Tag Archives: Neolithic

Ġgantija Temples | Xagħra, Gozo | 1 October 2014

Ġgantija

The awe-inspiring megalithic complex of Ġgantija was erected in three stages over a period of several hundred years (c.3600-3000 BC) by the community of farmers and herders inhabiting the small and isolated island of Gozo (Malta) at the centre of the Mediterranean.

Ġgantija consists of two temple units built side by side, enclosed within a single massive boundary wall, and sharing the same facade. Both temples have a single and central doorway, opening onto a common and spacious forecourt that is in turn raised on a high terrace. Rituals of life and fertility seem to have been practiced within these precincts, while the sophisticated architectural achievements reveal that something really exceptional was taking place in the Maltese Islands more than five thousand years ago.

This complex stayed in use for about one thousand years, down to the mid third millennium BC, when the Maltese Temple Culture disappeared abruptly and mysteriously. Eventually, the successive inhabitants of the Early Bronze Age (2500-1500 BC) adopted the site as a cremation cemetery.

Information from:
Heritage Malta

© Tony Blood - Ġgantija Temples, Xagħra, Gozo, 1 October 2014

© Tony Blood – Ġgantija Temples, Xagħra, Gozo, 1 October 2014

© Tony Blood - Ġgantija Temples, Xagħra, Gozo, 1 October 2014

© Tony Blood – Ġgantija Temples, Xagħra, Gozo, 1 October 2014

Skull | Ġgantija Temples | Xagħra, Gozo | 1 October 2014

SKULL found at the Xagħra Circle. This is the skull of a woman, which was studied by forensic experts in order to recreate what she looked like when she was alive in the Neolithic.

Information from:
Heritage Malta

The Xagħra Stone Circle is an underground funerary complex, situated in Xagħra on the Maltese island of Gozo. It was first discovered by John Otto Bayer in the 1820s and rediscovered in 1964 after Gozitan researcher Joe Attard Tabone examined a painting by Charles Brochtorff in the National Library in Valletta. The site was excavated by a joint team from the University of Malta, the Maltese Museums Department and the University of Cambridge. The excavation uncovered the burial ground of the same community which practiced its rituals in the nearby Ggantija Temples, dating principally to the period from 3000 to 2500 BC. The most notable discoveries include more than 200,000 human bones and prehistoric art relating to the builders of the prehistoric Maltese temples. An earlier chambered tomb on site dates to the period between 4100 and 3800 BC.

Information from:
Web: http://www.visitmalta.com/en/info/xaghracircle

© Tony Blood - Skull. Ġgantija Temples, Xagħra, Gozo, 1 October 2014

© Tony Blood – Skull. Ġgantija Temples, Xagħra, Gozo, 1 October 2014

Graffiti | Ġgantija Temples | Xagħra, Gozo | 1 October 2014

On both sides of the doorway, two well-finished megaliths are covered in graffiti, some of which date back to the early 1800s. For many years, visitors incised their names or initials on the stone, gravely damaging the surface of many megaliths in the temples.

Information from:
Heritage Malta

© Tony Blood - Graffiti. Ġgantija Temples, Xagħra, Gozo, 1 October 2014

© Tony Blood – Graffiti. Ġgantija Temples, Xagħra, Gozo, 1 October 2014

Xagħra Circle | Ġgantija Temples | Xagħra, Gozo | 1 October 2014

RITUALS OF THE DEAD
Rituals at the Xaghra Circle was probably different from that at Ġgantija, because it involved the dead. The excavations of the site proved that burial rituals and rites changed. Some skeletons were found intact, but later in the Temple Period, skulls or long-bones were separated and buried in special pits. This suggests that the living may have returned to their dead relatives and performed secondary-burial rituals after some time had passed since their death. This, together with evidence of cremation during the Bronze Age at other sites, bears witness to the variety of death rituals performed throughout Maltese prehistory.

Information from:
Heritage Malta

© Tony Blood - Xagħra Circle. Ġgantija Temples, Xagħra, Gozo, 1 October 2014

© Tony Blood – Xagħra Circle. Ġgantija Temples, Xagħra, Gozo, 1 October 2014

Skorba Temples | Żebbiegħ Mġarr, Malta | 19 September 2014

The site of Skorba lies in the hamlet of Żebbiegħ, on the outskirts of Mġarr, overlooking the nearby valley and providing a spectacular view of the surrounding landscape.

Excavated by David Trump in the early 1960s, quite late when compared to other similar sites, this temple is unique for providing crucial evidence concerning the domestic aspect of the prehistoric people, including the temple builders themselves. This archaeological site includes the remains of two megalithic temple structures, one of which dates from the earliest phase of megalithic construction – the Ġgantija Phase, while the other was constructed at a later stage in prehistory, that is, the Tarxien Phase.

