The Cart Ruts

6 Mar

Sometimes we go in search of something for curiosity’s sake. This was the case with “The Cart Ruts.” We had heard they were important to see and nearby but hard to find. Ah, a quest!

After an hour of walking, a wrong turn onto a busy urban highway, and along a dirt road where huge cement trucks were passing while we choked on the dust, there they were.


What, you may ask, am I looking at?

You are looking at the Naxxar Gap Cart Ruts curving down the Great Fault Escarpment in sweeping curves. These are ancient and mysterious paired grooves in the rock found in Malta and at other sites in Europe. The deep ruts, rilles, tracks, grooves, or channels were left in Malta’s limestone but in such numbers, variety and confusion that they leave more questions than answers.

If they were created and used by some form of vehicle then how did they move along some of these tracks when the pairs of ruts are nearly a meter deep?

Why do the Cart Ruts on the islands of Malta and Gozo lead straight off high cliffs and isolated headlands?

Why do some extend into the sea?

Who made the ruts?  Was it the Maltese Temple Builders, Romans, Phoenicians, Malta’s Bronze Age people or other original Maltese peoples?

They could be glacial grooves in the limestone. Perhaps the grooves filled up with packed mud every spring creating a smooth and solid surface on which classic wheeled carts could pass. Perhaps it was a large-scale irrigation system.

There is no definitive answer. What do you think?

3 Responses to “The Cart Ruts”

  1. John Pitts May 26, 2017 at 7:01 pm #

    Having observed a number of these “cart rut” formations on Malta and Gozo, I came to the conclusion that they were created by friction from some kind of giant sleds which were pushed or pulled across the land on tracks, using small pebbles as a barrier between the sled tracks and the ground. That is how the ruts became deeper and deeper. When they became too deep, new tracks had to be created and that is why several tracks are adjacent and even intersecting. Purpose: To transport topsoil to augment the small amount of soil found in lower areas. Soil was a scarce item on the item and necessary for plant cultivation and possible animal husbandry. That is my theory and iIm sticking to it, until I come up with a better theory.

    • Jill May 26, 2017 at 7:16 pm #

      Very interesting theory John and one we had not heard before. Makes lots of sense. One of the confounding facts for many is that the ruts lead off cliffs next to the sea. Could be the cliffs have eroded and the original trails did circle back. Fun to imagine what really happened. Jill

      • John Pitts May 26, 2017 at 8:02 pm #

        Thanks for that, Jill. I hope to get back to Malta in a couple of years and continue my research into those mystifying ruts. I have a good friend from Grad School (SAIS, Bologna) who is Maltese and took us around the island of Valleta and Gozo and he did not have an explanation for those ruts. Maybe we will never know. I am also interested in the rock art you saw which shows a boat. Pretty old stuff. Few people realize that the megalithic monuments of Malta predate the Pyramids in Egypt! John

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