A stay in Malta would not have been complete without visiting at least one of the Megalithic Temples. On Malta there are 11 in total and some of them date back to a time way before the pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge for example, making them some of the oldest religious sites on earth. 7 of the temples here are UNESCO World Heritage Sites I was in an area to the south west of the main island where I took the great opportunity to visit two of them at once. Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra, both built in the fourth millenium BC. They are about 500 metres away from each other but both included in one entry via a very visual display and museum.
First, let us look at Ħaġar Qim:
The first thing that struck me was the condition and size of the stones. We must consider that these temples are nearly 5000 years old… and made of limestone. It is remarkable we can see them today in the condition they are. Of course quite a few thousand years have taken its toll on the decor so to speak, so the protective tents were added to cover them for the future.
Ħaġar Qim is much larger to see than what I had imagined. The stones still standing are high considering age, in fact this temple holds the highest of all the temples, a stone standing nearly 6 and a half metres. The large tall stones making up the outer wall lean in thus making it structurally sound. Stepping inside you can view many of the little areas giving an idea of dwellings and altars for example. Excavations have uncovered many animal bones used in sacrificed and areas for animals to be sacrificed. This along with ancient pottery and statues.
There are interesting features that can be imagined with what is left. Certain holes leading to the recesses have been shown to help sound travel both ways. Archways built to stop the big outside stones falling inwards. Areas that look like seating areas, and others that resemble what could be a fireplace. Many scholars have theorised exactly what daily life was like or exactly what each recess or area was used for. It is of course natural with time that nobody can be 100% sure.
Then about 500 metres away, down towards the coast, you visit the temple complex of Mnajdra:
Again built in the 4th millenium BC, but built from differing limestone and in a different style. Although close to each other these two temples were separate. As you apprach it looks really dramatic and really well preserved for age. The main image at the top of this post shows the huge hole in one block of limestone that is the entrance. If you look at the small denomination Maltese Euro coins you will see this with the temple depicted on the reverse. The doorway is specifically placed. On the equinoxes the sunlight passes straight through to inside. On the solstices the megaliths on each side of the entrance light up.
Again taking a look inside you see little areas that contain what look like stone tables and seats. Inscriptions and carved drawings can be seen on the stone. Looking at some of the fine detail it is hard to imagine how long ago it was made. Again, much guesswork goes into knowing exactly what these ruins were used for. You never know, maybe they weren’t temples as we think? As with the first temple no human remains have been found at all, only flint knives and signs of animal constraint with some bowls etc. It is thought that maybe with the stone tables this temple was for healing.
Full of intrigue and history. The beginnings of culture on Malta. These sights along with the others on Malta add to the rich diversity of places to see on these islands. The scale, the age, the learning and of course the views from them make them well worth a stop on a visit to the country.