In addition, there are also the remains of several domestic huts, in which the prehistoric temple builders used to dwell. Some structures date from before the Temple Period (i.e. before 3600 BC), and therefore, are amongst the oldest constructed structures on the Maltese Islands. Scientific studies on these structures have provided crucial evidence on the life-sustaining resources which were available at the time and have also thrown light on the dietary patterns of the prehistoric people.

The archaeological value of the site and its contribution to our understanding of Maltese prehistory, were recognised by the international community and by UNESCO in 1992, when it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List along with five other temple sites on the islands. In the words of David Trump himself, this site was not only as important as any of the others for the part it played in uncovering the whole prehistory of Malta, [but] it was more important than all the others put together.

Information from:
Web: http://heritagemalta.org/museums-sites/skorba/

© Tony Blood - Skorba Temples, Żebbiegħ, Mġarr, Malta, 19 September 2014

© Tony Blood – Skorba Temples, Żebbiegħ, Mġarr, Malta, 19 September 2014

The Citadel | Victoria, Gozo | 30 August 2014

The Citadel in Gozo owes its roots to the late medieval era, but the hill has been settled since Neolithic times. After the Great Siege of 1565, the Knights set about re-fortifying it to provide refuge and defence against further attack. Until 1637, the Gozitan population was required by law to spend their nights within the Citadel for their own safety. In later, more peaceful times, this restriction was lifted and people settled below its walls, creating the prosperous town of Rabat, now known as Victoria.

Information from:
Web: http://www.visitmalta.com/en/info/citadel

© Tony Blood - Canon. The Citadel, Victoria, Gozo, 30 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Canon. The Citadel, Victoria, Gozo, 30 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Crests. The Citadel, Victoria, Gozo, 30 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Crests. The Citadel, Victoria, Gozo, 30 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Steps. The Citadel, Victoria, Gozo, 30 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Steps. The Citadel, Victoria, Gozo, 30 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Canon. The Citadel, Victoria, Gozo, 30 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Canon. The Citadel, Victoria, Gozo, 30 August 2014

Salt Pans | Il Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta | 26 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Salt Pans. Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, August 2014

© Tony Blood – Salt Pans. Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, 26 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Salt Pans. Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, August 2014

© Tony Blood – Salt Pans. Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, 26 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Hiker's Cave.  Il Blata Tal Melh, rabat, Malta, August 2014

© Tony Blood – Hiker’s Cave. Il Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, 26 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Hiker's Cave. Il Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, August 2014

© Tony Blood – Hiker’s Cave, Il Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, 26 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Salt Pans. Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, August 2014

© Tony Blood – Salt Pans. Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, 26 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Salt Pans. Bahrija, Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, August 2014

© Tony Blood – Salt Pans. Bahrija, Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, 26 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Salt Pans. Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, August 2014

© Tony Blood – Salt Pans. Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, 26 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Salt Pans. Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, 26 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Salt Pans. Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, 26 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Il Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, August 2014

© Tony Blood – Il Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, 26 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Inlet. Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, 26 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Inlet. Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, 26 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Staircase. Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, 26 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Staircase. Blata Tal Melh, Rabat, Malta, 26 August 2014

Mnajdra Temples | Qrendi, Malta | 20 August 2014

MIDDLE TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE
The architecture of this temple is very simple when compared to the South Temple. A porthole slab leads to a small chamber built within the thickness of the temple wall.

Information from:
Heritage Malta

© Tony Blood - Mnajdra Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Mnajdra Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Mnajdra Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Mnajdra Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

Statuette | Ħagar Qim Temples | Qrendi, Malta | 20 August 2014

STONE STATUETTES
A collection of four statuettes depicting obese figures were found below some steps during restoration works in 1949.

(These figurines are now on display at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta).

Information from:
Heritage Malta

© Tony Blood - Statuette, Ħagar Qim Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Statuette, Ħagar Qim Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

Mnajdra Temples | Qrendi, Malta | 20 August 2014

Mnajdra is found in an isolated position on a rugged stretch of Malta’s southern coast overlooking the isle of Fifla. It is some 500m away from Ħaġar Qim Temples. It consists of three buildings facing a common oval forecourt. The first and oldest structure dates to the Ġgantija phase (3600 – 3200 BC). The second structure to be built was the South Temple, constructed in the early Tarxien phase (3150 – 2500 BC). The Central Temple, inserted between the other two, was the last to be built. Remains to the north-east and south of these buildings indicate that these three structures are only the best preserved of a larger complex.

The South Temple has its entrance set in a concave monumental facade and leads to two rooms, or apses. On the left-hand side, a decorated porthole doorway (a square-shaped opening cut in the centre of a stone block) leads into a small chamber. The apse to the right has a small rectangular opening which connects it to a chamber within the thickness of the walls accessible only from the rear of the building and a porthole doorway at the top of a small flight of stairs leading into another small chamber. Within the latter chamber is a small niche accessed through a small porthole slab set within a trilithon. This arrangement features on the Maltese 5, 2 and 1 euro cent coins. The four horizontal courses at the top of the walls in this area are perhaps the best indication of what the building’s roof would have looked like.

