Ras il-Wardija
History
ON GUARD of THE MEDITERRANEAN
ARCHAEOLOGICAL MISSION AT GOZO - RAS IL-WARDIJA PROJECT

The promontory of Ras il-Wardija, on the northwestern cusp of the Island of Gozo holds one of the most spectacular temples dedicated to the Phoenician goddess Astarte of the ancient Mediterranean. Sapienza University of Rome - thanks to its role in Phoenician archeology - aims at resuming the research activities carried out in the last century, pursuing the study the materials found there, by means of any further development of the site under the guidance of local Authorities.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIONS AT RAS IL-WARDIJA
THE TEMPLE OF ASTARTE

Previous excavations of Sapienza University at Gozo (1964-1967)
The scientific activity of the archaeologists of Sapienza at Gozo dates back from the years 1964-1967, when the Italian Archaeological Mission in Malta (Missione), active at Malta since 1963, identified and explored the Ras il-Wardija Sanctuary, a cult place partially carved in the rock, and divided into two natural terraces sloping down to the cliff overlooking the sea. The upper terrace keeps the rock complex, the sacred installations and the cisterns, in the lower one is the temple surrounded by a sacred enclosure. The sanctuary arose during the Phoenician and Punic period (5th century BC) and was consecrated to Astarte, but the overall chronology of the different phases of use must be confirmed. Successively, in Hellenistic and Roman period, from the 3rd century BC to the 2nd century AD, it held the important cult of Hera-Juno. Wardija was one of the main maritime sanctuaries dedicated to the Great Goddess of sailors, along the ancient "Route of the Great Islands" that linked the East to the West Mediterranean, in a central and strategic position for maritime trades.
The importance of the Sanctuary of Hera-Juno-Astarte in Gozo is also testified by ancient sources. Actually, the Sanctuary also had the function of a lighthouse, a reliable landmark for sailors during the navigation along the coast.
The results of the previous Italian Archaeological Mission in Malta were preliminarily published in the Sapienza Archaeological Mission in Malta 1964-1967 series. What is missing are the final report of this monument, and the historical and archaeological framework of the Sanctuary in relation to the settlement of Gozo and the sea routes, from the Phoenician age throughout the long period of frequentation of the sacred place.

The Expedition is committed to spreading knowledge of the history and archeology of the site in which it works. Citizens’ awareness of their archaeological, naturalistic and historical heritage is the necessary prerequisite for a sustainable tourism development and a responsible use of monuments.
For this purpose, the Mission includes in its principal objectives the publication of an annual report on archaeological activities and the production of informative material (videos and posts) to illustrate such activities to the public.