Copyright The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Melita Historica. [Malta Historical Society]. 7(1976)1(100)

G. WETTINGER, "Some Maltese Medieval Place-Names of Archaeological Interest", in Atti del Colloquio Internazionale di Archeologia Medievale, Palermo 1976, 36 pp.

The social history and topography of Medieval Malta is less of a terra incognita today than it was ten years ago, when Godfrey Wettinger started publishing a series of articles based on years of meticulous research and card-indexing from original sources, culminating in contributions such as the present one and "The Lost Villages and Hamlets of Malta" (Medieval Malta, A T Luttrell ed., London 1975, 181-216). Wettinger is not only one of the most hard-working, prolific and brainy local historians, but also a foremost authority on Malta's medieval past, thanks to his unequalled familiarity with the sources and the scientific, if necessarily wary, interpretation and reconstruction of the evidence gleaned from them. In the present essay he collects and examines toponyms with the words ħaġa, blata, ġebel, aura, għar, demus (cave-tomb), dikkiena (stone bench), torba (cemetery, probably Muslim), dejr (convent, probably pre-Muslim) and others, of direct interest to the archaeologist Such a long and documented collction or place-names is of paramount importance to the linguist as well. Until Wettinger's studies were published, starting with "The Distribution of Surnames in Malta in 1419 and the 1480s" (1968), the earliest extant word-lists in Maltese were those by Megiser (1611) and Abela (1647), for whatever they were worth. In the case of languages like Maltese devoid of an old written tradition, onomastics has to come to the rescue providing clues on the development of the language throughout the centuries. Articles such as this one, therefore, are of considerable linguistic value.

G. Mangion