Opposite the main entrance is the doorway to the second set of apses flanked by two large blocks decorated with small drilled holes. This doorway and the decorated blocks mark the position of the rising sun on the first day of spring and autumn (the Equinoxes) and the first day of summer and winter (the Solstices).

Mnajdra’s Central Temple is built on an artificial platform and has an unusual facade in that it has two doorways, a central porthole doorway and a second open doorway with a single step to its left. The first pair of rooms are built in well-finished smooth upright stone blocks supporting two horizontal courses. There is an engraving of a temple facade on a large upright next to the doorway into the inner apses. These apses hold a central covered niche and a porthole doorway in the left-hand apse, leading to a small chamber built into the thickness of the wall.

In the East Temple, the low rubble walls visible today are modern reconstructions; they follow the original plan of this structure as indicated by the torba (crushed limestone) floor which survived. The upright stone blocks in the main doorway and in the entrance to the central apse are original. Two of them retain several irregular lines of drilled holes which have been the focus of many studies and theories on their possible meaning.

Information from:
Web: http://heritagemalta.org/museums-sites/mnajdra-temples/

© Tony Blood - Mnajdra Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Mnajdra Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Mnajdra Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Mnajdra Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

Ħagar Qim Temples | Qrendi, Malta | 20 August 2014

TEMPLE ROOFING
The remains of a roof can be found inside the chambers. The horizontal courses above the upright slabs protrude over the one beneath. These courses are the remains of the base of a corbelled roof, the type of construction that may have originally been used to roof over parts of the temple.

Information from:
Heritage Malta

© Tony Blood - Ħagar Qim Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Ħagar Qim Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Ħagar Qim Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Ħagar Qim Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

Ħagar Qim Temples | Qrendi, Malta | 20 August 2014

The temple of Hagar Qim (c. 3600 – 3200 BC) stands on a hilltop overlooking the sea and the islet of Filfla. The temple itself consists of a single temple unit, although it is not clear if it was originally constructed as a four or five-apse structure.

Other temple ruins stand a few metres away from the main temple and the forecourt and facade follow the pattern typical of temples across the Islands. Particularly noteworthy are the larger orthostats at the corners, which are notched to take the second of the horizontal courses above.

Various items of interest have been unearthed at Hagar Qim, notably a decorated pillar altar, two table-altars and some of the ‘fat lady’ statues on display in the National Museum of Archaeology.

Information from:
Web: http://www.visitmalta.com/en/info/hagarqim

© Tony Blood - Entrance to Ħagar Qim Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Entrance to Ħagar Qim Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Table Alter, Ħagar Qim Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Table Alter, Ħagar Qim Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Ħagar Qim Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Ħagar Qim Temples. Qrendi, Malta, 20 August 2014

Tarxien Temples | Tarxien, Malta | 13 August 2014

A stone block with two carved spirals blocks the entrance into the second set of apses of the Central Temple. In the doorway, as in many other doorways on site, there are pairs of interconnected holes on opposite sides. These indicate points where screens or doors could have been used to close off physical access, or even visibility, to what was happening in certain parts of the temple.

Information from:
Heritage Malta

© Tony Blood - Tarxien Temples. Tarxien, Malta, 13 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Tarxien Temples. Tarxien, Malta, 13 August 2014

Tarxien Temples | Tarxien, Malta | 13 August 2014

The Tarxien Temples date from 3600-2500 BC and are the most complex of all temple sites in Malta, consisting of four megalithic structures.

The temples are renowned for the detail of their carvings, which include domestic animals carved in relief, altars, and screens decorated with spiral designs and other patterns. Of particular note is a chamber set into the thickness of the wall between the South and Central temples, which is famous for its relief of two bulls and a sow. The site seems to have been used extensively for rituals, which probably involved animal sacrifice.

Tarxien is also of great interest because it offers an insight into how the temples were constructed: stonerollers left outside the south temple were probably used for transporting the megaliths. Remains of cremation have also been found at the centre of the South temple at Tarxien, which indicates that the site was reused as a Bronze Age cremation cemetery.

Information from:
Web: http://www.visitmalta.com/en/info/tarxientemples

© Tony Blood - Pot. Tarxien Temples. Tarxien, Malta, 13 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Pot. Tarxien Temples. Tarxien, Malta, 13 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Tarxien Temples. Tarxien, Malta, 13 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Tarxien Temples. Tarxien, Malta, 13 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Entrance. Tarxien Temples. Tarxien, Malta, 13 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Entrance. Tarxien Temples. Tarxien, Malta, 13 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Tarxien Temples. Tarxien, Malta, 13 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Tarxien Temples. Tarxien, Malta, 13 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Tarxien Temples. Tarxien, Malta, 13 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Tarxien Temples. Tarxien, Malta, 13 August 2014

© Tony Blood - Tarxien Temples. Tarxien, Malta, 13 August 2014

© Tony Blood – Tarxien Temples. Tarxien, Malta, 13 August 2014