Gozo's history as seen from its archaeological treasures

Gozo Museum of Archaeology

Although Gozo is part of the Maltese archipelago, its history is uniquely entrenched in the doings of its inhabitants. Every era, from prehistory to the temple period, the phoenicians and the punic occupation up to medieval times have left remains and treasures with stories to recount. Welcome to Gozo's archaeology. 

The Museum
The Gozo Museum of Archaeology located within the walls of the Citadel just behind the old gate illustrates the cultural history of Gozo from prehistoric times to the early modern period.

The museum’s display illustrates the rich material culture of Gozo and relies on themes like burial, religion, art, food and daily life, making use of related material from various archaeological sites in Gozo.

The Building
The Museum is located immediately behind the original gateway to the Citadel 

It is housed in a two-storey 17th century townhouse which was once the residence of the Bondì family.

It initially served as a town hall where the Knights of St John used to entertain their distinguished guests.

The building came to house the archaeological collection in 1986 as part of a re organisation programme of the Gozo museum collection into separate collections housed in separate buildings in the Citadel.

The Collection
The modest collection inside the Gozo Archaeology museum gives a unique insight of the societies that inhabited this island. Particular conditions conditioned the way of life of these residents creating traditions specific to the environment. Each artefact has a story to recount and such stories are still there to be retold and rediscovered.

The ground floor of the museum is devoted to the Neolithic Period, the Temple Period, and the Bronze Age (5200–700BC) and introduces the first settlers, their daily life in contact with nature.

It also displays the extent to which this prehistoric society employed its skills and available techniques in the exploitation of the natural resources.

Although the first inhabitants of the island left no writing behind them, the discovery of an artistic patrimony in the form of temples and decorative material denotes the level of sophistication of such a community.

Their skills and techniques were resorted to in the manufacture of ornamental items, employing both local and imported raw materials.

The Classical Period consists of Phoenician, Punic, and Roman artefacts found in several sites in Gozo and Comino.

The Phoenicians attracted by the local harbours, established a colony in Malta and Gozo. Around 500Bc, the Phoenicians of carthage took over and the carthaginians, as they are better known, remained masters of the islands until 218Bc.

There are remains of a Punic rock-cut sanctuary at Ras iL-Wardija, on the outskirts of Santa Lucija village, on the south-western tip of Gozo.

Around the year 257 BCE, Malta suffered devastation at the hands of the Romans. During the Second Punic War, Malta was captured by the Romans who imposed their language and religion on the Maltese.

Its new capital Constantinople - previously known as Byzantium - where it came to be known as the eastern Roman or Byzantine empire.

The decline of the Roman empire in the West was countermarked by the empire's shift to the East.

This change affected the entire Mediterranean including the Maltese islands. The islands remained in Byzantine possession until 870AD when they were taken over by the Sicilian Arabs

Throughout the period of Arab innovations, particularly in the sphere of agriculture, as well as the first-time cultivation of cotton and citrus trees.

Conquered by the Normans in 1091, the Arabs were nonetheless allowed to stay on the islands until finally, they were expelled by Frederick II and gathered in Lucera.

Not much had changed, particularly in Gozo, and it was quite some time after the devastating incursion of the Turks in 1551, when the island was nearly totally depopulated, that Gozo started to be given due attention.

In 1551, Gozo had been long suffering from frequent incursions badly affecting the already impoverished population. Bernardo de Opuo's ordeal revealed the fragile state of the island's defenses and as a consequence its poor social fabric.

Following such a negative experience the island started to be given due attention leading to a gradual improvement in the economic and social conditions of its newly-planted population.

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