Maltaís Prehistoric shoreline

The shoreline boundaries of Malta as they were 7,200 years ago, when man first settled the island, can be estimated using the recent eustatic sea level predictions of Lambeck 2004. Eustatic refers to sea level changes that take into account land movements as well as melt water contributions to sea level changes following the last ice age. Disregarding any local geological movements or changes due to sedimentation, the (pre) historic boundaries of Malta can be inferred using Lambeck's predictions and accurate bathymetric (sea floor depth) charts. What this shows is that Malta's seashore boundaries changed rapidly until sea levels began stabilizing 5,000 years ago. From 7,200BP, the time the first settlers arrived on Malta, until 5,000 BP over 30 sq km of land around Malta flooded. (See illustration. The darker area represents the 7,000 BP shoreline adapted from Pedley 2002 while the outer lighter area represents the area of Malta 10,000 BP.) The table shows the sea levels predicted by Lambeck's 2004 data. Please note that the numbers may be off by a few meters locally because the Maltese Archipelago is geologically unstable and may have moved up or down in various places.

Malta Sea Levels since 16,000 BP
Calculated from Lambeck 2004
BP Sea Level
0 0.0
1,000 -0.8
2,000 -1.7
3,000 -3.2
4,000 -4.7
5,000 -7 
6,000 -9
7,000 -15
8,000 -21
9,000 -37
10,000 -52
12,000 -76
14,000 -97
16,000 -118

What is evident is that the seaside areas of Malta have changed drastically since the temple building period, and we can not gain a clear understanding of this period without seriously investigating these shallow areas. It is also where I would look for cart ruts, since these tie these areas together as a continuous land mass occupied by the same people. Clearly the deeper these ruts are found beneath the sea, the stronger the argument becomes that they date from a much earlier period than we might otherwise suppose. Also, wherever we find the ruts beneath the sea, we can also expect to find the human constructions they served. Also given that much of this land flooded relatively quickly, we may find the prehistoric structures in surprisingly good shape, protected by the sea, and out of man's reach since soon after they were built. But 30 sq km is a large area to search and prehistoric sites are not easily identified. It will take some luck and good guesswork to find these.

Kurt and Shaun Arrigo, Maltese divers, discovered several apparently man made structures in the shallow waters (~9 meter depth) near St Julians, within the flooded area shown in the map above. In particular, they found parallel grooves that look like ruts, but differ in their overall dimensions from cart ruts found on the island, making this find very interesting but inconclusive. While the megalithic-like structures they also claim to have found are hard to authenticate, the channels themselves seem very unnatural and appear to be man made.

A good review of underwater archaeology is Submarine Prehistoric Archaeology by Fleming 2004


The latest post ice age sea levels estimates for Malta indicate that it has been an island for the past 13,500 years or so, after more than 10,000 years as an ice age peninsula of Sicily. Ice age cycles are typically every 120,000 years or so and this pattern has been going on for almost 2 million years through more than a dozen cycles. During each cycle, sea levels drop by up to 150 meters and rise as high as 10+ meters above the current sea levels in-between. (The current concern over global warming is related to the expectation that if the earth warms significantly, as it is evidently doing now, sea levels will rise as much as 10 meters before triggering a new ice age cycle, as has happened in the past few cycles) Much, much further in the past, about 5 million years ago, the entire Mediterranean basin dried up (The Messinian Salinity Crisis) and water levels in the Mediterranean were several 1000 meters lower than today. As far as human history is concerned though, this distant event is irrelevant since proto-humans were still interbreeding with proto-apes at that time. Most prehistory assumes that modern human culture has its roots to events taking place within the past 20,000 years, or when sea levels were up to 130 meters lower than today, since the last glacial maximum.

A great reference and well written book on Maltese Geology is 'Limestone Isles in a Crystal Sea', by Pedley et al, 2002. Fig 118 on page 91 shows the rough outline of Malta 9,000 and 18,000 years ago. This book can be purchased online from MaltaOnlineBookshop

It is also important to note, that while no human remains have been found on Malta before about 7,200 BP, that does not mean that these people were not there. It may simply mean that we haven't found evidence of their presence.

