People and Culture
I don’t believe that the temple builders were a simple farming culture. ..more likely a maritime seafaring one that also farmed, with their primary constructions and settlements along the sea. Back so far in prehistory, sea levels were lower than today, and the land mass of the archipelago stood higher in many places, so therefore much if not all of the seaside constructions of that time would be below current sea level and largely destroyed through the relentless pounding of the sea. Indeed if the rates of subsistence of the Maltese archipelago due to local tectonic movement, particularly to the east of the islands, are as high as is believed possible (Pedley and Clarke 2002), the shoreline of Malta may have extended out, perhaps even as far as the Hurd Bank and beyond during and immediately before that period, and the vast majority of the constructions of that time, would now be underwater. A seafaring culture on a larger Maltese island would also support a much larger population base than what can reasonably be assumed from a farming culture, and hence the observed intense use and numerous artefacts of that period make more sense. The sea is of course, very damaging to any seaside structures, so unless special efforts were made to protect these constructions before they were engulfed, very little would survive.
So my conclusions about the cart ruts of Malta are that the vast majority of them were built by the same people that built the temples. The first cart tracks were built to move building materials from quarries like that of Clapham Junction to the seaside areas, now submerged, most likely in the time preceding and during the construction of the temples, in the 2000+ year period from 7000 years ago or earlier to about 5000 years ago. It seems unlikely that they date from much earlier than that, since no evidence of human occupation has been found on the island coinciding with such an earlier period, though it is possible that the ancestors of temple builders lived out on the submerged plateau or along the submerged shore before moving to the ‘highlands’ to escape the rising seas.
Connections beyond Malta
To the above speculations, I add some more, though I admit the evidence is flimsy to nonexistent. I believe that the Dawn of the Megalithic as it manifested throughout Europe, may have been triggered by the activities on Malta. With both a relentlessly post ice age rising sea, combined with a steady descent of the land, the relative rise in sea level around Malta may have been the temple builders greatest long term headache and challenge. If they had, as was likely, sites of great spiritual or cultural significance that were slowly being engulfed by the rising Mediterranean, I would expect heroic efforts on their part to mitigate the loss of at least some of these sites. I would expect to find sea walls and evidence of sites buried behind erosion resistant coralline limestone blocks as these people protected their shrinking island, treasured constructions and holy places. ..and as the island shrank and the cultural monuments vanished below the waves, large numbers of these people may have relocated where they manifested their extraordinary skills in the constructions of megalithic structures elsewhere.. ..before finally their last great exodus to Egypt where they brought their considerable knowledge and skill to the building of the Step pyramid and pyramids of Giza that followed. (The first evidence of synthetic man made rock, like the Maltese Torba, appears in Egypt at the time of Imhotep ca 2600 BC in the building of the Step pyramid, predating the Giza complex), and the Maltese people may have supplied some of the know how that made the great pyramid constructions possible. Similar technology appears in Egypt just around the time when the temple people disappeared from Malta.
The latest sea level estimates around Malta, calculated from Lambeck 2004, indicate that post ice age sea levels were still rising rapidly at the time the islands were first settled 7200 years ago. Over 30 square km of land were flooded since that time, mostly during the temple period when seas rose from approximately -17 m to -5 m below current sea levels. I would expect to find Temple period settlements and other constructions submerged in these areas. Certainly, if cart ruts can be found in these areas below the sea, or indeed anywhere around Malta at depths of over 5 meters, then we could say with considerable confidence that it was the temple builders who made them. Some evidence has been found but is so far inconclusive. Indeed, identifying underwater archaeological artefacts is a very difficult task at best, and the very large area that was flooded around Malta during this time make this search a tremendous challenge.
In 1999, Maltese divers Shaun and Kurt Arrigo discovered some interesting structures beneath the sea a short distance off the present coast of Malta near St Julians. They include tracks that look similar to those found elsewhere on the island.(See photo) The GPS coordinates and other photos are shown elsewhere on this site. The physical measurements of these ruts however, do not match the typical tracks found on the island, so while this find does look to be man made, they are not cart ruts. Another find, reported by Hubert Zeitlmair, Zeitlmaier claims to have found a temple site, also at a 10 meter depth, 2 km to the east of Malta, though this find is suspect and unconfirmed.
Undersea photo taken a short distance off the northeast coast of Malta, Courtesy Shaun Arrigo Planetsea.net