Megalithic Temples of Malta
These free-standing structures were all used as religious temples, and are the oldest of their kind in the world, constructed between 3,500-2,500BC, also over 5,500 years ago.Seven megalithic temples are found on the islands of Malta and Gozo, each the result of an individual development. The two temples of Ggantija on the island of Gozo are notable for their gigantic Bronze Age structures. On the island of Malta, the temples of Hagar Qin, Mnajdra and Tarxien are unique architectural masterpieces, given the limited resources available to their builders. The Ta’Hagrat and Skorba complexes show how the tradition of temple-building was handed down in Malta.
The monuments that make up this World Heritage site constitute the most characteristic examples of structures representing a major development in the cultural as well as the artistic and technological domains. Professor Lord Renfrew (Cambridge University), one of the leading prehistorians of the present day, has described the group of megalithic temples on the islands of Malta and Gozo as ‘the oldest free-standing monuments in the world’. They are, moreover, remarkable for their diversity of form and decoration.
Being among the remarkable megalithic temples of the Maltese archipelago, the prehistoric ensemble of Ġgantija on the island of Gozo may be favourably compared with the three great temples of the island of Malta: Mnajdra, Ħagar Qim and Tarxien. Within a completely preserved enclosure wall, Ġgantija consists of two temples of multi-foil plan.
The southern temple, with its two elliptical cells, is the oldest; the northern temple, which is small in size, is more recent, although no later than 2200 BC. The ensemble of Ġgantija which serves as a point of archaeological reference – the ‘Ġgantija Phase’ (c. 3000-2200 BC) is one of the most important periods of the Maltese Bronze Age. The complex structure of the cultural group of Ġgantija, the excellent state of preservation of its materials – hard chalky coralline and the softer globigerina limestone – make it an excellent testament of megalithic prehistoric art.