Clapham Junction Cart Ruts

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Clapham Junction, officially called Misrah Ghar il-Kbir, is widely known for its mysterious Cart Ruts. Many scientists tried to find out the way these irregularities of the rock appeared, but there are no explanations, which could be grounded by the facts. The first discussion on the possible origin of the ruts is dated by the 17th century. Still, no findings, records or even legends which could explain the mystery have been ever found.

Located between the Dingli Cliffs and the Buskett Gardens, not far from Mdina, the Clapham Junction site in Siggiewi, is the place where the tracks are the most generously interlaced on the ground. Nevertheless, this is not the only spot on Malta, where tourists can find the crisscrossed tracks. They can also be seen in Bidnija, San Gwann, Naxxar and on others Maltese sites.

The tracks differ in their forms from one place to another. Some of them are flat and wide, some of them are deep and narrow. In certain areas they are up to 60 centimetres deep. The distance between parallel ruts varies from 110 to 140 centimetres. On certain segments the tracks cross with each other. Particular interest is caused by the ridges which form the triangles, both equilateral and isosceles ones. Looking from above, this all seems to be kind of a net of railway lines, with their turns and junctions in various route directions. By the way, the Clapham Junction name appeared as the site reminded one Englishman of the same name railway station in London.

Most of the specialists presume that the ruts and ridges on the rocks appeared about 2000 BC, in times when people came to inhabit Malta in the Bronze Age. There are three the most believable versions of ruts’ origin. One says that these tracks might be an irrigation system. The other presumes that the traces are real cart ruts created for goods transportation. And the third one suggests that the ruts must be considered as the tracks made by the sledges used in the past for transportation of heavy goods.

British scientists from the University of Portsmouth are almost sure that the tracks were made by the carts when they passed their routes. They think that the rock was simply not that solid to withstand the weight of the loaded carts and when the wooden wheels passed the ground the pressure would practically push the rock down. The group of specialists, which included Professor Mottershead, Doctor Alastair Pearson, and Martin Schaefer even hold a special experiment to prove their idea and collect evidence. The cart of the estimated weight and size was designed and tried on the Maltese limestone surface. The rock proved to be very soft. Even if it withstood pressure in conditions of dry weather, the ground might go down later on, after a rainfall. Becoming wet, the Maltese rock loses about 80% of its resistance. As the group of scientists believes, the carters would use one and the same ruts route only for a certain period of time. But when the tracks became too deep for a cart to move on, they had to lay new routes. This is why there are so many parallel or crossing lines in same locations.

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