Malone C, Cutajar N, McLaughlin TR, Mercieca-Spiteri B, Pace A, Power RK, Stoddart S, Sultana S, Bronk Ramsey C, Dunbar E, Bayliss A, Healy F & Whittle A (2019) Island questions: the chronology of the Brochtorff Circle at Xagħra, Gozo, and its significance for the Neolithic sequence on Malta. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 11 (8), pp. 4251-4306. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-019-00790-y
Bayesian chronological modelling of radiocarbon dates from the Brochtorff Circle at Xagħra, Gozo, Malta (achieved through the ToTL and FRAGSUS projects), provides a more precise chronology for the sequence of development and use of a cave complex. Artefacts show that the site was in use from the Żebbuġ period of the late 5th/early 4th millennium cal BC to the Tarxien Cemetery phase of the later 3rd/early 2nd millennia cal BC. Absolutely dated funerary activity, however, starts with a small rock-cut tomb, probably in use in the mid to late fourth millennium cal BC, in the Ġgantija period. After an interval of centuries, burial resumed on a larger scale, probably in the 30th century cal BC, associated with Tarxien cultural material, with the use of the cave for collective burial and other depositions, with a series of structures, most notably altar-like settings built from massive stone slabs, which served to monumentalise the space. This process continued at intervals until the deposition of the last burials, probably in the 24th century cal BC; ceremonial activity may have ended at this time or a little later, to be followed by occupation in the Tarxien Cemetery period. The implications for the development of Neolithic society on Malta are discussed, as well as the changing character of Neolithic Malta in comparison to contemporary communities in Sicily, peninsular Italy and southern Iberia. It is argued that underground settings and temples on Malta may have served to reinforce locally important values of cooperation and consensus, against a wider tide of differentiation and accumulation, but that there could also have been increasing control of the treatment of the dead through time. The end of the Maltese Neolithic is also briefly discussed.
Malta; Neolithic; radiocarbon; Bayesian chronological modelling; monumentalised cave; collective burials
Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences: Volume 11, Issue 8