During the Ghar Dalam phase, new settlers came from Sicily.
These settlers brought with them wheat and domesticated
animals. The introduction of farming led to a transformation
of the islands. Population was growing and this meant
that the use of land was increasing. The Ghar Dalam phase
represents the earliest known farming settlements of the
Maltese islands. The phase is characterized by the presence
of impressed ware pottery which was introduced into the
islands along with other Neolithic cultural elements,
as well as agriculture. This type of pottery is associated
with the spread of agricultural communities throughout
the Mediterranean. Various derivatives of this type of
ceramic are known throughout the region. The name of the
Maltese variant, the Ghar Dalam phase ware, is derived
from the site where it had first been encountered in abundance.
Ghar Dalam - The Site
Ghar Dalam is one of the most important archaeological
sites of the Maltese islands. The cave of Ghar Dalam (Maltese
- cave of darkness) lends its name to this important prehistoric
Located close to the sea in the vicinity of Birzebbugia,
a town on the south east coast of Malta, the cave penetrates
a hill side to a depth of about 200 m of which the first
80m or so are accessible.
Impressed ware of the Ghar Dalam Phase
The Ghar Dalam ware, produced between 5200 and 4500 BC,
is so far the oldest known pottery in the Maltese islands.
The pottery is a local variant of impressed ceramic wares
that are known to be the oldest of their kind in Mediterranean
coastal regions. The pottery is associated with the spread
of agriculture in these areas.
Fine and coarse wares characterise Ghar Dalam phase pottery.
The finer category is often gray in colour with variants
of brown occurring in a few cases. The surface of fine
ware is normally burnished. A distinctive characteristic
of this category of pottery is decoration, which is almost
entirely absent from the coarser ware. The decorative
techniques include impression, incision and groove cutting.
Decorative motifs ranged from simple random or rowed impressions,
vertical lines, C-shaped impressions highlighting bases
and necks, as well as a series of linear patterns consisting
of parallel lines, hatched bands and hatched triangles.
Two distinctive forms are commonly found in fine Ghar
Dalam ware. One form is a small deep bowl. The other is
a globular jar with wide or closed neck.
Ghar Dalam coarse ware is thicker than the finer pottery.
The fabric is dark grey or black and very gritty. Surface
colours vary from grey, dark brown, buff to light reddish
brown. The surface finish is visibly less refined than
the decorated ware. The commonest forms consist of deep
bowls with straight or slightly curved walls.