The National Museum of Archaeology displays a significant array of artefacts from the Islands’ unique prehistoric periods, starting with the first arrival of man in 5200 BC, running up to 2500 BC. The first rooms trace man’s early settlement on the Islands up to the temple-building periods using a reconstruction of a rock-cut tomb. The collection includes obsidian cores and the Red Skorba figurines, which are predecessors of the temple period objects and statuary. The main hall is devoted to temple carvings and the collection continues with representations of animals, temple models, and the remarkable human figures. Of particular note are the exquisite figures of the ‘Sleeping Lady’ from the Hypogeum, and the ‘Venus’ of Hagar Qim. The last room exhibits some pottery from the temple period, together with tools, beads and other ornaments.
The National Museum of Archaeology is housed in the Auberge de Provence, in Republic Street, Valletta. The building, an example of fine Baroque architecture, was built in 1571 and followed a plan by local architect Ġilormu Cassar. The Auberge de Provence was house to the Knights of the Order of St John originating from Provence, France and displays beautiful architectural features. Of particular note is the Grand Salon, with its richly painted walls and wooden beamed ceiling. The Museum exhibits a spectacular range of artefacts dating back to Malta’s Neolithic period (5000 BC) up to the Phoenician Period (400 BC). On display are the earliest tools used by the prehistoric people to facilitate their daily tasks and representations of animal and human figures; elements which not only show the great artistic skills of the first dwellers of the island but also gives us an insight of their daily lives.
Highlights include the ‘Sleeping Lady’ from the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, the ‘Venus of Malta’ from Ħaġar Qim, bronze daggers recovered from the Bronze Age layers at Tarxien Temples, and the Horus and Anubis pendant and the anthropomorphic sarcophagus, both belonging to the Phoenician Period. The Museum provides the visitor with a good introduction to the prehistory and early history of the Maltese Island sand acts as a catalyst to the other archaeological sites in Malta. Works are currently in progress to include another hall dedicated to the Punic period and others dedicated to the Roman and Byzantine periods in Malta.
The monastery of Saint Ursula was first established at Vittoriosa, but in 1595 it was transferred to Valletta. The nuns follow the rule written by Blessed Raymond du Puy, first Grandmaster of the Order of Saint John. During the time of the Knights the monastery was subject to the Grandmaster, but since the departure of the Order from Malta, the monastery has been directly subject to the Bishop.
Malta has an abundance of architectural history. There are multiple layers within each city ranging from the ancient temples of Tarxien, Hagar Qim and Mnajdra to the cathedrals of St. John’s and St. Paul’s. On the streets of Valletta a more recent history is developing before us in the form of its shop fronts. Some of these wooden frontages, kiosks and painted signs can be traced back to the later part of the 19th century. Their signs reveal what the owners occupations were, the services they offered and what they sold. Bars, Pastizzerias and Stationers are just a few of the types of stores that flourished here. Some are still operating under different shops name but most remain closed and out of use. From a total of 112 stores under protection, only 19 are presented here. (Schembri, Times of Malta [online], 2011).