The surface of the islands of Malta and Gozo in the Maltese archipelago is known for the hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of parallel lines that appear to have been carved deep into the country’s stony ground. These ancient Maltese tracks – or what some refer to as “cart ruts” – have been found in obvious locations as well as the most unusual places – be it under the sea, off the coast, or at cliff edges. This has led many to believe that the grooves in Malta’s bedrock are of prehistoric origin. These cart tracks are also deemed to be unique, and they continue to be an enigma to this very day, as they have not been satisfactorily explained by those who have extensively studied them.
Brief Information on the Cart Ruts Found in Malta
Cart ruts are man-made dual channels or parallel tracks and grooves sunken in rock. The ruts themselves can vary greatly in their size – some can be very deep and narrow, others can be shallow and wide, and the rest could be anything in between. They are carved in both smooth and rough rocky surface. And like in the case of the cart-ruts found on the surface of the islands of Malta, these parallel grooves can be etched into a limestone bedrock.
In Malta, the cart ruts appear to be in single pairs or in groups, and they are typically perfectly parallel. These ancient channels have an approximate depth of 8 to 15 centimeters, but in some places, they could be as deep as about 60 centimeters. The ruts have a standard gauge of around 1.4 meters, but this can also vary by several centimeters. Some of the tracks cross each other while others branch out to form junctions, which creates an illusion that resembles a large railway switching yard. These grooves run through the island’s valleys but they have also been found on the hills, while some have disappeared into the Mediterranean Sea.
While the cart ruts on Malta are impressive structures, they do not exclusively exist in this country. In fact, similar formations can also be found in Sicily, Sardinia, Italy, Greece, Southern France and Cyrenaica. However, not all of these dual channels in different parts of Europe are of the same origin, neither do they all fulfill the same purpose.
Examples of the Maltese Cart-Ruts
In Malta itself, there are potentially as many as 150 sites that have cart ruts, including the ones found in St. Paul’s Bay, Naxxar, San Gwann and Bidnija. However, the most well-known site in the archipelago is the Misrah Ghar il-Kbir, which is more popularly referred to as the “Clapham Junction.”
The Clapham Junction is located on the southern side of the Maltese island and features an enormous number of tracks, making it the largest concentration of cart ruts in the country. The site was given the nickname “Clapham Junction” because the network of overlapping cart tracks on the surface resembled the busy rail station of the same name in London. The sunken grooves at the site have varying gauges, depths and widths. They are also shaped differently, with some narrowing at the bottom, while others remain flat.
Possible Dates When the Cart Ruts in Malta Were Created
Some researchers have connected the mysterious tracks to the temple sites found in the islands of Malta and Gozo. More than 30 stone temple complexes as well as other ancient structures on the Maltese island were dated to have been built from 5500 to 2500 BC, making them some of the oldest free-standing monuments on the planet that we currently know about. It is even believed that the cart ruts might turn out to be the proof some experts have been looking for in answering the puzzle of how these ancient temples were built during what was supposed to be a primitive time.
It is also hypothesized that these manmade dual channels were created by settlers who arrived in Malta from Sicily sometime in the beginning of the country’s Bronze Age, or around 2000 B.C. However, Maltese archaeologist Anthony Bonanno has also presented an alternative theory about the date of the cart-ruts on the island, suggesting that the tracks could be Phoenician constructions that were made more recently, possibly in the 7th century B.C.
How the Cart Ruts in Malta Were Created
As to how the ruts in Malta were made or created, some archaeologists assumed that they were inadvertently carved by using some form of vehicles that were possibly wheeled. These carts, sleds or skids could have carried heavy loads, and with people repeatedly using the same path or route for decades or even centuries, the island’s limestone ground was inevitably scarred over time as a consequence.
However, some have objected to the hypothesis that all of the ruts on Malta were caused by wheeled carts or sleds carrying heavy goods. They argued that some of the tracks appeared to be too perfectly formed as if they might have been carved by hand using special tools. One such individual is the author and journalist Graham Hancock, and in his book, “Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization,” he said:
“It is certain, too, that they were not simply worn away in the tough limestone by the passage of cart-wheels over periods of centuries, as many have wrongly theorized; on the contrary, there is no proof whatsoever that cart-wheels ever ran in these ruts – which were initially carved out of the bedrock with the use of tools.”
The Purpose Behind the Cart Ruts in Malta
If the people residing on the island of Malta created and deliberately shaped these enigmatic ruts, then these channels obviously played a valuable purpose in the lives of these ancient people. However, what exactly that role is have been lost with the passage of time, and experts who have allotted much of their time and a significant portion of their lives to studying these cart ruts have yet to universally agree on what their original purpose could be. And because these experts have failed to come into an agreement on this matter, alternative theories have gained popularity in providing more out-of-this-world yet equally-fascinating answers to this mystery.
Theories on the Purpose of Malta’s Cart Ruts
Many different theories have been presented an attempt to provide the most plausible answers to the mysterious questions of when these car ruts on Malta were created, how they were created, and why they were created in the first place.
One of the wildest speculations of what the cart ruts’ intended purpose could be that they are the tracks of outer space landing craft. There also those who believe that the scars on Malta’s milestone bedrock might be coded messages to the gods. But a more popular yet also far-fetched theory is that archipelago of Malta is actually an existing part of the legendary lost city of Atlantis.
Of course, there are also other theories that have been presented over the years, which many people find to be a lot easier to consider and believe. One theory is that the cart ruts in Malta were constructed for the purpose of transporting agricultural produce and that the tracks were designed in such a way that would have allowed cows pulling these carts to get back home on their own.
Australian archaeologist Claudia Sagona from Birmingham University has a different idea of what the ancient channels found in this country are for. Sagona argued that the cart ruts were actually irrigation ditches from the Stone Age. According to her, in ancient times, torrential rains had washed away the island’s topsoil, and so, the farmers of that time had no other choice but to invent new ways of tending to their crops. She suggested that the Maltese farmers carved this network of trenches into the island’s limestone bedrock to channel away and conserve rainwater, and to protect the soil.
Another likely purpose of the cart-ruts is that they transported stones from ancient quarries across the island. This theory was suggested by archaeologist Anthony Bonanno, and a few of those who conducted a detailed survey of the Clapham Junction agreed that many of the channels found on the Maltese island are associated with the nearby quarries of the time. Transportation of stones from these quarries via the cart ruts found in different parts of the island supposedly made the construction of the ancient temples in Malta possible. This network of tracks is also believed to have been utilized by people for the exportation of quarried stones to Africa.
Though some of these theories are undeniably appealing and quite popular, none of them are completely devoid of flaws in their line of reasoning. And so, until now, there is still no consensus on what the original purpose of the cart-ruts on Malta could be, especially since experts supporting one theory have cleverly presented arguments casting doubt on the plausibility of another theory, and vice versa.
For now, there is no doubt that the enigmatic cart ruts found in Malta will continue to remain unsolved in the foreseeable future in terms of its true purpose, the exact means through which they were formed, or the accurate dates of when these tracks were created and how long they were regularly used by the ancient civilization that once lived there.
And while not many are willing to entertain the idea that the cart ruts on Malta are proof that a highly advanced ancient civilization once dominated the area, these ancient networks of parallel trenches and channels are, at the very least, a testament and reminder that perhaps our ancient ancestors are more advanced and enlightened than we give them credit for. Besides, even without insisting its archaeological merits, it remains undeniable that these ancient tracks are truly a fascinating as well as a puzzling sight to behold.