PRESS RELEASE BY THE MINISTRY FOR JUSTICE, CULTURE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIAT FOR THE EU PRESIDENCY 2017 AND EU FUNDS: Inauguration of conservation works at ?al Saflieni Hypogeum

After months of major conservation works, the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum will re-open its doors to the public. These works reviewed and redesigned the environmental management of the Hypogeum and also include new visitor facilities. This project was supported by a grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants 2009-2014.

The re-opening of the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, where innovative technology meets the preservation of this underground prehistoric cemetery, was inaugurated by Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici, who was accompanied by Parliamentary Secretary for the EU Presidency 2017 and EU Funds Ian Borg, and CEO of Heritage Malta Kenneth Gambin.

Minister Bonnici said that the restoration and conservation of this unique treasure, as well as the work to ensure that the site has modern visitor facilities, was the result of another project that was carried out diligently, on time, and on budget. This will continue to raise the profile of this world heritage site in the south of Malta which attracts some 30,000 tourists every year.

Throughout this administration, over 80 heritage sites in towns and villages across Malta and Gozo were given back to the public with an investment of over Euros 85 million, Minister Bonnici said.

Parliamentary Secretary for the EU Presidency 2017 and EU Funds Ian Borg said that this project consisted of an investment of some Euros 1.1 million, of which Euros 975,500 came from the European Economic Union Fund and the Norwegian Funds 2004-2009; it was also co-financed by Heritage Malta. Ian Borg said that UNESCO’s mission to assist the Maltese Government in the preservation of Hal Saflieni’s Hypogeum was another clear sign of the importance of our historical heritage, and that this was made possible through European funds.

The Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, an underground prehistoric cemetery used from around 4000 BCE to 2500 BCE, is one of the most extraordinary archaeological sites in the world. It has been recognised by UNESCO as a site that bears unique testimony to a civilisation which has disappeared.

The site consists of a series of rock-cut chambers set on three levels. Carved in the living rock, some of the chambers of the Hypogeum are very similar to contemporary-built megalithic structures. The walls and ceilings of some of the rooms are also painted in red ochre. The preservation of these paintings remains the site’s main conservation concern.

Scientific missions aimed at assisting the Maltese Government in preserving the site underlined the importance of maintaining stable climatic conditions within. An environmental control system was installed in the 1990s; however, technological advances and an improved understanding of the challenges faced on this site have necessitated the review and redesign of its environmental management.

The total eligible cost of Euros 1.1m, supported by a grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants 2009-2014, has provided Heritage Malta with the necessary funds to conduct more studies to assess the current condition of the site in terms of conservation, geology and organic residues. Another important element of the project involved the installation of a micro-climate management system, with both passive and active control measures. Passive measures included the replacement of the existing insulated roof sheeting which covers the monument to eliminate rainwater leakage, improvement of the insulation of the external walls, and elimination of fabric-lined wall panelling and flooring. Active measures included the installation of an advanced environmental management system designed to keep humidity and temperature levels stable, at the levels required for the preservation of the site. This system incorporates some elements of the previous design, but makes use of better and more efficient technology.

Additional works also included the investigation and replacement of overlying connections to water mains and sewers, as well as new visitor facilities which make better use of the limited space within the building.

The public can visit the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum from the 15th of May. Tickets are available online on https://booking.heritagemalta.org/ with a total of 20 tickets daily being available for the day after. These tickets can be bought from Fort St. Elmo and from the Gozo Museum of Archaeology. Tours in the underground prehistoric cemetery will still be held every hour, and there will be a total of eight tours every day.

Thanks to new technology, visitors who do not manage to book a ticket for the regular tour will still have the opportunity to explore this prehistoric site through a new immersive experience installed in the redesigned interpretation centre. 70 tickets for this audiovisual show will be available daily, and these can be booked through the same website.

Ticket prices for the regular tours are as follows: Euros 35 for adults; Euros 15 for children; Euros 20 for seniors/students; and Euros 40 for last minute tickets. Heritage Malta members benefit from a 50% discount.

Ticket prices for the audiovisual show in the new interpretation centre are as follows: Euros 5 for adults; and Euros 3.50 for seniors/children/students/concessions.

Source: Government of Malta