Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/content/17/7261617/html/plugins/content/facebooklikeandshare/facebooklikeandshare.php on line 356

Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/content/17/7261617/html/plugins/content/facebooklikeandshare/facebooklikeandshare.php on line 362
Your Guide to Malta and Gozo - The Temples of Malta - Introduction

Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/content/17/7261617/html/plugins/content/facebooklikeandshare/facebooklikeandshare.php on line 418

Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/content/17/7261617/html/plugins/content/facebooklikeandshare/facebooklikeandshare.php on line 761

Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/content/17/7261617/html/templates/reachmalta/functions.php on line 614

The Temples of Malta

Mysterious indeed are the temples of Malta!

The identity of the temple builders has been shrouded in the mists of antiquity; they left no written records for historians to study and we may only conjecture at their religion and their cult; at the techniques they employed to transport and erect those gargantuan monoliths that have defied the ravages of time as they stand triumphant over the millennia. And why was their society so abruptly wiped out? The demise of this proto-society is as mysterious as its origins. The ancient temple builders of Malta still awe, fascinate and intrigue - and captivate the imagination of historian and visitor alike. The temple building period in Malta lasted for around 1500 years from ca. 4000 to ca. 2500 BC.

Scholars further sub-divide this period into: the primordial Żebbuġ Phase (4000-3800BC); the Mġarr Phase (3800-3600BC); the Ġgantija Phase (3600-3000BC); the Saflieni Phase (3000-2900BC) and the Tarxien Phase when temple building reached its pinnacle.

On the basis of similarities in the pottery found on the two islands, David Trump and J.D. Evans suggest that these people may have reached Maltese shores from nearby Sicily. Animal sacrifice seems to have been widespread yet no evidence exists for human sacrifice. The figure of the Fat Lady has been unearthed at various sites – it has been associated with a Mother Goddess, or a goddess of fertility – an attribute that seems to be in conflict with the apparent lack of female breasts and overt genitalia. This notwithstanding, the identity of this deity has not been established with any certainty although she is popularly identified as Astarte, a divinity worshipped by many cultures particularly in the eastern Mediterranean.

The material used for the construction of the temples is typically hard coralline limestone or the  more

friable globigerina limestone. The latter is also vulnerable to weathering. Some temples such as Ħaġar Qim and Tarxien are composed entirely of globigerina. The façade of the typical temple faces south to south-east and overlooks an oval forecourt. Beyond the trilithon entrance, consisting of two standing stones and an overarching lintel, flanked by rows of megaliths are oval “rooms” which may contain apses at their corners and altars of several designs. There has been speculation that the overall shape of the temples may have been inspired by the form of the obese lady, yet this is likely to have been merely coincidental and only holds true for the four-apsed structures. Some sections may be closed off by incomplete walls and communicate with the “public” sections of the temple through “oracle holes”. It is envisaged that a “priest” or “priestess” would have occupied these more secluded chambers – but again, how may these speculations be ascertained? Trump suggests that the sections of the temple complexes with more intricate décor would have been accessible to the public whilst the sections with plainer decorations would have been the remit of the priesthood. The temples themselves may have been roofed over, possibly with tree trunks, stones and clay. Hoisting and positioning the megaliths themselves would have been an arduous task that may have been accomplished using temporary ramps made of rubble.