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Your Guide to Malta and Gozo - Ghar Dalam

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Għar Dalam Cave and Museum

Żejtun Road, Birżebbuġa; tel: +356 21 657 419; http://www.heritagemalta.org

Monday to Sunday: 9.00-17.00 (Last admission: 16.30); closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and Good Friday. regular ticket (18 - 59 years): €5; subsidised ticket: 12-17 years, Senior Citizens (60+), students: 3.50;  Children (6 -11 years): €2.50. Children younger than 6 years of age may visit at no charge.

 

 

Għar Dalam (Cave of Darkness) is appropriately named. Only the first 100 meters are provided with lighting. The rest is engulfed in pitch darkness. This natural tunnel was carved out of the rock by torrential rains that precipitated during the last ice-age. The sheer size of the numerous stalagmites and stalagtites attests to the very ancient origins of Għar Dalam.

Arturo Issel was the first to investigate Għar Dalam in 1865. The geological layers within tell a story – this is the story of the formation of the Maltese Islands, the story of the animals that thrived in Malta in the distant past and the story of early human presence. Above a layer of clay is the hippopotamus layer, which is rich in teeth and skeletal fragments from two species of hippopotami and other mammals. These large mammals were stranded in Malta when sea levels rose and submerged the land bridge between the islands and mainland Europe. The third layer is largely composed a pebbles, yet animal remains are once more abundant in the next layer. Such animals include bears, deer and foxes together with such minuscule animals as mice, bats and shrews. In the topmost and youngest layer may be found evidence of human activity in Malta of seven millania ago, including contraptions and pottery. Three molar teeth were believed to provide conclusive evidence for the presence of neanderthals in Malta. A more thorough inspection however showed this to be incorrect.

 

An unassuming woodlouse Armadillidium ghardalamensis has adjusted to the dark conditions here, and is bereft of the sense of sight. The lack of light in the inner reaches of the cave deters humans from venturing further inside and the woodlouse is safe from being trampled on.

The museum is composed of an old section, in which fossilised skeletons are displayed together with modern counterparts for ease of comparision whilst a newer section comprises exhibits which deal with such subjects as life on Earth, the formation of the cave and its history.