Megalitter på Malta

På trods af sin lille størrelse er der flere spændende megalitsteder på øerne.

Xaghra Stone Circle

Xaghra Stone Circle

Stone Circle in Gozo. In a field about 700 metres to the west of Ggantija. Not a true stone circle in the common meaning it was a circular walled construction about 120 metres in circumference consisting of uprights about 2 metres high and 1 metre wide.

Most of these have disappeared and replaced in parts by a modern field wall. A painting by Charles de Brochtorff in c. 1830 depicts an excavation and shows megaliths and and altar-like structure. A man is also shown emerging from a cave carrying a human skull.

It seems likely that this was a temple serving both ceremonial and communal burial functions standing in relation to Ggantija in the same way that L-Imrejzbiet stands to Borg il-Gharib and, on Malta, the Hypogeum to Tarxien.

The site is not directly accessible being enclosed by a 10' high wire fence.

Id- Dura tal-Imramma

This is one of three known dolmens erected on the edge of the escarpment on the barren ta' Cenc plateau in Gozo.

All are small with the capstone of this one measuring about 5' by 3'.

Id-Dura tal-Mara

Burial Chamber (Dolmen) in Gozo. The largest of 3 known dolmens perched on then edge of the escarpment of the barren ta' Cenc plateau on Gozo.

Its capstone measures 2.25 metres by 1.8 metres and is .45 metres thick. It is supported by narrow slabs standing on end.

Megalithic Temples of Malta

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Jump to: navigation, search Megalithic Temples of Malta: Ggantija, Hagar Qim, Mnajdra, Ta' Hagrat, Skorba, Tarxien.* UNESCO World Heritage Site --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

State Party Malta Type Cultural Criteria iv Reference 132 Region** Europe and North America Inscription history Inscription 1980 (4th Session) Extensions 1992

* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List. ** Region as classified by UNESCO.

The Megalithic Temples of Malta are a series of prehistoric monuments in the Maltese archipelago. Archaeologists believe that these megalithic complexes are the result of local innovations in a process of cultural evolution.[1][2] This led to the building of several temples of the Ggantija phase (3600-3000 BC) and culminated in the large Tarxien temple complex, which remained in use until 2500 BC. After this date, the temple building culture disappeared.[3][4]

The Ggantija temples were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.[5] In 1992, the UNESCO Committee decided to further extend the existing listing to include five other megalithic temple sites. These are Hagar Qim, L-Imnajdra[a], Ta' Hagrat, Ta' Skorba and Tarxien.[6] Heritage Malta today protects the sites, while ownership of the surrounding lands varies site-by-site. They are the oldest free-standing structures on Earth.[7][8][9]


Charcoal found on site at Skorba was crucial in dating the Maltese Temple phases.The temples were the result of several phases of construction, from circa 3500 to 2500 BC; there is evidence of human activity in the islands since the Early Neolithic Period (ca. 5000 BC), testified by pottery shards, charred remains of fires and bones.[12][13] The dating and understanding of the various phases of activity in the temples is not easy. The main problem found is that the sites themselves are evolutionary in nature, in that each successive temple brought with it further refinement to architectural development.

Furthermore, in some cases, later Bronze-age peoples built their own sites over the Neolithic temples, thus adding an element of confusion to early researchers who did not have modern dating technology. Sir Temi Zammit, an eminent Maltese archaeologist of the late nineteenth century, had dated the Neolithic temples to 3600 BC and the Tarxien Bronze Age culture to 2000 BC.[14] These dates were considered “considerably too high” by scholars[15], who proposed a reduction of half a millennium each[16] however radiocarbon testing favoured Zammit’s dating.[17] [18] A theory that the temple art was connected with an Aegean-derived culture collapsed with this proof of the temples' elder origins.[19]

Temple phases e h

Maltese Prehistoric Chronology (Based on recalibrated radiocarbon dating)

Period Phase Dates BC c.

