Prehistoric Cart Ruts of Malta – An Unsolved Mystery

by Sankalan Baidya
Prehistoric Cart Ruts of Malta – An Unsolved Mystery

Hundreds of parallel lines cut deep in stones in Gozo and Malta islands in Maltese archipelago are no less mysterious than Peru’s Nazca Lines. For centuries, archaeologists have banged their heads to the point of explosion but have failed to come up with a satisfactory explanation as to who created these lines or how exactly they were created. There’s even no proper explanation for the purpose of the lines. These lines criss-cross the entire islands and are extremely prominent in Misrah Ghar il-Kbir. The Misrah Ghar il-Kbir is a prehistoric cliff located at Malta.

These lines have been named as Cart Ruts simply because they resemble the tracks that are left behind by carts. What’s really surprising is that they look very much like tangled railway lines of a busy railway junction. Adding to the mystery is the fact that these lines often travel off cliff edges and some drive off directly into the sea and continue the same structure underwater.

The most common explanation is that these lines represent the transport industry of the ancient time and some call them the railways of the ancient world. So, just how deep are these Cart Ruts or how wide are they?

The depth of these cart ruts of Misrah Ghar il-Kbir were measured to be between 8 and 15 centimeters. Some of them are even 60 centimeters deep. The lines have an average width of 140 centimeters. The deepest of all lines is found in San Gwann site where the depth reached around half a meter. Some of the lines are pretty deep and narrow and squared off giving a notion that some kind of tool was used for cutting those channels. The weird tool-cut shapes raised a question – “did the ancients who built these lines used different types of vehicles or the shapes are a mere outcome of thousands of years of weather induced erosion?” Scientists are yet to find an answer to this question.

The way the ruts jump off of the cliffs or the way they go directly into the sea have raised questions regarding the purpose of the lines. Interestingly similar lines have been found in Germany, France, Spain, Turkey, Greece and Italy but those lines, as found out by scientists, turned out to be masonry work and some of the lines were actually a result of natural erosion on wagon tracks. Thus, those lines are pretty different from the ones found in Malta and in particular in Misrah Ghar il-Kbir, thereby making the Malta lines unique and mysterious.

As mentioned, one of the plausible explanations is that these Malta lines were an outcome of repeated sled, skid and cart usage either for decades or for centuries. In short, these lines represent transportation in prehistoric world. The alternate explanations put forward by some people are:

1. The lines had astronomical purpose.
2. The lines were actually irrigation system used by prehistoric people.

Both of these alternate explanations have limited acceptance. The question that you may possibly ask is that why have we consistently called these lines to be prehistoric? Well, some theorize that the lines were built during the Bronze Age some 2,000 years before the beginning of the common era (i.e., 2,000 BCE) by people who moved to Malta from Sicily. However, Anthony Bonanno, a Maltese archaeologist argues that the lines were created at around 7th century BCE and that the ruts are in reality Phoenician construction.

Prehistoric Cart Ruts of Malta – An Unsolved Mystery

It is not at all surprising to know that many archaeologists actually associate these mysterious cart ruts of Malta with the stone temple complexes of Gozo and Malta. These stone temples are actually world famous because they date back to a period between 5500 BCE and 2500 BCE. These temples are world’s oldest known free standing monuments are even older than Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge.

Scientists who believe that the lines are actually related to the temples argue that the rocks required for building the temples were transported from quarries on carts. The problem with this explanation for the possible connection of the Malta lines with the megalithic Malta temples is that none of the lines actually have a properly defined starting or end point at these temples. Hence, the theory has remained as a theory instead of becoming an accepted fact.

Yet another problem with the transportation theory is that no one has been able to prove that the cart ruts of Malta were actually an outcome of heavy load. As a matter of fact, Graham Hancock – a journalist – in his book titled “Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization” correctly points out that the lines don’t really look like something created on limestone by passage of cart wheels and there’s absolutely no proof that cart wheels actually ran on those stones.

As a matter of fact, several lines are so neatly and perfectly cut out that they can never be the result of cart wheels running on limestones.

Nonetheless, scientists will continue to argue but apparently, they will never have a proper answer because the secrets of these Cart Ruts of Malta are lost in time. All that we can now deduce from the lines is that they were once important for the ancient people who lived in the area. That’s it! That’s all we can say. We can never find an answers we are looking for.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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