Archaeology and Prehistory.

Malta has always stood at the crossroads of the Mediterranean. People crossing from north to south, or from east to west, have all left a trace on the island.

The most startling of these traces is to be found in the great Neolithic Temples which on Malta and Gozo. These were built 1000 years before the Pyramids, and are the oldest stone buildings in the world. I hope that you are impressed! The construction of these buildings demonstrate a mastery of quarrying, stone working, building and engraving techniques and must be the work of a mature, confident culture. Like stone circles in the British Isles some appear to be concerned with the passage of the seasons as indicated by the position of the Sun.

Mnjandra Neolithic Temple.

To the geographer these structures are important because they indicate the presence of a very early (perhaps the earliest) civilization. We must ask the questions

Imagery associated with the temple buildings portray an island with trees and abundant wild life, did the temple culture destroy the island's ecosystem and collapse? In many places on the islands the soil has been removed to reveal the underlying Karst limestone pavement. The expose limestone is often scored with deep "cart ruts" the origin and antiquity of which are a mystery. These formations suggest that at some point in prehistory the Islands soil cover was removed and heavy traffic scored and eroded the exposed limestone. Perhaps this marks a prehistoric environmental catastrophe.

The prehistory of Malta is divided into a number of phases named

Ghar Dalam Phase (5200 -4500 B.C.)

It is thought that Neolithic people crossed to Malta from Sicily during this period. These people, who were farmers lived in caves and grottos found around the island although evidence shows that they also lived in open settlements. This period is known by the name of the cave where their remains have been found.

Skorba Phase (4400 - 4100 B.C.)

During this phase changes in the way the early inhabitants of Malta lived became evident, inhabitants started living in huts in small villages. The type of pottery used by the Maltese of this period altered greatly.

Zebbug Phase (4100 - 3800 B.C.)

This phase belongs to the Copper Age. During this phase, use of flint for tools, obsidian and red ochre used for decorating temples was common

Mgarr Phase (3800 -3600 B.C.)

During this phase another change in the way the inhabitants of the islands lived became evident. This is defined by a special type of pottery in use during this period.

Ggantija Phase (3600 - 3000 B.C.)

This phase is named after the huge and elaborate temple found on the island of Gozo. This temple is named Ggantija because of the huge blocks of limestone (some as high as twenty feet) used to form the walls of the temple. Temples built during this era tended to be very large and architecturally elaborate. They were mostly constructed of huge slabs of limestone rocks brought to the sites from nearby quarries. The Ggantija temples predate Stonehenge by over 1,000 years and are amongst the oldest free standing buildings in the world. These temples were already in existence at the time when the great pyramids of Giza were being built.

Saflieni and Tarxien Phases (3000 - 2500 B.C.)

The Ggantija Phase evolved into the Saflieni Phase, named after the unique subterranean temple known as the Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni. This temple is completely hewn out of the soft limestone rock found in Malta. It is about 1,600 square feet in area and consists of three layers reaching a depth of around forty feet.

Tarxien Cemetery Phase (2500 - 1500 B.C.)

All traces of these temple builders was lost around 1800 B.C. Bronze Age people supplanted the previous inhabitants of the islands. The newcomer's culture was more advanced since they used metal implements. This phased is named after the graves these people built on the site of the Tarxien temple.

Borg in-Nadur Phase (1400 - 800 B.C.)

This phase is named after the settlement where a new people arriving to the islands lived. There are eight known settlements from this period.

Prehistoric culture.

The prehistoric culture of the islands may have been matriarchal. Alternatively there may have been a fertility cult. Associated with many of the temples are huge fertility figures known as "mother goddesses". However, you may think these figures are asexual.

Goddess figure from Tarxien temple.

Images of temple buildings.

Sanctuary and Pedestal Hagar Qim

Altar? Hagar Qim

Entrance. Hagar Qim.

Offertory. Tarxien.

Side view. Hagar Qim.

Cart ruts. "Clapham Junction".

Points to consider.

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