Fossils

The cliffs around the Marfa Peninsula and Ċirkewwa are dotted with fossils. Keep an eye out and you may even spot sharks’ teeth, for which Malta is particularly famous. ‘Stony tongues’ (glossopetrae) were collected by visitors to Malta from the earliest times. These were gleamingly polished, triangular objects and were once thought to be related to the shipwrecking of St Paul in AD 60. According to legend, he was bitten by a snake, and he cursed it, banishing it from the island. The only remnant of the reptile was its petrified tooth.

In the 16th century, the German Conrad Gesner pointed out the similarity of glossopetrae to the tooth of the dogfish. In 1666 a Danish doctor, Nikolaus Stensius, dissected a shark that had washed up locally and was able to prove the real origin of the stony tongues. It’s now forbidden to collect fossils, but if you don't spot any on the cliffs, you can see the impressive teeth at either Malta or Gozo’s Natural History Museum.