Neolithic (5,000-4,100 BC) Ghar Dalam 5,000-4,300 BC

Grey Skorba 4,500-4,400 BC

Red Skorba 4,400-4,100 BC

Temple Period (4,100–2,500 BC) Zebbug 4,100–3,700 BC

Mgarr 3,800-3,600 BC

Ggantija 3,600-3,200 BC

Saflieni 3,300-3,000 BC

Tarxien 3,150-2,500 BC

Bronze Age (2,500–700 BC) Tarxien cemetery 2,500–1,500 BC

Borg in-Nadur 1,500–700 BC

Bahrija 900–700 BC

The development of the chronological phases, based on recalibrated radiocarbon dating, has split the period up to the Bronze Age in Malta into eleven distinct phases. The first evidence of human habitation in the Neolithic occurred in the Ghar Dalam phase, in c. 5000 BC. The Temple period, from c. 4100 BC to roughly 2500 BC, produced the most notable monumental remains. This period is split into five phases, however the first two of these left mostly pottery shards. The next three phases, starting from the Ggantija phase, begins in c. 3600 BC, and the last, the Tarxien phase, ends in c. 2500 BC.

Ggantija phase (3600–3200 BCE)

The Ggantija phase is named after the Ggantija site in Gozo. It represents an important development in the cultural evolution of neolithic man on the islands. To this date belong the earliest datable temples and the first two, if not three, of the stages of development in their ground plan: the lobed or kidney-shaped plan found in Mgarr east, the trefoil plan evident in Skorba, Kordin and various minor sites, and the five-apsed plan Ggantija South, Tarxien East. [20]

Saflieni phase (3300–3000 BCE)

The Saflieni phase constitutes a transitional phase between two major periods of development. [21] Its name derives from the site of the Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni.This period carried forward the same characteristics of the Ggantija pottery shapes, but it also introduces new biconical bowls.[22]

Tarxien phase: (3150–2500 BCE)

The Tarxien phase is named after the temple complex found in Tarxien.The Tarxien phase marks the peak of the temple civilisation. This phase is named after the temple-complex at Tarxien, a couple of kilometres inland from the Grand Harbour. To it belong the last two stages in the development of the temple plan. The western temple at Ggantija represents, along with other units in Tarxien, Hagar Qim and L-Imnajdra, the penultimate stage in development, that is, the introduction of a shallow niche instead of an apse at the far end of the temple. The final stage is testified in only one temple, the central unit at Tarxien, with its three symmetrical pairs of apses. [23] The Temple culture reached its climax in this period, both in terms of the craftsmanship of pottery, as well as in sculptural decoration, both free-standing and in relief. [24]

Spiral reliefs resembling those which are evident at Tarxien once adored the Ggantija temples, but have faded to a level where they are only clearly recognisable in a series of drawings made by the artist Charles de Brochtorff in 1829, immediately after the temples’ excavation. [25] The Tarxien phase is characterised by a rich variety of pottery forms and decorative techniques. Most shapes tend to be angular, with almost no handles or lugs. The clay tends to be well prepared and fired very hard, while the surface of the scratched ware is also highly polished. This scratched decoration remains standard, but it becomes more elaborate and elegant, the most popular motif being a kind of volute. [26]

Architecture and Construction

Part of the Kordin III Temple site, with a two apse design.The Maltese temple complexes were built in different locations, and over a wide span of years; while each has individual site has its unique characteristics, they all share a common architecture. The approach to the temples lies on an oval forecourt, levelled by terracing if the terrain is sloping. The forecourt is bounded on one side by the temples’ own façades, which faces south or south-east. The monuments’ façades and internal walls are made up of orthostats, a row of large stone slabs laid on end. [27]

The centre of the façades is usually interrupted by an entrance doorway forming a trilithon, a pair of orthostats surmounted by a massive lintel slab. [28] [29] Further trilithons form a passage, which is always paved in stone. This in turn opens onto an open space, which then gives way to the next element, a pair of D-shaped chambers, usually referred to as ‘apses’, opening on both sides of the passage. The space between the apses’ walls and the external boundary wall is usually filled with loose stones and earth, sometimes containing cultural debris including pottery shards. [30]

