Discoveries of Punic Tombs in the Rabat area have been recorded since the times of Giovanni Francesco Abela (1582-1655), the Father of Maltese historiography. Till the year 2001, 372 Punic tombs had been unearthed in the Rabat region. There are possibly innumerable other Punic Tombs that are still awaiting discovery or which, unfortunately have been destroyed. Additionally, there is also archaeological evidence that in the late Roman Period as well as in early Christian times several Punic tombs seem to have been modified into small family hypogea or were even literally damaged or destroyed to make way for more massive underground burial sites.
The area around Buskett is one of the most fertile agricultural districts in the southern part of Rabat. In this area, nine Punic tombs were discovered, five of which consisted of a shaft and chamber. Two tombs consisted of a grave-pit, while the other two consisted of a burial chamber cut in the vertical face of rock. Only two tombs were double-chambered, one of which was discovered in 1918, while the other 1925. Except for the two burial-pits, the tombs found in this area had all been ransacked before being explored by the Museums Department.
It is apparent that during the Punic Period the area of Rabat was the most inhabited region of the Maltese Islands. This is revealed through the large number of Punic tombs distributed in this area. This region was probably popular because of the fertile agricultural lands concentrated in this area. Archaeological evidence shows that the oldest Punic cemeteries are located in Rabat, specifically in the north-western and western parts such as the area of Għajn Qajjet, Għajn Klieb, Mtarfa, Ġnien is-Sultan and Qallija. Regrettably most of the Punic remains have been destroyed or covered over to build new houses, roads etc. Sadly the surviving tombs are prone to all kind of vandalism but hopefully they will one day be protected and be truly considered as part of Malta’s rich heritage.
Author: Pierre Axiaq