I am happy to tell you about a topic that is often not included in the tourist packages, and to show you the priceless treasures of my dear Malta!
The two megalithic temples of Mnajdra and Hagar Qim, located in the southwestern part of the island of Malta, are the oldest in the world, dating back to 3600 BC, so they are 1200 years older than the Egyptian pyramids and 1000 years older than Stonehenge in England!!
In 1992 they were declared UNESCO Heritage.
The two prehistoric sites, about 500 meters apart, are located in a truly striking, unique position, overlooking the sea in front of the Filfla islet.
Two large white circular tensile structures, installed in 2009 in collaboration with the European Union, cover both temples to protect them from meteorological erosion.
The first temple that one meets, once arrived on the site, is that of Hagar Qim. Huge blocks of stone form a complex and articulated environment in which there are numerous rooms and corridors.
It is fascinating to move into a building over 4000 years ago and to see that, despite the passing of so many centuries, its strength and architectural beauty remain unchanged!
The internal path identifies some large altars and the point where, during the 1949 renovation works, female statuettes known as the “fat women” were found, which are believed to be a tribute to the goddess of fertility, of which the two most famous, the Venus of Malta and the Sleeping Goddess, are kept in the National Museum of Archeology in Valletta.
The path outside the temple, circular, is really impressive! The prehistoric construction is made up of huge blocks of stone, weighing several tons: there is one 3 meters high and more than 6 meters wide, undoubtedly the largest stone found throughout the island of Malta. Another monolith reaches even over 5 meters high!
Leaving the temple of Hagar Qim behind and following a path about 500 meters long you reach the second megalithic temple, that of Mnajdra.
The vegetation and the landscape are really beautiful!
The temple of Mnajdra is composed of 3 temples with a trefoil plant, two of almost identical size and a smaller one located to the east.
The peculiarity of this temple is that it is crossed by the rays of the sun during the solstices and equinoxes! The temple of Mnajdra is in fact perfectly aligned with the rays of the sun during the days of the spring and autumn equinox, in which at dawn a ray of sunlight enters through the main axis of the temple touching a precise point of the altar main.
At the days of the solstice, an analogous phenomenon occurs: during the winter solstice the sun enters the temple and a ray illuminates a large stone placed to the right of the altar, while during the summer solstice the radius of sun enters at an opposite angle and goes to kiss the stone to the left of the altar.
To celebrate the summer solstice each year, June 21, Heritage Malta organizes a guided tour of the two temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra.
Another very interesting archaeological site is located on the Gozo island, and is the temple of antigantija; the name derives from the word “gant”, a giant in Maltese, since the inhabitants of Gozo believed that the temples were built by a race of giants.
It is not so surprising, if you look at the size of the limestone blocks of which it is made. Some of these megaliths are over five meters long and weigh more than fifty tons.
A very resistant coral limestone has been used for the construction of the external walls (and this is one of the reasons why the buildings have survived so long), while the softer limestone globigerina, of which all the buildings of the isola, was used for interior furnishings such as doors, altars and decorative slabs.
The temple is divided into several parts consisting of apses flanking a central corridor. The temples also have a large terrace at the front that was probably used for ceremonial meetings.
The Tarxien Temples are also a very important archaeological site.
These temples, dating from the 36th and 32nd centuries BC, are located in the heart of the city of Tarscen and collect many bas-reliefs (on the walls and on the altar), whose decorations depict domesticated animals.
It is believed that this place was the setting for rituals with animal sacrifices, as two flint knives and animal remains were found on the altar. The complex includes four temples built over a thousand years.