Malta’s highest archaeological remains attributed to the Phoenician period are found in the garden of the parish priest’s house at Zurrieq. Several courses of well-fitted sizable ashlar blocks laid without mortar, form the two visible sides of a quadrangular structure. An Egyptian gorge cornice of roll and hollow moulding crowns these walls, the whole architectural remains reaching a height of 5.5 metres.
Jean Hoeul, who illustrated his description with a lithograph of the ‘tower’ and two adjacent rooms, gave the first description of the site in the eighteenth century. Mayr and Ashby made further observations in the early twentieth century, but excavations are only first recorded in 1938. The entrances to the tower and parts of the walls shown by Houel were rediscovered during these latter investigations. Parts of these walls are still visible today in Carmel Street.
Attempts to directly date the remains were made in 1964, when an L-shaped trench was cut near the ‘tower’. These revealed that the ‘tower’ stands on a stepped foundation at the edge of a vertical drop. The pottery collected, datable from the Punic to the modern period, complimented but did not prove the Phoenician date usually ascribed to this monument.
As the Phoenicians are known to have adopted architectural concepts from Egyptian culture, scholars usually consider the ‘tower’s’ appearance to date these remains to the Phoenician period. By comparing the remains to a similar example in the Near East, Frendo has identified in the Zurrieq site an example of affinity between Maltese Phoenician culture and the Levant.
While Trump suggests that the remains are perhaps those of a monumental tomb, other authors (e.g. Gouder) have identified the tower with the remains of Melqart’s temple described by Ptolemy in the southern part of the islands. Vella, however, has recently challenged this latter interpretation by reassessing artefacts found at Ras ir-Raheb.
The ‘tower’ is not the only Phoenician remains in Zurrieq. The Museum Annual Reports document tombs at St. Catherine Str., S. Andreas street in Tal-Farrat, Tad-Danieri, Tal-Hlewwa and Tal-Gharghariet.
|Tal-Gharghariet||MAR 1911-1912, p. 3|
|St. Catherine Str.||MAR 1929-1930, p. 6|
|Str. S. Andrea in Tal-Farrat||MAR 1935-1936, p. 20|
|St. Catherine Str.||MAR 1956-1957, p. 3,4|
|Zurrieq||MAR 1957-1958, p.5-7|
|Tad-Danieri, in Tal-Hlewwa||Caruana 1898 p.45|
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