At Nahlija, in Ghajn Tuffieha, two rock-cut tombs were accidentally discovered. Unfortunately, the tombs had to be destroyed.

First tomb
The Nahlija rock-cut tomb was discovered on 20 July 1932, when workmen under the supervision of Mr. A. L. Bell Supt. Civil Engineer H. M’s Dockyard, were clearing a site in the rifle ranges at Ghajn Tuffieha. They discovered it when they came across a shaft that led to a tomb which was still sealed by a stone slab. A workman shifted the slab and so, the tomb’s furniture had to be taken to a safer place. The Museum’s Department was informed and when the archaeologists arrived on the scene they found some of the items were already removed. 1
The tomb consisted of a rectangular shaft, 8 ft. deep, 7 ft. long, and 4 ft. wide, and was on an East West direction. The chamber was cut at the bottom of the Western wall of the shaft. When the archaeologists arrived, the sealing slab was still standing close to the entrance. It measured 5 ft high, 2 ft. 10 inches wide with a thickness of 8 inches, and was meant to accurately fit the entrance. The tomb was cut in the globigerina limestone. 2
The level floor of the chamber was covered with about 1 ft. of sandy silt and the chamber itself was roughly rectangular in shape with a flat ceiling. It measured 6 ft. 6 inch in length, 5 ft. 4 inch in breath at the entrance and about 6 ft at the back end. The height of the chamber was about 5 ft. A trench starting at about 1 ft. from the entrance was cut in the floor for the whole length of the chamber parallel to the sides, with a width of 1 ft. 6 inch and a depth of one ft. 3
The trench divided the floor into two platforms that on the right being 1 ft. 7 inch wide and the other 3 ft. wide. The remains of a burial were found on the right platform and three skeletons on the left, all stretched on their back with feet towards the entrance. The three skeletons to the left were of male adults, the one to the right was that of a female. Before their removal, practically, all the tomb furniture was massed at the feet of the three skeletons, a big oval amphra was found in the trench. 4
The objects buried with the bodies were: an oval two handled amphora about 3 ft. long, five aryballi, one oenochoe, eight small fairly deep dishes, four small bilychness lamps, one deep bowl, fragments of two small dishes and a small glass unguentarium. The pottery was of the common buff coloured well-baked terracotta very late in shape and without any decoration. The tomb itself of the characteristic 3rd period shape used down to the 1st Century A.D. 5
No signs of cremation whatever was detected in connection with the tomb. The tomb had to be destroyed in the course of the construction of the firing range.

Second tomb
In the same day and year of the above mentioned, another rock-cut tomb was discovered some 3 yards from the previous mentioned tomb. Unfortunately, the tomb was not preserved as the previous one and it was found that to have been rifled in previous years. Only fragments of human bones and of pottery were discovered. The shaft was 8 ft. 6 in. wide and 8 ft deep. When the tomb was discovered the sealing slab was still in place, but sufficiently displaced to allow a man to move in and out freely.6
The floor of the chamber was found covered with stones rolled in after cleaning the shaft. The chamber itself of which the main axis had a East-West direction was rectangular, 9 ft. in length, 5 ft in width and 4 ft. 6 inch in height. No trench was cut in the floor. No sign of cremation was found. The tomb had to be destroyed like the above mentioned one. 7

1 Government of Malta, ‘Archaeological Section’, Museum Annual Report 1932-33.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid
4 Ibid
5 Ibid
6 Ibid
7 Ibid



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

Mellieha Local Council

21 521333

The Parish Priest

21 523449

Mellieha Clinic

21 522316

Police - Mellieha

21 523457

Police - Qawra

21 571174 - 21 576737

Waterworks - Qawra

21 573507 - 21 583859

Maria Bambina Primary School

21 523527

Get visibility on our site

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Libero a pellentesque nisi, aliquet quam montes. Facilisi massa gravida hendrerit est eget.

    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.