Tas-Silġ is a rounded hilltop overlooking Marsaxlokk Bay. It is a multi-period sanctuary site covering all eras from Neolithic to the fourth century AD, and due to this it indicates to archaeologists several different layers of excavation.
The area was first inhabited when a temple was built in the Tarxien phase of Maltese prehistory, sometime around 3000 to 2500 BC. Few remains from the original temple can be seen, but the scatter of megaliths over the hill suggests that there was a large complex with at least 3 temples and possibly a village surrounding it. A D-shaped setting of large blocks that was part of the four-apsed temple still exists as it was later incorporated into the other buildings on the site. In the Bronze Age, the temple was probably converted into a settlement, as had been done in other sites such as Borġ in-Nadur.
In the deepest layer of deposits, archaeologists found various artifacts including pottery, lithics, and a standing fat lady. From the Bronze Age layer, some sherds, stone tools and pottery were found. Other evidence from the Bronze Age consists of the large amount of handiwork.
After the Phoenicians took over Malta in around 700 BC, they built a Punic temple to Astarte incorporating upstanding remains of the earlier temple. A forward extension was added to the curved facade, and a monumental doorway flanked with two pilasters and topped by a huge stone slab was built. The sanctuary"s importance eventually grew and a portico was added around 300 BC. Some parts of the temple, including a tower, might have been designed as a fortification to help defend it from possible invaders.
A threshold slab pierced by three libation holes that divided the eastern part of the temple and the western side, as well as a series of ashlar foundation walls for a platform built to the south of the main sanctuary still exist. Around this area, various remains were found including pottery, ash, animal bones, coins and shreds. Some of these shreds have votive inscriptions. It is claimed that the Cippi of Melqart might have originally been at the Tas-Silġ temple, but their origin is disputed.
In the Roman era, the Punic temple was converted into a sanctuary of Juno, which was the Roman equivalent to Astarte. In 70 BC, Cicero mentioned the temple in his Verrine Orations, in which he said that the temple was revered by everyone including pirates and Numidian princes, but the Roman Governor of Sicily had stolen some of its treasures. Some Roman material was discovered in various deposits around a well in the lower terrace of Tas-Silġ.
Large water storage areas under Tas-Silġ were recently found and mapped, and they probably date to the Punic or Roman eras.
Later on, in the 4th or 5th centuries AD, a Byzantine monastery were built over the remains of the previous temples. The church had a central nave separated from the aisles by two rows of columns, and a small baptismal font was constructed in what was originally the megalithic temple. Some remains of sculpture were found, including a worn female marble head and an ivory capital with a hanging palmette. Pottery from this period was also found, including amphorae and locally made plates and other items.
During the Byzantine period, it may be that the fat lady was deliberately defaced and buried in a hollow.
In the 8th century, defensive walls were hastily built around the monastery at Tas-Silġ.
The monastery was abandoned soon after the Arabs occupied Malta in 870 AD. The site was turned into a quarry and stones from the original structure were removed. In the medieval period farms were built on the area, and rubble walls from this era still exist. The whole site was buried under a metre of soil before being excavated.References:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.