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 Published May 16, 2021 |  Edit

The Clapham Junction with its Sanding Tracks » Cart Ruts on Malta

March 24, 2013 Ronny Siegel March 24, 2013 Ronny Siegel

Back to article: Back to article: Cart Ruts on Malta – Clapham Junction’s cliff face with its sanding marks

You can find this picture in the following post:
Cart Ruts in Malta – The rock plain of Clapham Junction with its grinding tracks Full resolution (1381 × × 603)

Sanding marks Cart Ruts in Malta

These semi-circular grinding tracks (Cart Ruts) can be seen on a stone plain in Malta. The tracks always run parallel at the same distance and so far you don’t really know how they were created. One suspects with cattle cars, but this does not explain why the whole thing looks like a freight station from the air.

The best way to get to the Cart Ruts is with a line of the Malta Transport Bus System. A few meters from this mysterious place there is a stop.

Comments Comments

Do you have any questions? Do you have any questions? Then please post them here in the comments. I am happy to answer them. Dr. Dr. Cornelius Niels Kopf says: 4. November 2016 at 19:16

Niels C. Kopf

Cart Ruts and Temples in Malta, rethought. Anyone planning their holidays on the islands of Malta or Gozo today is usually only interested in sun and sea at first. And both can be found there abundantly, hospitable and inexpensive. But those who are so “reckless” to inform themselves a little better about their destination before their trip or on site through literature or the Internet will, whether they like it or not, also be fascinated by a completely different peculiarity of this archipelago: by the many, often unusually well-preserved traces of the millennia-old history of these islands.

Many of the visible relics there are still unexplained, enigmatic, cause for fantastic speculation and supposedly full of secrets, not only for the visitor, but also for archaeology and science. And so esotericism, such as that of Messrs. Däniken and Zeitlmair, has seized these places and objects and offered fantastic, almost curious explanations for them.

A good example of this is the much-visited “Cart Ruts”. According to Wikipedia, they date back to the Bronze Age, so they are four to five thousand years old and are referred to as “grinding marks, for which no reasonable explanation has been found to this day.”

Today’s visitor to “Clapham Junction”, a sparsely populated stone plain near the middle south coast of Malta, almost littered with said grooves, is offered a surprising picture: within a radius of several hundred meters, he looks at partly well-preserved, partly heavily weathered ground grooves, the paired and like recessed rails cut into the stone at the same distance of 110 cm from each other in different directions or several times next to each other in the gl before they end after an estimated 50 to 100 meters without a visibly emphasized finish.

The visitor, who may have read about an “alien landing sites” at home, looks for some reasonable explanation in his guidebook or on the local information boards. But what he finds is always described as “mysterious” and “enigmatic”.

Why mysterious? Why enigmatic? For me, the mystery of these traces from the most distant past is that they have been a mystery for many centuries. For there is a simple, plausible explanation of this allegedly mysterious phenomenon, which logically meets all imaginable objections: The traces from the Bronze Age known as Cart Ruts in Malta and Gozo and in many other parts of the then populated world were sports facilities, and the area known as “Clapham Junction” was apparently the “stadium” of Malta. There, in repeatedly changed, sometimes repaired or completely new ruts, which had been struck into the rock floor, people pulled or pushed as quickly as possible to a predetermined target on devices with runners or wheels, which always had the same axle length.

But since these people did not have stopwatches, this had to be done simultaneously in the competition on several equally long lanes next to each other. Therefore, these tracks do not end at any “transport destination” that is desperately sought today, but simply after a predetermined route.

At the logic of this interpretation also change the branches visible today in some places from one or the other channel nothing. Perhaps these “lane changes” at some point over the centuries were part of new competition rules, offered overtaking opportunities or the like, maybe they just served the labor savings: If, for example, the upper part of a track was already worn and damaged, so you could with the production of a relatively short turn the intact part of an adjacent track use without having to strike a completely new groove in the stone. And the much-debated fact that no signs of wear from hoofed animals can be found between the rails confirms the idea that the facilities were used only by bare-footed or light-footed people.

The people of the Bronze Age had ships, needed powerful, muscular oarsmen, needed for raids and disputes strongest fighters, often even chose their leaders according to their physical strength. And nowhere could strength be measured better than at such sporting, and certainly religious, events where the best representatives of each village, family or clan competed against each other. These athletes, as historical evidence suggests, had trained before the competition “at home”, had subsequently qualified in local fights as the strongest representatives of the local community and were thus identified for the big final competition. That is why, even after thousands of years, at various places in Malta, Gozo or elsewhere, we repeatedly find individual or paired tracks, which were then certainly used as private practice sites or for local excretions.