The main variation in the temples lies in the number of apses found; this may vary to three, four, five or six. If three, they open directly from the central court in a trefoil fashion. [31] In cases of more complex temples, a second axial passage is built, using the same trilithon construction, leading from the first set of apses into another later pair, and either a fifth central or a niche giving the four or five apsial form. In one case, at the Tarxien central temple, the fifth apse or niche is replaced by a further passage, leading to a final pair of apses, making six in all. [32] With the standard temple plan, found in some thirty temples across the islands, there is a certain amount of variation both in the number of apses, and in the overall length – ranging from 6.5m in the Mnajdra east temple to 23m in the six-apsed Tarxien central temple.

The external walls were usually built of coralline limestone, which is harder than the globigerina limestone used in the internal sections of the temples. [33] The softer globigerina was used for decorative elements within the temples, usually carvings. These features are usually sculpted in relief, and they show a variety of designs linked to vegetative or animal symbolism. [34] These usually depict running spiral motifs, trees and plants as well as a selection of animals. [35] Although in their present form the temples are unroofed, a series of unproven theories regarding possible ceiling and roof structures have been debated for several years.[36][37][38]


Main article: Ggantija Temples

The megalithic remains at Ggantija.The Ggantija temples stand at the end of the Xaghra plateau, facing towards the south-east. Its presence was known for a very long time, and even before any excavations were carried out a largely correct plan of its layout was drawn by Jean-Pierre Hoüel in the late eighteenth century. [39] In 1827, the site was cleared of debris – the soil and remains being lost without proper examination. [40] The loss resulting from this clearance was partially compensated by the German artist Brochtorff, who painted the site within a year or two from the removal of the debris. This is the only practical record of the clearance. [40]

A boundary wall encloses the two temples. The southerly one is the elder, and is better preserved. [41] The plan of the temple incorporates five large apses, with traces of the plaster which once covered the irregular wall still clinging between the blocks. [42]

Ta’ Hagrat

Main article: Ta' Hagrat Temples The Ta' Hagrat temple in Mgarr is on the eastern outskirts of the village, roughly one kilometer from the Ta' Skorba temples.[43] The remains consist of a double temple, made up of two adjacent complexes, both in the shape of a trefoil. The two parts are both less regularly planned and smaller in size than many of the other neolithic temples in Malta, and no blocks are decorated.[44] Sir Temi Zammit excavated the site in 1925-27. A village on the site that pre-dates the temples by centuries has provided plentiful examples of what is now known as Mgarr phase pottery.[45]

Ta’ Skorba (Skorba)

Main article: Skorba Temples The importance of this site lies less in the remains than in the information garnered from their excavations. [46] This monument has a typical three-apsed shape of the Ggantija phase, of which the greater part of the first two apses and the whole of the façade have been destroyed to ground level. What remains are the stone paving of the entrance passage, with its perforations, the torba floors,[b] and a large upright slab of coralline limestone. [47] The north wall is in better shape; originally the entrance opened on a court, but the doorway was later closed off in the Tarxien phase, with altars set in the corners formed by the closure. [48] East of this temple, a second monument was added in the Tarxien phase, with four apses and a central niche. [49] Before the temples were built, the area had supported a village over a period of roughly twelve centuries.

The oldest structure is the eleven metre long straight wall to the west of the temples’ first entrance. [50] The deposit against it contained material from the first known human occupation of the island, the Ghar Dalam phase. Among the domestic deposits found in this material, which included charcoal and carbonised grain, there were several fragments of daub, accidentally baked.[51] The charcoal fragments were then radiocarbon dated, and their age analysis stood at 4850 BC. [50]

