Ghar Dalam (Eng. – The Cave of darkness) is the most antique cave in Malta. It is considered to be the first known place of human presence in Malta and nowadays is an important scientific object and popular tourist attraction.
According to the data of archeological excavations, the most ancient artifact found in the cave – the skeleton of dwarf hippopotamus – is almost 180 thousand years old.
The first scientific investigations of the cave refer to the year 1885, but it was closed to the public visits up to 1933. During the World War II the cave was used as a bomb shelter. In the second half of the 20th century the museum was established nearby, containing numerous valuable items found in the cave. It can be visited nowadays. In 1980 two important exponents were stolen from the museum – the remains of a dwarf elephant and a scull of a child belonging to the Neolith epoch.
Detailed examination of the cave was conducted in 1987 by a group of scientists under the direction of Italian paleontologist professor Emmanuel Anati. During the investigations the scientists found some pieces of art referring to Paleolithic period. Prehistoric people, human limbs and animals were depicted on some of the stalagmites. Unfortunately, some works were destroyed by vandals.
Today it is known that the cave consists of 6 strata: the stratum of domestic animals containing traces of human activity referring to prehistoric period with household items and bones of domestic animals; the limestone stratum; the stratum of deer with bones of wild animals; the stratum of pebbles; the stratum of hippopotamuses with remains of dwarf elephants, hippopotamuses and the giant dormouse and the clay stratum without bones, but with some valuable plant material.
Nowadays the cave is a tourist attraction and one of the most interesting places of Malta. Its total length is 144 meters but only the first 50 meters are opened for public visits. Everyone who visits The Cave of Darkness gets a wonderful opportunity to see, to touch and to feel the antique history of human civilization.