In the Maltese Islands, caves have been used since antiquity. Excavations at Ghar Dalam gave pottery dating back to the Neolithic, while the hypogeum at the Xaghra Stone Circle originated as an underground cave. Evidence for cave use has been found for the Bronze Age (Il-Qlejgha), the Roman Period (Ghar ta' l-Iburdan) and has been proposed for the Phoenician Period (Ghar is-Sigra).
The use of caves as a dwelling place in the medieval period is a phenomenon of considerable interest, which is slowly recieving recognition. Various natural recesses on the islands together with a number of tombs were converted into the abode of medieval troglodytes.
One of the best known sites featuring medieval troglodytism exists at a number of caves at Misrah Ghar il-Kbir, known as Ghar il-Kbir. Similar to contemporary sites in Sicily, existing cave space was closed through the use of rubble walls, while new space was created by digging into the sidewalls of the caves.
Athanasius Kircher describes vividly the way of life in this cave during the seventeenth century. The troglodytes lived in separate units hewn or built out of the cave, and stored water in earthenware jars. Every family had its hearth and used dried dung as fuel. Bunches of onions and garlic greeted the visitors and humans lived side by side to animals.
Archive documents show that cave dwelling continued at
this site at least until the beginnning of the nineteeth century.
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