Hagar Qim

Main article: Hagar Qim Temples

The forecourt of Hagar Qim temple.Hagar Qim stands on a ridge some two kilometers away from the village of Qrendi. [52] Its builders used the soft globigerina limestone that caps the ridge to construct the temple. [53] One can clearly see the effects of this choice in the outer southern wall, where the great orthostats are exposed to the sea-winds. Here the temple has suffered from severe weathering and surface flaking over the centuries. [54]

The temple’s façade is typical, with a trilithon entrance, a bench and orthostats. It has a wide forecourt, with a retaining wall, through which a passage runs through the middle of the building. [55] This entrance passage and first court follow the common, though considerably modified, Maltese megalithic design.[56] A separate entrance gives access to four enclosures, which are independent of each other, and which replace The north-westerly apse. [57]

L-Imnajdra Main article: Mnajdra Temples

Part of the Mnajdra Temple site, with a four apse design.L-Imnajdra temples lies in a hollow 500 metres from Hagar Qim. [58] It is another complex site in its own right, and it is centred on a near circular forecourt. Three adjacent temples overlook it from one side, while a terrace from the other separates it from a steep slope which runs down to the sea. [59] The first buildings on the right are small irregular chambers, similar to the enclosures in Hagar Qim. [60] Then there is a small trefoil temple, dating from the Ggantija phase, with pitted decorations. Its unusual triple entrance was copied on a larger scale in the second temple. [61] The middle temple was actually the last to be built, inserted between the others in the Tarxien phase, after 3100 BC. [62] It has four apses and a niche.

The third temple, built early in the Tarxien phase and so second in date, opens on the court at a lower level. [63] It has a markedly concave façade, with a bench, orthostats and trilithon entrance. The southern temple is oriented astronomically aligned with the rising sun during solstices and equinoxes; during the summer solstice the first rays of sunlight light up the edge of a decorated megalith between the first apses, while during the winter solstice the same effect occurs on a megalith in the opposite apse.[64] During the equinox, the rays of the rising sun pass straight through the principal doorway to reach the innermost central niche. [65]


Main article: Tarxien Temples

The Tarxien temple complex is found some 400 metres to the east of the Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni. [66] The three temples found here were seriously excavated in the early twentieth century by Temi Zammit. [67] Unlike the other sites, this temple is bounded on all sides by modern urban development; however this does not detract its value. One enters into the first great forecourt of the southern temple, marked by its rounded façade and a cistern, which is attributed to the temple. [68] The earliest temple to the north-east was built between 3600 and 3200 BC; it consisted of two parallel sets of semi-circular apses, with a passage in the middle. [69]

A carved relief at Tarxien temples.The south and east temples were built in the Tarxien phase, between 3150 and 2500 BC. The second one has three parallel semi-circular apses, connected by a large passage; the third one has two parallel sets of apses with a passage in a direction parallel to that of the first temple. The first temple is solidly built with large stones, of which some are roughly dressed.[70] The walls are laid with great accuracy, and are very imposing in their simplicity. [71] The second temple is more elaborately constructed, the walls being finished with greater care, some of the standing slabs being decorated with flat raised spirals. [72] In one of the chambers, two bulls and a sow are cut in low relief across one of the walls. [73] The third temple has a carelessly-built frame, but most of its standing stones are richly decorated with carved patterns.

Brief Description

Seven megalithic temples are found on the islands of Malta and Gozo, each the result of an individual development. The two temples of Ggantija on the island of Gozo are notable for their gigantic Bronze Age structures. On the island of Malta, the temples of Hagar Qin, Mnajdra and Tarxien are unique architectural masterpieces, given the limited resources available to their builders. The Ta'Hagrat and Skorba complexes show how the tradition of temple-building was handed down in Malta.


The Committee decided to extend the existing cultural property, the "Temple of Ggantija", to include the five prehistoric temples situated on the islands of Malta and Gozo and to rename the property as "The Megalithic Temples of Malta".

