Current Affairs
Carbon dating of bones found in the Żejtun church dedicated to San Girgor

Fifty years after the discovery of historic passageways and a quantity of bones in the Żejtun church dedicated to San Girgor, the Għaqda Wirt iż-Żejtun will be sending bone samples overseas to have established the dates when these people lived.

On 12th March, 1969, a number of secret passages were discovered in the church’s transept. These contained the bones and remains of more than 50 people. The President and founder of Għaqda Wirt iż-Żejtun, the architect Ruben Abela, said the find was made by Grezzju Vella, a 16-year-old youth who was helping his uncle with screed roof shuttering for the church. It had been rumoured for many years that secret passages existed around the church.

Examination of the bones established these were of males, females, children and elderly persons, the oldest being 70. Todate it remains a mystery why these bones ended up in these secret passages.

Ruben Abela said when the bones were found the story went around that these were people from Żejtun who were trapped there in the final raid by Turkish forces in 1614 and as they had died there, this was to remain their grave. Eventually, in 1979 a study was carried out by medical professionals from Malta University which established that quantities of soil were found in the bone joints and that these may have been buried somewhere else and the space used as a charnel house where bones are deposited after being exhumed from graves, a factor that also gives rise to various considerations. Why for example had the task been undertaken to transport the bones to the church roof and why were the bones not piled together but in fact were strewn about, while normally a charnel house is found in cemeteries or otherwise a number of graves are reserved to act as a charnel house.

In order to cast further light on the bones found, Wirt iż-Żejtun with the help of Heritage Malta and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage will send bone samples to be carbon dated to establish the dates when these people were alive.

It is noticeable that the secret passages contain openings to the towers of San Luċjan and San Tumas, while dates and initials are also etched on the wall. The date etched is 1909 and the initials are of two persons on the same day. Architect Abela said it is probable the two persons entered the passage but did not tell anybody because Malta had just experienced a plague and that the bones may have plague-infested and they could have been infested themselves.

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