Malta lies exactly in the middle from Africa and mainland Europe. A small island in the middle of the Mediterranean and its sister island being even smaller. Do not let size fool you, the islands have a lot of history. Malta has been ruled by many kings and empires throughout time and thus the culture is diverse. In this article, we will be discussing a time before kings a time where people were at their most basic, or so we think.
One of the most cultural and historical attractions on the island is the megalithic temples which date back to around five to six thousand years ago. Built by Neolithic inhabitants the temples are a statement of prehistoric architecture. It is wise to take into consideration the primitive tools these people had but the ingenuity they also harboured to build such structures. This is to not be taken lightly as they had no form of machinery or anything of the sort to assist them.
They have been internationally recognised, UNESCO has classified six of these temples as part of the ‘Megalithic Temples of Malta’ – world heritage site.
These temples were made using large limestone blocks, the term ‘megalithic’ means large stone. They often found to have carved female figurines. If you are keen on history and architecture these temples are a must for you. They are a statement that such ‘simple’ people were not so simple after all.
The best-known temples are notably Mnajdra and Hagar Qim, which are roughly 500-metres away from each other. The temples have suffered very much from weathering. To prevent any more harm to such wondrous structures, protective measures have taken place. Large tents cover both sites, so that rain, birds, wind and everything of the sort can be deterred. These sites also have a visitor centre for people to see certain artefacts that have been excavated.
Temples were built close to each other, on the eastern part of the island you will also find the Tarxien Temple. A complex of Neolithic buildings that were later used as a cemetery. in the Bronze age. A short distance away you will find the Hypogeum, which is an underground cemetery discovered in the early 20th century.
Artefacts and Museums
Besides the plethora of temples you can visit, Malta also boasts a large number of museums which contain remnants of the time, which were found during the excavation. Malta has impressive exhibitions, and it would not be a complete experience if you do not visit these museums to truly understand. The National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta houses some of the most impressive artefacts on the island. The collection here is amongst the finest in Europe, it will consist of a lot of engraved and patterned megaliths and also a collection of the rounded female figurines, including the famous Sleeping Lady sculpture.
If you want to understand the temples better, visit the museums before, to start getting a bit of knowledge on what you are about to see, hence you won’t walk in the temple blind.
This whole trip will take you a day, so make sure to set aside some time to give yourself the space to learn and observe such a beautiful time in the history of the world.
Gozo is also not to be forgotten! The Gozo Museum of Archaeology is relatively small, the museum houses a lot of interesting items excavated from the temples in Gozo.
The architectural feat that these temples have is impressive and worth the visit. It is good to mention that for the history and architecture buffs, Malta also has a series of fortifications around the sea. The Grand Harbour itself has around 6 fortifications, with impressive architecture. Mdina is also a city stuck in medieval times.
The temples are not the only thing that Malta has in terms of architecture, the island seems to be stuck in a time when these cities were built and it makes visiting the island all the more exciting. You will not be able to visit all these sites in one day, so devote some time for you to comfortably go around and take in the island.