The three small islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino float in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, south of Sicily and east of the North African coastline. Though small, their history dates back thousands of years – and continues to throw a magical spell on many visitors. The question is whether the modern tourists are the last in a series of sun worshippers that came to these islands. Around twenty Neolithic stone temples, dating from 4000 to 2500 BC, were built without the apparent use of any metal tools, yet they were working with blocks of stone weighing as much as fifty tonnes. Malta’s “Temple Culture” ended before the Egyptian pyramid building really got going. What is of interest, is that the Maltese temples are unique in style and that their builders – as is so often the case – are unknown to have been locals, or immigrants; however, as is the current trend in archaeology, that the natives did it all without any outside help, is the preferred theory.

Malta is by far the biggest of the three islands: it measures 40 km in length and is 20 km wide. The eastern part of the island is where the main megalithic monuments can be found, those of Tarxien, Hagar Qim and Mnajdra being the most famous. But it seems that the oldest are in the west, starting on Gozo. When the exploration of these sites began many centuries ago, the excavators lived under the impression that they were erected by an extinct race of giants, in antediluvian times, as is in evidence in a printed account of the Maltese islands published in Lyon in 1536, written by Jean Quintin d’Autun, who was auditor to Grandmaster Philippe Vilier de L’Isle Adam. Most of the excavation work, nevertheless, was carried out from the 19th century onwards, the first occurring in 1816-1826 at the temple complex at Gozo’s Ggantija – a site meaning “Giant’s Place”, reflecting the popular connotations these sites possessed. First to be excavated, the Ggantija is also the oldest of the temples, dated to 3600-3000 BC. With its semicircular forecourt and kidney-shaped apses, leading to an altar niche, it became the template for all subsequent Maltese temples. Indeed, curves, not straight lines, dominate the Maltese temples and hence, they have been seen as symbols of the uterus, the vagina, the egg – references to the female body, for it was Marija Gimbutas who saw in the Maltese temples another expression of a cult that worshipped the Mother Goddess.

The Ggantija also has another characteristic of Malta’s Temple Culture: the pairing of temples, in this case with the Xaghra Stone Circle. Such pairing is most prominent at the Hagar Qim and Mnjadra, where the two temples are but a few hundred metres apart, suggesting that both temples were part of one complex. This “pairing” of temples is nevertheless not a fundamental rule. David Trump noted that of 23 know structures, six were alone, ten in pairs, and there was one group of three and one of four. Pairing is therefore not a rule, but definitely has a majority. Other “paired sites” in Malta are those of Skorba and Mgarr, and Tarxien and the Hypogeum. Amongst the paired sites, a rule has been noticed: one structure is located on high ground, almost on top of a hill, while the other on lower ground.

What is clear, is that all temples in Malta adhere to a template, which is of great help, as portraying what a typical temple must have looked like in its heydays is quite hard, partly because of the great antiquity of the temples, resulting in piece-meal archaeological discoveries at individual sites. The façade of the Tarxien has disappeared, but to witness the wall of stone that would meet visitors, one can look at that of the Hagar Qim or of the Ggantija. The latter’s original façade might have been as high as 16 metres. At present, some stones are still five metres high and weigh 15 tonnes. Colin Renfrew called this façade “perhaps the earliest architecturally conceived exterior in the world” – and it continues to impress the tourists. The temple of Ggantija contains – according to UNESCO – the largest free standing stone in the world. In itself, this is not that impressive, as there are larger stones elsewhere – they are just not free standing. Despite its gigantic size, there is only one, rather small, entrance, in the middle of the structure. Inside this megalithic “church” is a series of oval-shaped “chapels” – typical for the Maltese temple structure. At the end of each, there is normally a niche, in which – one assumes – a cult object was placed. What makes the temple of Tarxien unique amongst its peers is that the site has its own spring. Archaeological finds in the form of vessels suggest that water must have played an important role on this site – and it is more likely that the role of the spring and its water was spiritual, rather than economical. The megalithic monuments no longer have a roof, but drawings that date from previous centuries and small models that were left by the megalithic builders themselves (especially one at Ta’Hagrat, now on display in the National Museum in Valletta) reveal that the temples were once roofed. It appears that the roof was made from stone and how they may have looked from the inside, is perhaps best visible in the Hypogeum, where the Holy of Holies reveals a circle of stone that continue upwards, giving the room a bell-shaped, conical appearance. Seeing that this is yet another curve, it clearly fit in with the designs of the builders. More curves are in evidence in that many temples are decorated with spirals, especially on slabs that served as altars. The spirals vary in form, some providing a more plant-like display, while others are spirals that somewhat resemble those enigmatic spirals of the Irish site of Newgrange. Tarxien also has a chapel with drawings of goats, sheep and pigs. Below the main altar, a flint knife and a mass of horns and bones have been found, suggesting the animals might have been sacrificed as part of the temple rituals. Many of the niches were crammed with horns, skulls and half-burnt bones of oxen, sheep, goats and pigs.

