The Megalithic Temples of Malta

The Megalithic Temples of Malta are six megalithic temple sites that are found on the islands of Malta and Gozo. Each are the result of an individual development. Each site is unique.

The temples are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

All the dates listed in this article are opinions from my sources, they may be changed if/when new evidence is brought to light.

Their names are as follows;

1 – Ġgantija (c.3600-3200BC)

2 – Ħaġar Qim (c.3700-3200BC)

3 – Mnajdra (c.4th millenium BC)

4 – Skorba (c.4850-3600BC)

5 – Ta’ Ħaġrat (c.3600-3200BC)

6 – Tarxien (3600-2500BC)

Tarxien is the worst preserved. The components have allegedly been preserved in accounts since Early Modern times, and photographic records trace to the early 1900s. There have been various restoration interventions conducted on five out of the six components.

The temples were “rediscovered” in the 1800s. However, there are allegedly records from the 1600s which record them. The 1800s and early 1900s is when serious archaeological operations began on these temples. The early excavations were somewhat haphazard and important evidence has been forever lost.

The next portion of this article contains some details about each location.

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1 – Ġgantija

Ġgantija Temple
from above

The name Ġgantija derives from the Maltese word ġgant (giant). The site was commonly associated with a race of giants. There are two temples at this site and they are both well preserved. They contain mostly coralline limestone blocks, some of which are are over five meters long and weigh over 50 tons. The interiors contain Globigerina limestone for doorways, alter, and decorative slabs.

The creation of these two temples has been dated to around 3600 to 3200BC.

Ġgantija Temple from directly above

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2 – Ħaġar Qim

Trilithon entrance to Ħaġar Qim
Alter and Slab

Ħaġar Qim was first discovered and excavated in 1839. Excavations lasted until 1954. It is located on on a hilltop which overlooks the sea towards Fifla. The bottom of this hill is where Mnajdra is found.

The site is featured in paintings from the 1700s and 1800s which show that the tallest stones were exposed, not fully buried.

The site contains a central building, along with at least two other structures. This site contains a stone which is longer than 5 meters and has been estimated to weigh around 20 tonnes.

There are a “slab bearing a pair of opposing spirals in relief and a free-standing pillar decorated on all four sides” which have been replaced by replicas. The originals are in the National Museum of Archaeology.

Ħaġar Qim

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3 – Mnajdra

aerial view of the entrances
Mnajdra Temple 2
interior

Mnajdra is made of coralline limestone. The upper temple is the oldest structure here and dates back to c.3600-3200. The middle temple is considered to have been built or rebuilt c.3150-2500. “The lowest temple, built in the early Tarxien phase, is the most impressive and possibly the best example of Maltese megalithic architecture.” (3).

These temples were excavated between 1840-1954.

On the 13th of April, 2001, vandals attacked this site and damaged 60 megaliths by breaking, toppling, and graffitiing them. UNESCO says it is “the worst act of vandalism ever committed on the island of Malta”.

The site was repaired and reopened in 2002. A protective tent was added in 2009.

aerial view of Mnajdra

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4 – Skorba

Skorba 2019
Skorba

Skorba can be found in the hamlet of Żebbiegħ. It was excavated in the early 1960s by David Trump. The site contains two megalithic temple structures. One is believed to have been built in the Ġgantija Phase, and the other to have been built in the Tarxien Phase. There are remains of domestic huts there as well, which are amongst the older constructions built on the islands.

The site was included on the Antiquities List of 1925. Reportedly, archaeologists ignored the mound until Trump’s excavations.

Skorba Temples

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5 – Ta’ Ħaġrat

aerial view Ta’ Ħaġrat Temple
Ta’ Ħaġrat Temple
Ta’ Ħaġrat Temple Entrance

Ta’ Ħaġrat’s construction has been dated to the years c.3600-3200BC. It was first excavated in between 1923 and 1926 by Sir Temi Zammit.

The site was included on the Antiquities List of 1925.

In 1937, parts of the façade and doorway were reconstructed. In 1954, the site was excavated again, this time by John Davies Evans. David Trump dated the complex during a 1961 excavation.

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6 – Tarxien

Tarxien Temple
Tarxien Temple

The Tarxien Temples date of construction has be dated to c.3600-2500. They were discovered in 1913 by farmers. The site was excavated between 1915 and 1919. Three of the four structures have been substantially reconstructed. Another excavation took place in 1963.

The temples were included on the Antiquities List of 1925.

A protective cover was built in 2015.

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As we can see above, the above sites were either discovered or excavated in the 1800s and 1900s. They have since then had their creation dates dated within the frame of 4850BC-3000BC.

I think that these monuments may have been created more recently, but I will save further comment until further studies have been completed. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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References;

(1) – https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/132

(2) – https://www.academia.edu/1519238/The_Engineering_of_the_Prehistoric_Megalithic_Temples_in_Malta

(3) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mnajdra

(4) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skorba_Temples

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2 Comments on “The Megalithic Temples of Malta

    • Thank you for your comment

      The UNESCO World Heritage Centre only lists 6 and provide additional information for 5 of them. I was wondering what the 7th temple was, as when I google “The Megalithic Temples of Malta”, it claims there are seven

      Thanks again 🙂 I’ll be updating this article in the following days or weeks

      Like

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