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Żejtun Roman villa

Żejtun Roman villa
Villa Rumana taż-Żejtun (Maltese)
The Roman villa complex in Żejtun.
The Roman villa complex in Żejtun.
Żejtun Roman villa is located in Malta
Żejtun Roman villa
Shown within Malta
Location Żejtun, Malta
Type Settlement
Periods Late Bronze–Early Byzantine
Cultures Borġ in-Nadur phase, Phoenician, Roman
Site notes
Ownership Public
Public access Restricted
Partly unexcavated, within the grounds of a public school

The Żejtun Roman villa is an archaeological complex in the city of Żejtun, in south-eastern Malta. The open-air remains contain areas of original Roman tiling and coloured stucco. The complex was an active settlement since the Bronze Age, although the presently visible remains can be mainly dated from the Punic period right up to Late Antiquity.

More evidence of ancient habitation in the area comes from burial grounds, such as those around St Gregory's Church, Tal-Barrani, Tal-Ħotba and Bulebel.[1] The excavation site at the villa confirms the presence of a thriving olive oil industry on the southern end of the islands.[2]


  • Topography 1
  • Discovery and excavation 2
  • References 3
    • Citations 3.1
    • Bibliography 3.2


The remains rest on the highest point of a long, flat ridge stretching in an east-west direction. The villa can be found close to the eastern end of the ridge. Beyond the secondary school grounds on the east side, the ridge dips significantly towards Tas-Silġ and Delimara, along the main road leading to these destinations. The ridge dips gently to the north and south, beyond the main road. The road maintains more or less the same altitude to the west until Bir id-Deheb, with the ground rising again towards Gudja and the parish church of Ħal Għaxaq. The remains, therefore, are a couple of metres higher than the old parish church of Saint Catherine's (the present St Gregory’s church) and considerably higher than the present Żejtun parish church.

Discovery and excavation

Local people had known of the existence of ancient remains in the vicinity, it was not until 1964 that archaeologists systematically excavated the site, which had been accidentally uncovered by workmen when a school was being built.[1] Various Punic and Roman tombs were discovered in the area around Żejtun, the most interesting being the burial complex at Tal-Barrani, with evidence of substantial restructuring in the 7th century. On April 8, 1963 a tomb was discovered and investigated by the local authorities “in the field immediately to the east of the new village school.” It contained both Punic and Roman material, including a “third century lamp, a glass unguentarium…and a large peg based amphora split to serve as a child’s sarcophagus” [3]

No signs of the ancient remains were apparent in the fields before 1961, when “traces of masonry and some pottery came to light” during the building of a new school for the village.[4] The authorities' investigations deemed the remains to be “slight”, with no further action being taken. The discovery of more remains was again notified in 1964, with them being identified as a “Puno-Roman building”.[5] Three main features were surveyed, namely a large water cistern, a line of stone water channels, and a foundation wall which was separated from a nearby paved area by a trench. The Roman villa was excavated again between 1972 and 1976, as well as between 2006 and 2012.

The villa was a domestic country settlement with a residential area and an industrial area for olive pressing. The latter is confirmed by large parallel-piped block, with various holes and channels, anchor blocks, and a square block hollowed out to form a circular liquid container. The residential area consisted of at least three rectangular rooms, one of which could be described as a long hall. All the rooms were paved with lozenge-shaped tiles, with coloured tiles forming a herring-bone pattern. These are different from the patterns discovered in the other villas in Malta and Gozo. The walls of the villa were also plastered and decorated with simple line paintings in red, yellow and green, traces of which survived. A hoard of 43 bronze Roman coins dating mostly to the third century AD were recovered during the excavations, as was a small stone oil press.[6]

Bronze Age occupation was indicated by two rock-cut silos containing sherds of the Borġ in-Nadur Phase cut in the very soft bedrock.[7] Evidence of activity in Punic times is suggested by finds of early ceramic fragments like the fragment of an imitation kylix and a black gloss sherd, possibly Attic. The most intensive use of the site was in Roman imperial times, as confirmed by the presence of several terra sigillata fragments, both Italian and North African.

The most important find from the 1976 excavation were two fragments of a cooking pot, one bearing an inscription in Punic characters which was read either as a dedication to the god Astarte, or to Anat, or to both.[8] A large number of pottery shards were also discovered, including half a flat red plate and more hand-made pottery.

No permanent protection was ever erected to preserve the remains on site, bar a boundary wall which separates the villa from the school and residential roads.



  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Bruno 2009, p. 42
  3. ^ Museums Department Annual Report 1963, p. 6
  4. ^ Museums Department Annual Report 1961, p. 5
  5. ^ Museums Department Annual Report 1964, p. 6
  6. ^
  7. ^ Museums Department Annual Report 1973/74, p. 51
  8. ^ Frendo 1999, pp. 24–35


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