The presence of a roof means the interior was dark-ish. Darkness must have been enhanced through a system of doors; several doorways still show signs of rope-holes, clearly in evidence at Tarxien. Most temples also contained statues, though most have been partially destroyed – either by the passing of time, or by a deliberate act of destruction at some point in the past. Some of the statues seem to be of giant women, with giant breasts, thighs and arms and one statue, at Tarxien, has been labelled the “Maltese Venus”. In origin, the statue would have measured no less than three metres tall, but only the lower legs and part of the skirt remain.

Is the statue of a giant woman evidence that this structure was indeed built by giants, or for a Mother Goddess? Or both? Or neither? John D. Evans has pointed out that “many figures are genderless, and yet others are male. Some figurines are clearly female with well defined breasts and triangle motifs symbolizing aspects of fertility. However, there are far more genderless figurines than there are female ones, and this begs the question of whether indeed a cult of a Mother Goddess really existed.” But however God was conceived to be, it is clear that the temple builders incorporated solar alignments – like their megalithic colleagues elsewhere in Europe. One of the first people to push the solar-lunar connection was Joseph Ellul. Ellul’s father was the caretaker of the Hagar Qim complex – a privileged position to learn much about the complex and be confronted with a wide variety of visitors, each giving their own insights into the structure, whether from professional archaeologists or interested tourists. As a result, Ellul was able to identify that certain chapels of the complex were carefully orientated towards the sunrise and sunset of the equinoxes and solstices. Ellul was even able to photograph how certain doors “framed” the full moon at the start of the 19 year Metonic cycle. Others have noted that at Mnjadra 3, pitted marks on two pillars that flank the entrance to the inner chamber of the smallest and oldest temple are believed to be linked to the counts of days between the heliacal rising of stars, beginning with the Pleiades on April 6 and ending with Beta Centaurus on October 2-3. Taken together, it is clear that detailed planning went into these complexes – and great powers of observation and precision.

The astronomical orientation can, however, be taken further. Several of the paired sites are located on a southeast facing slope, with the first temple to be built the western one, which is also always the most massive. The second temple was built to the east. More importantly, the temples were built facing East-South-East, which means that the first rays of light of the winter solstice sunrise entered the doorway and reached a specifically designed area inside the temple. For those familiar with Newgrange, a giant stone wall, a small doorway which plays with the winter solstice sunrise will not sound unfamiliar. And it appears that as in Newgrange, so in Malta. How was this accomplished in Malta? It appears that it was accomplished by using poles planted in holes in each temple doorway. The shadow the pole cast was then used to identify the location where a niche or altar upon which the sun was meant to throw its light had to be erected. In Ta’ Hagrat, Skorba and Ggantija South, the first light of the winter solstice sunrise was directed towards the central apse. At Tarxien – built later – sunlight from the winter solstice sunrise was directed onto a carefully planned altar situated on the western side of the central passage; the same applies at the Ggantija North, Mnajdra Central and the Hagar Qim temples. Observers have noted that this is not all: the façade of each temple is claimed to have been planned in such a way that its radius of curvature depended on the length of the sunbeam at the winter solstice sunrise inside every particular temple. The length of the beam was also used to calculate the width of the facade.

