The Roman baths near Għajn Tuffieħa have been filled with layers of protective materials in order to protect them from weathering and preserve them for future generations.
The intervention, the first of its kind, is being coordinated by Heritage Malta, which is responsible for the site, which was discovered in 1929 and excavated that same year.
The bathing complex is believed to date back to the first or second century after Christ.
The agency said in a statement that the intervention was necessary since the only protection the baths had was shelter from the sunlight. There is currently no protection against heat, wind and water seeping beneath the baths.
“Besides erosion caused by the elements, along the years damage has also been caused by small animals foraging in the area, plant roots as well as people walking on them despite the fact that the baths are normally not open to the public,” Heritage Malta said.
It added that a decision had therefore been taken to slow down this process of deterioration.
“This could only be achieved by backfilling it temporarily to provide a similar environment to that where it lay for some 2000 years prior to its discovery, in order to avoid further loss of material,” Heritage Malta said.
This latest intervention follows a trial in one of the smaller baths some two years ago. Before the backfilling, restoration works, including the plastering of cracks, the removal of plants and the reattachment of detached mosaic pieces, were carried out, with every step of the process being carefully documented by Heritage Malta’s archaeologists.
“The stratigraphy employed in the site’s backfilling is recognisable and reversible, enabling future archaeologists and conservator-restorers to distinguish the materials from the original site. Both local and imported materials were used. These were separated from the original surface and from each other through the use of geotextile.”
Heritage Malta CEO Noel Zammit said the intervention was a clear example of how the agency was working to preserve the country’s heritage for future generations.
“The current situation was not allowing the site to be preserved properly, leading us to decide to deprive ourselves of it in order to enable future generations to enjoy it instead. We cannot retrieve what has been lost from the site with the passage of time, but we can prevent further losses,” Zammit said.
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