Note: The sea level estimates are taken from Lambeck 2004 and are not corrected for local geological movements.

13,000 BP (Before Present) The sea is 87 meters lower than today. Malta and Sicily have separated and Malta becomes an island again for the first time after over 10,000 years as an ice age peninsula of Sicily. The land area of Malta is over 5 times larger than it is today with a large fertile lowland extending eastwards from the present islands. It may have had a large freshwater lake located to the south and west of 36 N Latitude, 15 degrees East Longitude, which is about 55 km due east of Comino, or 37 km Northeast of the eastern most promontory of Malta. The break with Sicily probably occurred 10-15 km north of this lake. If men occupied this land at this time, (very unlikely) we may find sea walls and evidence of a prehistoric road linking this area to Sicily.

Closer to Malta, ~22 km due east of Valetta, is the Hurd Bank, a raised elevation, probably of Upper Coralline Limestone that stands well above the surrounding lands, a prime site for occupation if there were any settlers there at that time. The sea is rising quickly and each year 35 hectares of land are engulfed by the sea.

11,000 BP The sea is 64 meters lower than today. Malta covers 2.5 times the land area of today and stretches as a continuous island from Gozo to beyond the Hurd Bank, 25 km east of Valletta. Half of the land that was above water 3,000 years earlier is now underwater. More than 10 hectares of land are lost to the sea each year.

10,000 BP The sea is 52 meters lower than today. The peninsula connecting to the Hurd Bank is vanishing below the waves. We might find a land bridge, sea walls and a road linking the Hurd Bank to Malta as the prehistoric Maltese, in the unlikely event any were there, attempted to keep the land route intact.

9,000 BP The sea is 34 meters lower than today. Most of the prehistoric Malta lowlands have disappeared beneath the sea. Only the Hurd Bank area (~10 sq km, 22 km due east of Valetta) is still above water as an island 22 km due east of Valetta. The land area of Malta is 40% larger than today

8,000 BP The sea is 21 meters lower than today. The Hurd Bank is submerged as is most of the peninsula that used to connect the Hurd Bank to Malta. The land area of Malta is 25% larger than today

7,200 BP The sea is 16 meters lower than today. The temple builders move to the higher lands of the archipelago, giving up their ancestral homes in the lowlands, or from wherever else they came from. The first human remains, and evidence of farming and settlements of the temple people, appear on the island. The land area of Malta extends a few hundred meters out from its present shoreline, and covers up to 15% more land area than today. Gozo, Comino and Filfla separate from the main island. (Note: Emanuel Magri reported Cart Ruts on Filfla. This only seems possible if the tracks date to the time that Filfla was still connected to Malta.)

6,000 BP The sea is 9.2 meters lower than today, has risen significantly since the settlers arrived. The temple constructions, still evident today, are being built. The original settled shoreline areas are all underwater. Sea levels begin to stabilize.

5.000 BP The sea is 6.9 meters lower than today. The temple builders and their culture, as we know of it today, are at their apparent peak. Sea levels and the island boundaries are roughly the same as they are today.

4,000 BP The sea is 4.7 meters lower than today. The temple builders have left the island for ~500 years and Bronze age settlers have established themselves on Malta. The great pyramids of Giza are already hundreds of years old.

3,000 BP The sea is 3.2 meters lower than today. The Bronze age nears its end.

Is Malta Atlantis?

