Top attractions in Malta: amazing megaliths
Malta is one of the most amazing states of our planet. The tiny territory of the Maltese archipelago islands is home to an incredible number of historical landmarks that amaze the imagination with their age and purpose. As you guessed, today we will talk about megalithic temples of Malta – the most ancient stone structures made by human hands. Enjoy reading!
Megalithic temples on the island of Malta
The largest island of the state is Malta. It is here that the bulk of all the attractions are concentrated, including Neolithic structures. Megalithic temples of Malta we will consider below.
Perhaps the most famous megalith in Malta should be considered an amazing underground temple Hal-Saflieni, which is located in the vicinity of Paola. We already told about this historical object in the article Maltese heritage: mysterious Hipogeum Hal Saflieni in the city of Paola.
Temple complex Hajar Im (Hajar Kim)
This megalith is located near the town of Zurrick, 15 km from the capital, Valletta. Hajar Im, translated from the Arabic language, means “standing stone”. There is another version, according to which the temple is called the “stones of worship. The largest stone Neolithic complex was erected in the IV-III millennium BC. It owes its size to the constant expansion that took place at the expense of additional buildings and constructions. Outwardly Hajar Im is a large-scale stone structure, consisting of several structures placed on a hill. All parts of the sanctuary are enclosed by huge boulders. The temples were built from soft material, which has spoiled the overall appearance of the site over the long period of its existence. The façade of one of the structures has an entrance made of three slabs, orthostats, and a bench. In front of this shrine is a large courtyard-like area that is enclosed by a stone wall. The entrance leads to the center of the shrine, and a separate aperture is reserved for visiting the four separate buildings added later. Inside Hajar Im, the remains of sculptures decorated with spiral patterns and ornaments were discovered. Today, these findings can be seen in the National Archaeological Museum of Valletta. To preserve the ancient interior, there are copies of these sculptures in the temple visits. Hajar Im can be reached by bus numbers 201 and 74. You can see the unique sanctuary every day from 9 am to 6 pm. During the cold season (October 1 to March 31) the site is open from 10 am to 5 pm. On Christmas holidays, New Year and Good Friday, the megalith is closed. To view Hajar Im, you must purchase a ticket, which includes a tour of the neighboring Mnajdra Sanctuary. The ticket for an adult will cost 10 euros. Pensioners, teenagers and children of school and preschool age receive discounts.
The Megalith of Mnajdra
In the neighborhood of the temple Hajar-Im (just 500 meters away) stands a smaller, but more regular in its layout megalith Mnajdra. If we believe the historians, this sanctuary was erected in 3600-2100 years BC The opening of the temple occurred in 1840. Mnajdra consists of three parts: the Lower, Middle and Upper temples, standing close to each other. The most ancient is the Upper Sanctuary, built in 3600-3200 BC. This building is a tri-chapsidic structure with a doorway in the form of a geometrically irregular hole. In the distant past the keystones were decorated with apertures. The vaulted ceiling of the megalith has not survived – only its dilapidated foundations. The middle megalith was built between 3150 and 1500 BC (late Tarshien period). It is the youngest temple of Mnaidra. It was built of stone slabs with horizontally lined rows of boulders. The third, the Lower Temple, appeared in the early Tarshien period. It is considered to be the most interesting object among other sanctuaries of Mnaidra. In front of this temple there is a small platform equipped with stone benches, a corridor (aka entrance) built from stone slabs, and the ruins of the roof, which, according to scientists, had a dome shape in the past. The walls of the lower sanctuary are decorated with dentils, patterns, and there are carved windows in the slabs. The three temples described are not connected by any passageways. Inside the premises of Mnajidra many valuable finds were discovered: a stone ball which probably was used by the ancient inhabitants of Malta for transportation of massive boulders and blocks, statuettes, tools, bowls, flint knives, etc. Megalithic temple Mnajdra has the same mode of operation as Hajar Im. To visit it, you need to buy a ticket that allows you to view the two nearby sanctuaries of the island.
Bujibba Megalithic Temple
The remains of the ancient megalithic temple are located in an unusual place – on the territory of the New Dolmen Hotel, which is located between the two famous Maltese resorts of Aura and Budjibba. The most complete information about this site you will find in the article Guide to Malta: unforgettable Aura.
