The seaside town of Birżebbuġa is situated at the southeast of the island of Malta and lies between Kalafrana to the south and the fishing village of Marsaxlokk to the northeast, and although Birżebbuġa is on the coast, it is the meeting point of four beautiful valleys, which are Wied Dalam, Wied Żembaq, Wied il-Qoton and Wied il-Buni.
Many stories revolve around the name of Birżebbuġa. For example, legend has it that olives were stored in wells filled with sea water; another story is that olive tees were planted in and around what was then a small village; another is that when the word ‘Birżebbuġa’ is divided into ‘Bir’ and ‘żebbuġa’, ‘Bir’ means a well, while ‘żebbuġa’ means an olive, thus when the two are joined together the word ‘Biżebbuġa’ will emerge, and finally there was the question of whether the name should be pronounced Bur Żebbuġa or Birżebbuġa because Bur Żebbuġa means land of olives. Up until the end of 1800’s wells, which would have been used for olives, could be seen at the bottom of the sea where it is shallow. Today wells are still in existence and can be seen on the rocks at St. George’s Bay.
In the vicinity of the village of Birżebbuġa there is Għar Dalam literally meaning a dark cave. Għar Dalam Cave is a highly important site as it was here that the earliest evidence of human presence on Malta was discovered, dating back to the Neolithic Period some 7,400 years ago. The display area consists of two parts: the cave and the museum, which exhibits a remarkable wealth of finds from animal bones to human artefacts. An overlaying river running at right angles formed the cave. It is some 144 metres deep, but only the first fifty metres are open to visitors.
Għar Dalam Cave The lowermost layers, more than 500,000 years old, contain the fossil bones of dwarf elephants, hippopotami, micro-mammals and birds. Above the pebble layer that follows is the so-called ‘deer’ layer, dated to around 18,000 years ago. The top layer dates to less than 10,000 years and holds evidence of the first human on the Island. Experts hold that these remains suggest that the Islands were once a land bridge to continental Europe.
Other remains include those of prehistoric temple or settlement, Borġ-in-Nadur, which date from the Bronze Age. The settelment was fortified with a large stone wall which is still visible today. These temples ruins are important because they appear to reveal not only a four-apse temple (c.2000 BC), but also an authentic fortified, Bronze Age domestic settlement. The remains of a large, defensive wall lie nearby, running across the head of a promontory between two valleys leading down to two bays. The wall was built facing the inland, and thus the village would have the sea to its back. This logistic situation leads scholars to believe that the people living in the village were much more afraid of being attacked from the land rather than the sea.
Traces of the Bronze Age huts were discovered lying just behind the wall and the depth of the deposits was very shallow, covering the remains of the Temple Period. Archaeologists have found evidence, which shows that the Neolithic population became extinct and the islands were uninhabited. Archaeologists think that this could be due to no agricultural produce, or to civil warfare because of temple piques, or due to the Neolithic population being murdered by war-like tribes. Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of the three apses (semi-circular rooms) of the temple. Beyond the main entrance, there is a wide elliptical area around 25 m long and 15 m wide. As for now there is only left a Trilithon Entrance. Visists to these sites can be arranged by appointment.
Another cave to visit to Għar Ħasan situated right on the edge of a sheer cliff in the vicinity of Birżebbuġa’s Free Port, about 2.5 km along the road to Żurrieq. Walking from Birżebbuġa to Għar Ħasan’s Cave is a 25 minute walk.According to legend, it was used by a 12th century Saracen pirate. The Turk, called Ħasan, abducted a Maltese girl and kept her inside the cave. When discovered by the locals he preferred to kill the girl adn commit suicide rather than be captured, so he hurled himself and the girl into the sea below. At the entrance of the cave, one can hire a torch for a very small fee so you can find your way around.