St Paul’s Catacombs has been used as a spiritual hub and burial ground from the Phoenician up to the Byzantine
period. Secrets about ancient societies that used it over the past 2400 years ago are slowly being unravelled. Research is also revealing insights on some of the individuals buried here during the 900 years or so that this site was used for burials. To this effect, Heritage Malta has collaborated with Thought3D to create a 3D print of one of the skulls discovered during the excavations carried out at the site between 2010 and 2014.
St Paul’s Catacombs consist of two large areas littered with more than 30 hypogea, of which the main complex, situated within the St Paul’s cluster, comprises a complex system of interconnected passages and tombs covering an area over 2000 square metres. These are, however, only a small fraction of the large cemetery that used to occupy the area.
The skull being studied belongs to skeleton 248, pertaining to a young lady that was strangely buried in the shaft of tomb 15 rather than in the burial chamber itself. The skeleton was discovered articulated from the mid-thoracic region upwards with the rest of the bones found piled in the layers above the articulation. This was evidence of people wanting to access the actual burial chamber after she was buried and most of the skeleton was thus shoveled to one side.
Nevertheless, archaeologists excavating the site managed to recover most of the skeleton, as well as a number of artefacts with which she was buried. These include imported ceramics, a small glass pendant in the shape of a human face, a bone hair pin still lodged behind her head where it used to hold her hair and a small perfume glass bottle that was placed right next to her head at the time of burial.
Heritage Malta in collaboration with Thought3D, printed a 3D replica of the skull and is one step closer to know more about this young lady buried at the St Paul’s Catacombs around 2000 years ago.
The original skeleton and other artefacts found within this burial site are on display at St Paul’s Catacombs.