Tarshien Temple Complex
One of the largest megalithic temples of Malta is located in the town of Tarshien. The temple of Tarshien was built around 2800 BC. It, like the hypogeum of Hal Saflieni, was discovered by accident – while carrying out agricultural work in the field. Peasants working in the fields of Malta in 1914 found the unique find. Like Mnajdra, the megalith Taršien consists of three sanctuaries, but unlike the first temple, all parts are connected with each other by passages. This temple complex can be considered the most decorated: almost on each slab of stone you can see a variety of reliefs, images of animals, spiral patterns. The first temple of Tarshien was built around 3100 B.C. It is this temple which is decorated with the most exquisite patterns. The middle sanctuary appeared in 3000 BC. The distinctive feature of this construction is the presence of three, not two, apses. The eastern part of the Tarshien was built in 3100 BC. In the past, in front of the main entrance to the megalithic temple stood a statue of the goddess with a height of three meters. The original is in the Archaeological Museum of Malta, and today there is an exact copy. In one of the rooms of Taršien there is an altar, decorated with a spiral pattern. It has a hole where scientists and archaeologists have found a ritual knife and bones of some species of animals. Not far from the eastern part of the megalith are the ruins of another temple. Its size is small, but the age of the temple is quite solid, because it was built in 3250 BC. Take buses 206, 84, 82, 88 and 85 to get to Tarshien. You can visit the temple complex of the city every day from 9 am to 6 pm (in winter – until 5 pm). On holidays: New Year’s Day, Christmas vacations and Good Friday, the attraction is not available for viewing. A ticket to the megalithic temple for an adult costs 6 euros. There is a system of discounts for children and seniors.
One of the most humble megalithic temples of Malta is Skorba, located in the small village of Mjarra. The most ancient construction was erected in 4400-3000 years BC. The study of Skorba was engaged relatively late. The first excavations on the territory of the temple were carried out in the 60s of the last century. Unfortunately, this sanctuary has preserved only the external outlines of the temple that once existed. Today the Skorba is a complex of vertically standing boulders no more than 3.4 meters high. The floor of the megalith was paved, the temple itself included three apses and an entrance. The first two apses and the facade of the Skorba are ruined. Nevertheless the finds discovered in the vicinity of the sanctuary are of great historical and cultural importance. According to historians, the shrine was built on the site of a village that was surrounded by an 11-meter-high wall of stone. Near it was discovered charcoal dated 4850 BC Also in the church were found samples of prehistoric pottery, which were made by ancient Maltese in 4500-4100 BC. You can get to the temple of Skorba by bus numbers 101 and 44. You can admire the ancient shrine only on Saturday, Thursday and Tuesday from 9 am to 16:30 pm. On holidays the site is closed to visitors. Adult ticket to the megalithic temple costs 6.5 euros.
Important information! At the same time in the shrine Skorba can be no more than 15 people.
TaʼHajrat temple complex
Another megalithic temple is located near the village of Mjarr about 1 kilometer from the Skorba sanctuary described above. The megalithic complex includes two temples: the first, aka the Great TaʼHajrat, was built in about 3600-3200 B.C. The second, the Small Temple, appeared in 3300-3000 BC. The Megalith was made of durable coral limestone. It has a unique layout, atypical for megalithic temples in Malta. The small temple connects with the Great Sanctuary on the north side. Archaeologists, leading excavations on the site of the sanctuary, found many valuable ceramic images, which relate to the years 3800-3600 BC These findings suggest that the place of the temple in the distant past was a village. Scientists have also found a valuable model of the temple in a smaller scale, more like a statue. In 1937 the portal and facade of TaʼHajrat were reconstructed. Today, curious tourists can see only the majestic remains of the ancient temple complex. One can reach the described Mjarrah attraction by buses #238, 101 and 44. The mode of operation and ticket prices at TaʼHajrat are the same as those of the Scorba Temple.
This archaeological monument of the island is located on the outskirts of Birzebudge in the south-eastern part of Malta. Unfortunately, little remains of this megalith – only the foundations, stacked in the shape of a trefoil. The poor condition does not allow scientists to determine the exact age of the object. Archaeologists are inclined to the opinion that the Borj-in-Nadur was erected about 2000-1600 years BC. The remains of an ancient village have been discovered next to this temple, of which only a 4-meter high stone wall remains. It once protected several huts of the ancient Maltese. Viewing of this attraction is possible only by prior arrangement. To request a visit to Borj-in-Nadur, visit http://heritagemalta.org/contact-us/.
Megalithic temples on the island of Gozo
Malta’s neighboring island also has several Neolithic temples, which we will talk about below.
