Malta’s oldest prehistoric site of Għar Dalam engages visitors to step back in time. Rows of ancient animal bones, unearthed from Għar Dalam cave, are exhibited in the Joseph Baldacchino’s Hall, which still retains one of a handful of Victorian style displays in Europe.
No such animals have lived on the Maltese Islands for thousands of years. The George Zammit Maempel Hall presents in a more didactic manner the historical aspects of the cave as well as detailed displays on the various species found in the Maltese Quaternary deposits. Even more bones of the Ice Age animals are still visible inside the cave.
A series of archaeological excavations held in the cave in the latter half of the 19th century have led to the discovery of five main layers of interest. Whereas no traces of any animal species were found in the lowest layer which consisted of clay, an extensive amount of animal bones were discovered in the ‘Hippopotamus Layer’. These bones were deposited at this site by water during the Pleistocene era, around 500,000 years ago. Pebbles and sparse animal bones belonging to species from the earlier layer were identified in the next one, while remains dating from 25,000 to 18,000 years ago were recovered from the ‘Deer Layer’. A sterile layer corresponding to a volcanic ash layer present outside, lies over the deer layer and the top layer. The ‘Cultural Layer’ holds the earliest evidence of human presence in Malta, some 7,400 years ago.
Għar Dalam is also renowned for its ecological value. A garden planted with indigenous plants and trees introduce visitors to local flora. The site forms part of the Natura 2000 network of protected sites which includes Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) of International Importance and Special Protection Areas (SPA). This conservation status is due to a small population of endemic cave woodlouse, Armadillidium ghardalamensis, and a roosting site for the Lesser Horse-shoe Bat, Rhinolophus hipposideros.
Museum, Archaeological Remains, Site
Tue to Sun (Closed on Good Friday, Christmas Eve & Day, New Year’s Eve & Day): 09.00 am - 16.30 pm
Adults (18+): €6.50 (Ghar Dalam and Borg in-Nadur Combo Ticket)
Youths (12-17): €5.00
Senior Citizens (60+): €5.00
Concessions & Students: €5.00
Children (6-11): €4.00
Infants (1-5): Free
Old Museum Showcase
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Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to the most common questions
Għar Dalam is 144m long but only the first 50m are open to the public.
The cave contains the bone remains of animals that were stranded and subsequently became extinct in Malta at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum. It has lent its name to the Għar Dalam phase in Maltese prehistory, and is viewed as one of Malta’s most important national monuments. Significant pottery make the site the earliest evidence of human settlement in Malta, some 7,400 years ago.
The inner parts of the cave are difficult and can be dangerous to visit because the ceiling is low and the ground is slippery. Furthermore a very rare species of endemic woodlouse lives in the dark areas of the cave and the whole site is protected to ensure survival of this species.
The bones were collected from the cave when it was being excavated. The complete skeletons in the same hall were placed there for comparison.