The Ramla Bay Masterplan could include ‘non-invasive’ protections for the old Roman Villa, as part of its development, Professor Anthony Bonanno tells Newsbook.com.mt.

Requested for comment on the commencement of the government’s plans for this Gozo beach, the Professor of Classics and Archaeology at the University of Malta explained that there could be provisions made to preserve the more than 2000 year old Roman ruins.

Professor Bonanno explained that preservation could come in the form of installing a ‘non-invasive protective see-through fence around the remains, together with weather-resistant panels with easy to follow information and plans of the ancient remains’.

This was one of two options which the Classicist presented, with a second, ‘less desirable option,’ being to, ‘re-expose the remains and surround them as per option 1.’

It is understood that archaeological excavations had taken place in 1910, under the coordination of Temi Zammit and Thomas Ashby of the British School of Rome. Excavations had uncovered the foundation of a number of rooms, among them being a heated bathing room and cold bath.

The Classicist added that in addition to the Roman Villa, there is also a wall submerged in the bay which is believed to have been built during the Knights period, ‘for defense purposes.’ He added that it was ‘very likely that, given their size, some, if not all, of its stone blocks were quarried from the walls of the ancient villa’.

Storm waves and vandalism

In order to protect the site the excavation was refilled. However, owing to bi-annual northerly storms and subsequent surges, a number of the rooms closest to the shore, end up being re-exposed to the elements.

‘So far as we know no human vandalism has been recorded since the 1910 excavations. A couple of ancient sculptures discovered on that occasion have disappeared without a trace,’ Professor Bonanno added.

Protecting Ramla’s natural heritage

Towards the end of last month, Minister for Gozo Justyne Caruana said that a Masterplan was being drawn up in order to protect Ramla Bay and to future-proof it.

Speaking on location, the Minister explained that the plan would initially include discussions with a variety of entities focused on protecting key aspects like the ecology and historical significance of the area for Gozo.

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In addition, it would also include deal with challenges like managing traffic and infrastructure, as well as the facilities found at the Bay. Ramla Bay is one of 12 Blue Flag beaches in Malta and Gozo, awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), which is an NGO. The certification designates the beaches’ sustainability as a tourism site.

Building on what is already there

Responding to a request for comment from Newsbook.com.mt, the Environmental Resources Authority explained that they welcomed the Masterplan saying it would effectively, ‘build on what is already in place’.

ERA’s spokesperson added that the Masterplan, ‘would need to be sensitive to environmental aspects in line with current legislation’.

They added that there are regular discussions between their representatives and those from the Environment Ministry (MESDC) and the Ministry for Gozo on the ecological and environmental protections for sites across the archipelago.

Ramla was designated as a Special Area of Conservation of International Importance and an Area of Ecological Importance under national law, in 2008 and 2016 respectively. The bay itself is also classed as one of Malta’s Natura 2000 sites under the EU Habitats Directive.

Credit: ERA

‘The site was designated as a Natura 2000 site due to the very important and unique features, consisting namely of a sandy beach, different types of sand dunes, fixed dunes, inland rocks and boulder screes, as well as a small marshland comprising of standing and running water flowing from the mouth of Wied ir-Ramla to the pocket beach and the sea,’ the spokesperson added.

No point in re-excavation

When asked about the value of re-excavating the Roman ruins, Professor Bonanno said he saw no point in this venture.

‘Once a site is excavated, especially if thoroughly excavated, there is no way you can retrieve the information that is destroyed in the process; so I do not see the point of a re-excavation.’