Jgantija Temple Complex
About this site we partially told in the article about the sights of Malta. Today the majestic Jgantija will be described in more detail. Named megalith translates as “tower of giants.” It is the most famous sanctuary of the island of Gozo, as well as the oldest megalithic temple in the entire state of the Maltese archipelago. Jgantija is located in the village of Shaara. It consists of two large sanctuaries that appeared in 3600-2500 BC. The shape of the megalith is typical of all other similar temples built by the ancient Maltese. It is erected in the form of a cloverleaf and has the height of walls equal to six meters. Many artefacts have been discovered near Jgantija: pottery, spherical stones for transporting stone boulders, statuettes, etc. The territory of the temple is surrounded by a fence made of vertically standing stones. Some of the boulders reach a height of 5.5 meters. You can get to the Jgantija temple by bus #307. You can see the Neolithic shrine every day from 9 am to 6 pm in the summer, and from 9 am to 5 pm in the winter. The ticket price is small – only 9 euros, with discounts for children and seniors. The ticket price also includes a tour of the Ta Cola Mill.
No less interesting historical site in Gozo is the stone circle, often called the Brostorff circle. It is an underground temple, which was built during the Neolithic period in the vicinity of the modern village of Shaara. The stone circle was found in the 1920s and then rediscovered in the 1960s. Scientists believe that the Brostorff Stone Circle served as a burial place for the ancient Goths. This is confirmed by the large number of bones found at the site. To be precise, archaeologists have found about 200 thousand human bones, as well as a variety of art objects belonging to the period of construction of Maltese megalithic temples. One of the most striking examples of ancient craftsmanship is a chamber tomb, made, according to experts, 4100-3800 years BC. Tourists are taken to the site by bus number 307. Like the Borj-in-Nadur Temple, the stone circle can be viewed only by prior arrangement.
If you are interested in the megalithic temples of Malta, then we recommend reading the interesting facts related to these historical monuments of human heritage.
- In total, there are 23 megaliths in Malta. Some of them are in a ruined or semi-destroyed state.
- In spite of everything, scholars equate such sights as the grotto and catacombs of St. Paul and the catacombs of St. Agatha with megalithic temples.
- Jgantija Temple is the oldest man-made structure on the planet, for which it was listed in the Guinness Book of Records.
- No less remarkable is Ar Dalam Cave, located near Birzebudzhi. It is an intricate network of tunnels likely used by members of the Order of Malta to move around the island. The remains of many prehistoric animals, including pygmy elephants, hippos and deer, have been discovered. Some scholarly minds believe that Ar Dalam is nothing more than an ancient sewer cut by the Maltese back in prehistoric times.
- The iconic nation, which erected unique historical monuments, disappeared in 2300 BC. The reason for their disappearance is not known to this day.
- At the time of the construction of the Neolithic sanctuaries there were no wheels, no binding materials, and no construction machinery. The mystery of building temples out of multi-ton stone blocks has not been solved until now.
- There are many legends and tales around megalithic temples. The majority of Maltese believe that the giant sanctuaries were built by giants, which are their ancestors.
- Some ufologists attribute the appearance of megalithic temples to alien races.
- Another popular assumption has to do with the sunken Atlantis. Some people believe that the ruts, with which the territory of the state is rutted, are the traces of the mighty Atlantean titans.
- In the central part of each temple complex were found burials, as well as the attributes that accompanied the various rituals of sacrifice (bones of sacrificial animals, flint knives, altars). At some distance from them the ancient builders erected their stone temples.
- Five megalithic temples of the state are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. They include Skorba and TaʼHajrat, Mnajdra, Jgantiya, Tarshien and Hajar-Im. Hypogeum Hal-Saflieni goes under a separate number on the UNESCO list.
- The megaliths of Malta are a thousand years older than the Egyptian pyramids.
- Alas, the destruction of the temples of Malta contributed not to the weather conditions, but the Maltese themselves, who dismantled the ancient sanctuaries and used the chipped away blocks of stone to build their own homes.
And some useful information for tourists. Malta is a small but popular country. If you want to see all the sights of the islands, then book tours in advance: about 1-1.5 months before arrival to the country. Such an action will guarantee that you will have time to enjoy the ancient treasures of Malta and will not lose time in the long lines at the entrance.
The megaliths in Malta are a sight worthy of every visitor’s attention. Stones imbued with the spirit of Maltese life in ancient times will make you wonder at the strength, talent and tenacity of Malta’s prehistoric builders and provoke a lot of thoughts worth pondering at your leisure. Have a great time!