So, as in Newgrange, so in Malta indeed. At Mnajdra, it has been observed that the unit of measurement used in the distances between the foci, the main axis and the perimeters of the main temples was the megalithic yard, as defined by Alexander Thom, and based upon a common megalithic unit of measurement that he found in monuments in Northern Europe. Paul Micallef has shown that when the sun on the summer solstice rises, it casts an image shaped like a flag for a few seconds on a great stone slab to the left of the temple entrance of Mnajdra. The opposite occurs on the winter solstice, when the sun illuminates a slab on the right of the entrance.

Today, Tarxien is surrounded by modern buildinsg, but wedge yourself in a side street, and you will note that we are not only on a hill, but that the sea is also visible. The same, of course, applies for the Hagar Qim/Mnajdra complex. Coincidence, or design? Off the coast of this complex lies the small island – some call it a rock – of Filfla. The Hagar Qim, Mnajdra and Filfla are roughly aligned, but certain doors and windows from these temples are clearly aligned to the island, suggesting it held some importance. Hence, archaeologists have noted that the island is cleft-shaped, and evokes a bull’s horns. Coincidence, or evidence that the site was chosen because of the presence of this island, and its bull-like connotation? The Hagar Qim is deemed to be the most impressive of all Maltese monuments. The finesse that was used to join the stones can be compared with the precision employed in the Valley Temple, next to the Sphinx, at Giza (Egypt), where the builders equally carved out massive stones and placed them together as if it was the easiest job in the world. But it is only the massive size of the stones that allows for such a comparison. Other than that, both sites have their own unique design and decoration. Still, as we know, that the Maltese monuments predate the Valley Temple by many centuries… could this Maltese knowledge of working with giant stones have made it into Egypt? Though there is currently no evidence for it, it might at least explain what happened to this civilisation in ca. 2500 BC: officially, it is unknown what transpired and John D. Evans wrote it up that the “temple builders vanish as if by magic”.

That was the end… but what about the beginning? Near the Ggantija, the Xaghra stone circle has a subterranean complex of natural caves, which seem to have been used as a cemetery – thus apparently identifying this location as a Gozo counterpart of the Hypogeum on Malta’s mainland, considered to be Tarxien’s paired site. But – more importantly – we have here a “normal” megalithic stone circle, which seems to have become enhanced, upon which the temple nearby was constructed; then, this design was exported to Malta – though to no other island or country near Malta – like Sicily, which is only 90 miles north and on a very clear day, can even be seen from the island. So who were these people? The only early village so far discovered is at Skorba, dating from 4400 to 4100 BC, showing that people lived in small oval huts made from mud bricks and wattle-and-daub built on low stone foundations. A shrine in one of the huts contained fragments of small female terracotta figures with exaggerated breasts and genitalia. By 5200 BC, the people of Gozo and Malta were familiar with agriculture and it appears that this – as elsewhere – allowed for “free time”, which was devoted to building the temples. It is believed that up to 10,000 people lived in Malta during the Temple Culture and no hint of conflict between groups or any cultural or religious divergence between them has been found in the archaeological record. There are no signs of armed conflict; or of weapons. But though the Temple Culture is seen as typically Maltese, by the Maltese, they were not socially isolated. At Hagar Qim, 26 flint instruments have been found, yet Malta does not have this type of stone. It is known that Malta’s Temple Culture imported certain materials, including certain stones not found on the island, from mainland Italy, Sicily and some of the smaller islands off Sicily. Stentinello pottery from around Syracuse in Sicily has been found on the island of Malta. Malta is only a day’s sail from Africa and Sicily. For an ancient mariner, the crossing would have involved just a fair wind, but no sophisticated navigation.

