At different sites over the two main islands of Malta and in the surrounding waters are found some man-made features which have been given the name ‘cart ruts’, largely because the first visitors to discover them believed they had been worn by a cart. Their most famous site is at Clapham Junction, named after Britain’s busiest railway intersection, an area in the southwestern part of Malta, where the wind sweeps in from the sea and the air smells particularly salty. This area, about a hectare in size, is similar in appearance to a limestone pavement and is scored by parallel channels up to 20 inches deep and 8 inches wide, with another 8 inches separating the two channels.
These ruts run mostly in straight lines in no particular direction, though there are places where one set of ruts branches off from another, like a set of railway points. There are many ideas about what created these ruts. One theory is that a contraption, similar to the travois of the Native American, wore them away, though this is difficult to reconcile with the shape of the ruts, which to the hand feel smooth and rounded at their base, more consistent with wheels wearing away the rock. If travois were used, what heavy weight was transported on a regular enough basis, along the same path, to wear away the ruts so deeply and why was it being moved by the people of the time?
This is an extract from my book Julian’s Journeys – please visit
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