It is likely that such competitions, where men could defeat other men in public without injuring them, were set up in many places, including places with soft, rapidly weathering terrain. But they are neither preserved nor do they seem to have proven themselves at that time. For, regardless of whether the carriages or carriages were one-axle or two-axle, the obvious problem for a long time apparently was the lack of a steerable axle. Therefore, they made the effort to chisel relatively deep gutters in the rocky soil, so wheels or runners could be kept in the lane. However, this need no longer existed after the invention of the steerable axle, from this point on the stone tracks were even disturbing.


From this consideration, an interested historian could narrow down the periods in which the cart ruts were knocked into the ground, how long they were used, and when they were superfluous. Without having concerned myself with comparable historical data, I believe that these venues were created very early, but then used for only a few centuries. For at least by the Iron Age, humans were able to make their vehicles steerable in a relatively simple way.

Such showdowns, which are not only useful for elite selection, but perhaps even become something like sport, are so normal, humane and natural that our children do the same today, without having to be given any guidance. Therefore, the fact that the same traces can be found today in many places in different regions of the world, does not yet derive any “international” contacts of the people of that time. Because sport, showdowns, competition in many forms is part of everyday life, not only today, but certainly in earlier times. Scientific archeology should occasionally think of this, so that it does not run the risk of immediately calling every depicted animal a sacrificial animal, every human figure a statue of the gods, and every major architectural relic a temple.

In this sense, I am also convinced that the so-called “temples” in Malta were not temples, but communal, well-secured warehouses of individual large families, villages or clans. For the people of Malta and Gozo, like the Vikings many centuries later, must have been superior seafarers due to their location and the fact that their ancestors had come to the islands by boat. And that’s why Malta’s able-bodied men were in the summer, after the winter storms were over, probably mostly on months of pirate, proven on the shores of Sicily, Italy or Africa.


In these summer months, however, the women and children were at home without male help, without male protection and the fields also often offered only little food in the hot, rainy time. Therefore, during the winter months when the men were present, the individual villages, clans, and family clans in Malta created large retirement homes whose thick walls were not only defensible well by a few from above, but where food was above all cool and could be stored safely. The well-known small animal caravan exhibited on a stone frieze in the Valletta Archaeological Museum from such a “temple” does not show “sacrificial animals”, but rather animals that are brought to one of these buildings because they were to be given away there. And in this sense, the relatively short accesses, which do not really lead to the interior of the building, are to be understood. They are closed after a few meters with an insurmountable large stone, which has only in the upper part of an opening, which is imaginatively interpreted as a “vision window”. In fact, these openings were dispensers, through which food, small animals or even feed were fed into the interior without the bearer being able to penetrate into the secured building himself. Because if you had to open a door or a gate for this levy, there would probably have been the danger that someone might enter the building with malicious intent on the pretext of giving something away.

The reinterpretation of the megalithic structures on Malta, hitherto consistently referred to as “temples”, finally suggests a reinterpretation of the “sacrificial altars” shown in many of these buildings. These heavy plates, lying horizontally on supports, are made of a special stone, the size and hardness of which was probably chosen because something should be worked on with power and sharp devices. Otherwise one would have taken the trouble to bring in these heavyweights and pick them up on the supporting stones, probably not made.

I therefore believe that these stone tables, previously interpreted as “altars”, were simply kitchen tables on which the animals brought in were slaughtered and dismantled into parts before they were distributed or made storable by smoking or curing, for example, and the fact that these tables are usually free-standing and not attached to a wall indicates this use. This made it easy to wipe blood and inedible waste off the table without contaminating the desired pieces.

And the fact that today there are no notches or scratch marks on the surface of these countertops is not surprising after their long, unprotected storage in the open air.

Of course, I also believe that the people of the past could often only explain and understand their world through their religion, and that they therefore celebrated large, religious festivals and often increased their profane community facilities or gatherings through religious interpretations. Nevertheless, sports fields remain mainly sports fields, even if the events there would be associated with religious celebrations. And communal warehouses, which are intended to ensure the survival of entire population groups in times of deprivation or uncertainty, have above all this very real meaning and purpose, even if solstices are observed in these places or sacrifices and prophecies take place.

When we think about our early past today, for many of us this means not only science and research, but rightly also fantasy, creativity, dreams, a desire to understand oneself. And so perhaps the two rather sober reinterpretations of two “mysteries of the past” that I have presented here so imaginatively and often poetically deprive some readers or visitors of these historical sites of the pleasure of being able to puzzle and dream for themselves. So have I stolen dreams, prevented fantasy, shortened poetry? These islands, which I love and have visited so often, still offer enough unsolved mysteries and mysteries. These islands, which I have loved and visited so many times, still offer enough unresolved secrets and riddles.
For example, there are the many morbidly overweight and mostly headless statues of women, who have always been referred to as goddesses or priestesses. Why? Because they were found in a temple, in a temple that was not a temple? Or because they … Or because she …
But if you then consider that … But that’s a completely different story.