It is towards the sea and the legend of the giants that we need to look to find a possible answer as to where the earliest settlers came from. A local legend on Gozo recounts that the first settlers were the children of a giantess. The giantess lived – somewhere – very happily in a wood with her son and daughter. One day, some strangers came in a boat, landed and snatched her children away. She only found out after she took them some food at midday. Looking out to sea in her distress, she saw the boat sailing away and realised what had happened. She dived into the water after her offspring and being a giantess, soon caught up with the boat, even though it was by now far away from land. As she held the sides of the boat to pull herself into it, one of the seafarers cut off both her hands with an axe and she fell back into the sea and drowned. The boat sailed on and eventually reached the Maltese islands, where the daughter of the giantess married on Gozo, and the son in Mosta (mainland Malta), begetting the first dynasties. The story suggests that the Temple Culture was somehow a foreign import, brought to the island by foreigners – an opinion that is, of course, anathema to modern archaeological doctrine. Still, the idea of giants on the islands is supported by local folklore – and archaeological evidence? Paediatrician Anton Mifsud has stated that a local workman in Gozo told him that he had found a giant some years ago while excavating the foundations of a building complex. The labourer had hidden the bones so that he would not be stopped by the authorities from continuing his work. From the evidence that he showed Mifsud, it seems that between 4000 and 6000 years ago a man, 2.64 metres tall, was buried upright in the soil. A true giant indeed.

Engravings on slabs at Tarxien also show a number of different Neolithic boats. One has an upturned prow and stern like the Egyptian boats, but also similar to the Maltese dghajsas. Hence, there is now evidence of giants and boats. But what about a deluge, as the earliest excavators believed? Of course, at a time when the world was felt to have been created in ca. 4000 BC and the Deluge ca. 2500 BC, these writers were right to argue that these were “prediluvian”. In fact, some argue that Malta is primary evidence that a deluge did occur, and some believe the Temple Culture ended because of a Deluge that swept across the island. Some of Malta’s prehistoric temples are currently indeed underwater. The most spectacular of such stories was launched by Hubert Zeitlmair, who in 1999 claimed to have discovered an underground temple one mile off the Maltese coastline. He organised a diving expedition off the coast of Sliema, bringing back footage of what some recognised as a megalithic temple, though left others – including official archaeologists – apparently unconvinced. Graham Hancock, for his book and television series Underworld, investigated the story and was able to trace it back to a newspaper clipping from the Malta Sunday Times, dated February 13, 1994, in which Commander S.A. Scicluna was quoted as having found the site “last summer”, 2.5 km from land, at a depth of no more than 25 feet. Alas, Scicluna died just before Hancock wanted to interview him and details of this site remain controversial and unconfirmed – including its precise position. It is nevertheless known that a megalithic structure once existed inside Valletta’s Grand Harbour, at the foot of Fort Saint Angelo. According to Jean Quintinus, this temple extended over “a large part of the harbour, even far out into the sea” as late as 1536 and in 1606, Megeiser could still see that it was constructed of “rectangular blocks of unbelievable sizes”. Today, we know that the sea level in 5000 BC was no less than 15 metres lower than it is today; by 2500 BC, the water level had already risen by almost ten metres! Hence, rather than a sudden deluge that might have killed all, there is instead a slow sinking of the islands.

So, what happened in 2500-2200 BC, when the Temple Culture ceased to exist? It is clear that magic was not involved in the disappearance of these people, but the loss of magic might have resulted in a migration. First of all, 2500-2200 BC roughly coincides with a shift in the zodiac, from Taurus to Aries; and the civilisation of Malta lasted ca. 2500 years – meaning that this civilisation coincided when the sun was in the sign Taurus (the Bull). When the sun moved out of this house, were the temples of Malta simply no longer aligned to the sun, and had they therefore become useless? It might have resulted in a search for new lands, if not a new style – away from the power of the stone – which nicely describes the bull as animal, towards a design that was more in keeping with the ram. Wherever they found it, it was not in Malta, where the temples became forgotten, but the legend of the giants remained.

Externe referencer

For yderliger information, prøv at se på følgende hjemmesider:

Ggantija Temples, Gozo

Hagar Qim Temple

Mnajdra Temples

Tarxien Temples

The megalithic tombs of Malta

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