Megalithic Temples of Malta (World Heritage)

Megalithic Temples of Malta (World Heritage)

The from around 4500 BC Stone Age temples and places of worship dating from the 3rd century BC testify to the island’s long history of settlement, whose culture is older than that of Egypt. The world heritage includes Tarxien (south of Valletta, Malta), Haġar Qim and Mnajdra (southwest coast of Malta), Skorba and Mġarr (northeast of Malta; see ezinereligion) and Ġgantija (near Victoria, Gozo).

Megalithic Temples of Malta: Facts

Official title: Megalithic Temples of Malta
Cultural monument stone age temples and tombs
continent Europe
country Malta
location Tarxien (south of Valletta, Malta); Haġar Qim and Mnajdra (south west coast of Malta); Skorba and Mġarr (northeast of Malta), Ġgantija (near Victoria, Gozo)
appointment 1980, expanded 1992
meaning Colossal (including upright, 7×2.7 m large stone slab by Haġar Qim) Stone Age temples as the site of the earliest religious cults

Megalithic Temples of Malta: History

approx. 4500-4100 BC Chr. Scorba
approx. 3800-3000 BC Chr. Mġarr, Ġgantija
approx. 3000-2500 BC Chr. Tarxien, Haġar Qim, Mnajdra
19th century Excavations of Ġgantija and Haġar Qim, find of the “Venus of Malta”
1914-27 Excavations of Tarxien and of Mġarr, discovery of a temple model (4.5×3.7 cm)
1961-63 Excavations of Skorba, further exposure of Ġgantija
1987-94 Subsequent excavations of the Xaghra circle and discovery of “miniature menhirs” with a headpiece
2009 Roofing of the Haġar Qim and Mnajdra complex to protect against harmful environmental influences with a tent dome, which is to remain in place for the period of restoration in the next 20 to 25 years

Hole pattern in the divine kidney circle megalithic temples of Gozo and Malta

In the early 19th century, primarily artists and nobles visit the prehistoric sites of Malta and Gozo as part of their romantic “Grand Tour”. We owe the first watercolors of the Xaghra stone circle to Jean Pierre Louis Houel. The 17 views of Ġgantija and Xaghra painted by Charles Frederick Brockdorff are considered to be an important contemporary document. One of the first study travelers to Gozo was Hermann Fürst von Pückler-Muskau, who noted in his travel diary after visiting Ggantija: “The so-called giant tower, a Phoenician temple of great importance, was the first place I visited. Certainly the temple got its name from the huge stones it was made of. Ancient researchers believe that it is the temple of Astarte, the Venus of the Phoenicians. «Even if he erred like others of his contemporaries, his records of the first excavations at Ġgantija are still of inestimable value:» The construction of the walls is remarkable; At the base, vertical stone pillars alternate with horizontal ones. Most are 9 to 15 feet long. (…) The temple consists of two independent parts in the shape of a flower and five leaf-shaped niches. (…) The temple ruin stands on a hill and looks impressive from a distance. The huge stone chunks of the building come from other parts of the island, as there is no such material near the temple. One has to assume that the temple builders had means of transport that we know nothing of to this day. ”

These and other puzzles cannot be solved even with modern research methods. Knowing the decay time for radioactive carbon compounds to determine the age of substances does not help either. Are the “wagon tracks” dug in the limestone at Clapham Junction (West Malta) evidence of the use of carts or sledges that were used to transport the massive limestone? Conical holes in the stone slabs were perhaps used to attach loops made of oxhide to pull the stone giants over wooden rollers with their help. Were the stone balls, which are very numerous in front of the main temple of Tarxien, used to straighten the stone blocks? A ball supporting a foundation stone seems a possible clue. Did the ancient Maltese even know the law of levers and use it to lift limestone blocks? Without dumping ramps and the use of rocker levers, today’s builders would seem unimaginable the tremendous achievement of the ancient Maltese.

The temple builders did not leave any written records, only the concave shapes of their temple ruins and a small, oval model of a temple. On the basis of the clay and stone shards with incised stars and sun signs, one could believe that the structure of the temple is connected to the stars. But nobody knows for sure. Small, buxom figures like the headless »Venus of Malta« with her hanging breasts and massive fragments of female stone idols with fat thighs under the pleated skirt are interpreted as an indication of a practiced mother cult. Phallic symbols from Tarxia and a small altar from Haġar Qim with four reliefs interpreted as trees of life between two pilasters seem to underpin the assumption of a fertility cult. Beautifully crafted spiral patterns, which resemble fern fronds rolled up in tarxia decorate stone blocks and altar plinths, as well as reliefs of billy goats and dense hole patterns. The image of a sow and a bull in a niche in Tarxien is an indication of possible animal sacrifices. The fact that the ancient Maltese were artistically gifted and technically skilled is proven by their preserved handicrafts, such as vessel handles in the shape of a ram, two seated overweight women from the Xaghra stone circle or finely crafted axes and pendants made of green stone.

The shamrock and kidney shape of the two temples of Ġgantija can best be seen from the air. The ground plan of Tarxien resembles a tangle of smaller and larger kidney-shaped »temple halls«, while that of Haġar Qim resembles an incomplete petal. The sight of the erected stone blocks of the surrounding walls is overwhelming. Walls made of layered limestone blocks, curving inwards further up, reveal, as in the lower temple of Mnajdra, masterful engineering beyond high-tech and let some of the achievements of postmodern building fade.

Megalithic Temples of Malta (World Heritage)