Ras il-Wardija Sanctuary Revisited: A re-assessment of the evidence and newly informed interpretations of a Punic-Roman sanctuary in Gozo (Malta) [Paperback]

George Azzopardi(Author)

ISBN: 9781784916695 | Published by: Archaeopress Archaeology | Year of Publication: 2017 | 88p, H11.5 x W8, Illustrated throughout in black & white
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Ras il-Wardija Sanctuary Revisited


The secluded sanctuary on the coastal promontory of Ras il-Wardija on the central Mediterranean island of Gozo (near Malta) constitutes another landmark on the religious map of the ancient Mediterranean. Ritual activity at the sanctuary seems to be evidenced from around the 3rd century BC to the 2nd century AD and, possibly, even as late as the 4th century AD. This ritual activity was focused in a small built temple and in a rock-cut cave that seems to have incorporated a built extension in a later stage. But the practised cult or cults were aniconic and remained so largely throughout. This may explain why the sanctuary’s excavators did not report any findings of statuettes or any figural images. Contemporaneously, figural images were also venerated on other sites showing that, for a long while, iconism and aniconism co-existed on the Maltese islands. There might have been more than one deity venerated in this sanctuary. Dionysos could have been one of them. But whoever they were, they are likely to have been somehow connected with the sea and / or with a maritime community or communities as the sanctuary itself evidently was.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: 1.1 Introducing the sanctuary site at Ras il-Wardija

1.2 History of research and existing literature

1.3 Objectives, aims, approach, and method of this study

1.4 Background to the Maltese islands: a brief historical profile

Chapter 2: 2.1 Ras il-Wardija and its regional context: geographical extent and topography

2.2 Continuous human presence and occupation

2.3 Maritime connections and related activities

2.4 Seeking divine protection at sea

Chapter 3: 3.1 The toponym ‘Ras il-Wardija’

3.2 Origins and development of the sanctuary complex

3.3 Relationship between the sanctuary and the physical form of the landscape

3.4 Visual domination of the seascape

3.5 The temple building on the first terrace

3.6 The cave and ancillary features on the fifth terrace

3.7 Sacrality of doors: doorways with offering holes or other sacred features

3.8 Stone worship

3.9 Possible mysteries and the enigmatic cruciform and ‘flying’ figures

3.10 Regulating relations through ritual

Chapter 4: 4.1 Closure of the site

4.2 Concluding observations

Appendix I

Appendix II


General Index

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