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.
© Tony Blood – The National Museum of Archaeology. Valletta Malta, 25 August 2014
© Tony Blood – Jug with floral decoration from Tal-Liedna (Terracotta). The National Museum of Archaeology. Valletta Malta, 25 August 2014
The Phoenicians buried their dead in a variety of ways. One of these was to put the corpse inside a coffin. Fashioned in wood, terracotta stone, stone, and marble, coffins consisted of a casket and a lid, and were often shaped like a human figure, a practice that was very popular in pharaonic Egypt. The coffin on display here was found at Għar Barka on the outskirts of Rabat (Malta) in 1797. Lead poured inside the grooves on the side of the coffin was meant to hold the lid firmly in place. In the Phoenician homeland, members of the royal family were buried in similar coffins, often re-using ones brought over from Egypt. They would have inscriptions written on the lids to curse anyone who disturbed their eternal sleep.
© Tony Blood – Phoenician Coffin. The National Museum of Archaeology. Valletta Malta, 25 August 2014
© Tony Blood – Silver plate with commemorative dedication to Sir Alexander Ball (1757-1809) (Silver). The National Museum of Archaeology. Valletta Malta, 25 August 2014
© Tony Blood – Bronze Dagger from Għar Mirdum (Bronze and Bone). The National Museum of Archaeology. Valletta Malta, 25 August 2014
© Tony Blood – Sir Temi Zammit’s notebook no. 11. The National Museum of Archaeology. Valletta Malta, 25 August 2014
© Tony Blood – Human Skull from the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum. The National Museum of Archaeology. Valletta Malta, 25 August 2014
© Tony Blood – Sleeping Lady from the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum. The National Museum of Archaeology. Valletta Malta, 25 August 2014
© Tony Blood – Venus of Malta. The National Museum of Archaeology. Valletta Malta, 25 August 2014