I have no idea if the legend of Atlantis is true or not. Some authors have claimed that this is so, (C. Savona Ventura) however Iím neither convinced of the legend nor of the notion that Malta was this mythical civilization. The notion however that a civilization with advanced technical and other knowledge predated the rise of Egyptian civilization around 2600 BC or so, and contributed to the Egyptian developments, seems very likely to me. I also believe that the Temple Builders of Malta may have been these people, or one of them, particularly since the turning point and flourish of Egyptian civilization occurs so close in time to the disappearance and decline of the temple culture in Malta. This may not be a coincidence, particularly since an enabling technological innovation of Egypt of the time, namely the apparent artificial synthesis of rock, appears as Torba in the temples of Malta and then seems to reappear in Egypt at the time of Imhotep ca 2600BC  in the construction of the Step Pyramid. (See Prof Joseph Davidovits,  Of course the Egyptians apparently took this technology a long way beyond making rock floors, according to Davidovits, learning to caste large limestone and other blocks, and it is not clear whether the Temple Builders knew how to do this or if this technology evolved in Egypt. There is no evidence of cast rock structures on Malta that I know of, though I expect that no one has looked for these either or checked if the rocks of the Megaliths are naturally formed. There is a large stone bowl 1 meter in diameter found on Gozo (Xarra Circle) that may have been cast. The Egyptians also may have known how to cast hard stone into delicate shapes, something that hasnít been found in Malta, as far as I know. Certainly the Egyptians had something the temple builders did not, namely a very large local population and labour force under stable political control, and powerful Egyptian leadership (Imhotep and his immediate successors) intent on building massive monuments that could survive and maintain their purpose against millennia of treasure hunters and tomb robbers, as the past 4500 years have shown. More rock has been stripped from the Great Pyramid than exist in all the megalithic sites of Malta put together, yet the implicit knowledge and extraordinary technical skills manifest in these pyramids and other Egyptian constructions is still boldly apparent. With the temple builders know how and the resources of Egypt, the temple builders may have seen an opportunity they simply couldnít resist, an opportunity of contributing to the building of enduring monuments to attest and materialize in monumental form, their advanced knowledge and skillsÖ ..and perhaps even win a place of safekeeping for their own secrets. There are plenty of places to hide sacred materials within the Great Pyramidís labyrinth of millions of heavy rocks. Indeed, one can also imagine that Imhotep, hearing of the wisdom and technical prowess of the prehistoric Maltese, invited and enlisted them in his service to create some of the most amazing structures ever built by man. Once again, I may be rambling on with this romantic notion, assuming a greater importance to the prehistoric Maltese than is justified, however I do believe that technology advances in many small steps, and the Maltese may have been on the leading edge of stone working technology for a considerable period of time. It makes sense to me that a very wealthy empire like the Egyptian, would have attracted the very best resources from wherever they could be found, including Malta.

Another theory is that Malta may have been the Mediterranean colony of a larger civilization that prospered elsewhere.. ..a similar arrangement as between Phoenicia and Carthage perhaps. Certainly this is a very real possibility. Malta has always been a strategic center of the Mediterranean, so it would be a logical site for a branch plant operation of an Atlantis type civilization based elsewhere. There are reports of man made structures under the sea in many places throughout the world, so the notion of ice age and post ice age civilizations with massive stone fabrication capabilities is becoming more and more believable. The undersea stone structures off the Japanese island of Okinawa, the Yonaguni Ruins (see above) for example, lie 20 meters below the sea and are apparently over 8000 years old.

Whatever assumptions we make about the temple builders, what is sure is that they were a technologically capable people. Working with very large rocks and synthesizing stone are considerable engineering feats. Only within the past 20 years have modern scientists begun to learn how to make rock like Torba artificially and they are still far from knowing exactly how the Egyptians did it, or even for that matter, how some of the hard cement used in Roman roads was made. Cart ruts, if built by these same temple people, is further evidence of sophisticated engineering know how and intense prehistoric activity on the island 

But the Temple people were more than just good engineers and architects. They may well have been the custodians of great wisdom and knowledge as well. Certainly they knew how to live peacefully. None of their constructions of over 2000 years of Maltese occupation show any apparent defensive or offensive purpose in their design. They may have been among the last great civilizations that flourished without major conflict or war with other men. There may be much more to discover and learn from them.

Back    Next