the largest standing megalith measured some 1.40 metres in height, 1.60 metres in length and 0.70 cm in thickness. On the other hand, the rest of the stones were a couple of inches from the soil. A number of Stone Age potsherds and fragments of chirt were recovered from among the rubble. Unfortunately, as these remains were found very close to the shore they could be reached by the sea, so very little soil was left round the megaliths. 2
Some twenty-five years later, archaeologist J. D. Evans in his book stated that these remains could be a trefoil-shaped monument in the style of the larger temple at Mgarr or Kordin III. Evans reported also that he could not find any material from this site and that it had been eroded away by the sea. 3
At this period and many years later, villas were built in this valley and many believed that these remains were lost forever. Fortunately, in recent times, this megalithic building or more precisely what remained was found by archaeologist Ernest Vella and Nixxiegha Kulturali. Unfortunately, part of this temple was destroyed by the building, but the remainder is still preserved. These consist of number of large rocks and two apses. However, the rocks were all over-turned. 4

1 Government of Malta, ‘Archaeological Section’, Museum Annual Report 1934-35.
2 Ibid.
3 J. D. Evans. The Prehistoric antiquities of the Maltese islands: A survey, University of London The Athlone Press, Great Britain, 1971, p 29.

4 Ernest Vella., ‘Il-Wirt Arkeologiku tal-Qedem’, Joe Catania (ed), Il-Mellieha: Mal-Milja taz-Zmien, Kunsill Lokali Mellieha, Malta, 2002, pp 28-29.



Researched and Written by: Charles Debono B.A.(Hons) History

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    About the village of Mellieha

    Mellieha is a rural village and tourist resort in the Northwestern part of Malta and derives its name from the Semitic root 'm-l-h' which in Arabic means salt. The name was probably derived from the ancient Punic and Roman salt-terns; historians indicated as lying adjacent to the large sandy bay at the foot of the village.
    Mellieha has been inhabited since early Neolithic times (3000 B.C). Several megalithic remains and tombs of this era and other primitive tools and fragments of pottery were found in various localities around this area, primarily at "il-Latnija" - a natural cavity used by several stone-age peoples - and at l-Gholja tax-Xemxija.
    During the Roman and Byzantine occupations (213B.C- 870A.D.), Mellieha's valleys were inhabited by troglodytes, who irrigated the land, adopted natural caves as their dwelling places and buried their beloved ones in Punic style burial chambers. Following the Arab conquest and during the medieval period (870-1530A.D.), the area was deserted, primarily due to the continuous raids of the Muslim corsairs.
    Notwithstanding the hardship experienced by the Maltese during the Reign of the Order of St. John (1530-1798A.D.), Mellieha's medieval chapel, dedicated to the Holy Virgin Mary, was one of the most venerated places on the island. Several distinguished persons, such as grandmaster's, kings and bishops visited the shrine and pilgrimages to the sanctuary from all over the island were held frequently.
    In the late 17th century, the Knights built several fortifications along the coast, so as to protect the inhabitants. This venture brought about the gradual repopulating of the area, mainly by those who wanted to exploit the fertile valleys and the new enterprise of tunny net fishing. Under the British, in 1844, Mellieha was established again as a parish and since then it grew up into a modern town, of circa 6,500 people.
    Today, Mellieha is one of Malta's most picturesque tourist destinations. The town centre boasts of its splendid hotels, fine restaurants and traditional cute shops. It has a unique primary school, a majestic baroque church (built in late 19th century) and various cultural organizations, including band clubs, sports clubs, an orchestra, various religious societies, a parish community centre and an environmental pressure group. Since 1993, local affairs are being run by the Mellieha Local Council, an institution made up of seven councilors, elected every three years by the people.
    Mellieha's main festive season occurs in the first two weeks of September and reaches its climax on the 8th September. During these days various cultural manifestations are held, such as musical concerts, fireworks, folk singing, art exhibitions and the traditional religious procession. The town's people, ''Il-Mellehin'', are renowned for their laborious nature, their ironic sense of humour, and their friendliness and hospitality. Those who visit us, no matter where they hail from, do not merely enjoy themselves but feel at home.

    As long as Mellieha preserves its great archaeological and historic heritage, its unique natural environment, and its traditions and costumes, its people, "Il-Mellehin", can look forward to a bright future.