Archaeologists have changed their minds about the age of Malta’s UNESCO-listed temples, discovering these sacred sites are older than Egypt’s Pyramids.
Seven 5,000 Year Old Temples
Ruined, 5000-year old temples built of huge blocks of native limestone still stand on the islands of Malta and Gozo, south of Sicily.The seven Maltese megalithic temples may be the world’s first temples. When I visited the island as a student, however, they were believed to be much more recent. The Maltese temples are now known to be older than Egypt’s Pyramids. The new dates are because of the “radiocarbon revolution” in which radiocarbon dates are converted to calendar dates using tree rings as a comparison. The temples have now been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Prehistoric Group on the Maltese Archipelago
According to Professor Lord Renfrew of Cambridge University, who is one of today’s leading prehistorians, the group of temples on the islands of Gozo and Malta (called Melita in the ancient world) can be described as “the oldest free-standing monuments in the world.” They are also notable because of the diversity of form and decoration. At one time, archaeologists thought the temples were linked with Greece’s Mycenaean civilization, ca. 1500 B.C. because of the similarity of the spiral decorations carved into the stone of some of the temples. That view is considered outdated. UNESCO notes describe the monuments that make up this World Heritage Site as being the “most characteristic structures representing a major development in the cultural as well as the artistic and technological domain.”
Gozo’s Temples Have Gigantic Bronze Age Features
There are two temples of the island of Gozo. They are known as the temples of Ggantija. Both are within a very well preserved enclosing wall. The two Ggantija temples are designed in what is known as multi-foil plan – the southern one is the oldest and has two elliptical cells, and the northern temple, which is smaller and more recent. Archaeologists date the smaller one at no later than 2200 B.C. They are both in an excellent state of preservation. Made of hard, chalky coralline and a softer type of limestone, these two temples are wonderful examples of megalithic prehistoric art.
Malta’s Unique Temples
The temples of Hagar Qin, Mnajdra and the Tarxien complex are Malta’s gift to the world. These temples are “unique architectural masterpieces” according to UNESCO, especially given the limited resources available on the island. The notes continue by stating that the Tarxien temples of Ta”Hagrat, which is the best preserved temple in an early trefoil plan, and Skorba are essential to the understanding of the development of the temple tradition and of the elaborate rituals that were carried out at the temples.
St. Paul Stayed on Malta
Malta is where St. Paul stayed for three months after he was shipwrecked in 60 A.D. The island nation has been under the thumb of many rulers, becoming a British colony in 1814. British rule came to an end in 1964, making Malta fully independent. It has now joined the European Union. For more information about Malta, visit www.visitmalta.com