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Mnajdra Temple - Malta Island

Posted by edwinswagger on February 28, 2016 at 6:15 AM Comments comments (0)

 



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Mnajdra Temple 35.826667, 14.436389

 

Mnajdra is made of coralline limestone, which is much harder than the soft globigerina limestone of Ħaġar Qim. The main structural systems used in the temples are corbelling with smaller stones, and post-and-lintel construction using large slabs of limestone. The cloverleaf plan of Mnajdra appears more regular than that of Ħagar Qim, and seems reminiscent of the earlier complex at Ggantija. The prehistoric structure consists of three conjoined but not connected temples: the upper, middle and lower. The upper temple is the oldest structure in the Mnajdra complex and dates to the Ggantija phase (3600-3200 BC).It is a three-apsed building, the doorway of which is formed by a hole cut into a large piece of limestone set upright, a type of construction typical of other megalithic doorways in Malta. This temple appears originally to have had a vaulted ceiling, but only the base of the ceiling now remain on top of the walls. The pillar-stones were decorated with pitmarks drilled in horizontal rows on the inner surface. The middle temple was built in the late Tarxien phase (3150 ? 2500 BC) and, in fact, is the most recent structure. It is formed of slabs topped by horizontal courses. The lowest temple, built in the early Tarxien phase, is the most impressive and possibly the best example of Maltese megalithic architecture. It has a large forecourt containing stone benches, an entrance passage covered by horizontal slabs, one of which has survived, and the remains of a possibly domed roof. The temple is decorated with spiral carvings and indentations, and pierced by windows, some into smaller rooms and one onto an arrangement of stones


The lowest temple is astronomically aligned and thus was probably used as an astronomical observation and/or calendrical site. On the vernal and the autumnal equinox sunlight passes through the main doorway and lights up the major axis. On the solstices sunlight illuminates the edges of megaliths to the left and right of this doorway.

Although there are no written records to indicate the purpose of these structures, archaeologists have inferred their use from ceremonial objects found within them: sacrificial flint knives and rope holes that were possibly used to constrain animals for sacrifice (since various animal bones were found).[citation needed] These structures were not used as tombs since no human remains were found. The temples contain furniture such as stone benches and tables that give clues to their use. Many artifacts were recovered from within the temples suggesting that these temples were used for religious purposes, perhaps to heal illness and/or to promote fertility.


Hagar Qim - Malta Island

Posted by edwinswagger on February 27, 2016 at 5:40 PM Comments comments (2)

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Hagar Qim Temple 35.827778, 14.442222

 

The megalithic complex of Ħaġar Qim is located on the southern edge of the island of Malta, on a ridge capped in soft globigerina limestone. All exposed rock on the island was deposited during the Oligocene and Miocene periods of geological time. Globigerina limestone is the second oldest rock on Malta, outcropping over approximately 70% of the area of the islands.The builders used this stone throughout the temple architecture. The temple?s façade is characterized by a trilithon entrance, outer bench and orthostats. It has a wide forecourt with a retaining wall and a passage runs through the middle of the building, following a modified Maltese megalithic design. A separate entrance gives access to four independent enclosures which replace the north-westerly apse. Features of temple architecture reveal a preoccupation with providing accommodation for animal sacrifices, burnt offerings and ritual oracles. Recesses were used as depositories for sacrificial remains. Excavation has uncovered numerous statuettes of deities and highly decorated pottery. A 1776 engraving of Ħaġar Qim by Jean-Pierre Houël No burials exist in the temple or the area surrounding Ħaġar Qim, nor have any human bones been discovered in Maltese temples. Bones of numerous sacrificial animals have been found. It is theorized that the Ħaġar Qim complex was built in three stages, beginning with the 'Old Temple' northern apses, followed by the 'New Temple', and finally the completion of the entire structure. A few hundred metres from the temple is one of the thirteen watchtowers built by Grand Master Martin de Redin, called Ħamrija Tower. A memorial to General Sir Walter Norris Congreve, Governor of Malta from 1924 - 1927, is located nearby. The village of Qrendi is a further two kilometres (1.2 miles) southwest of the temple complex.


The Ħaġar Qim complex consists of a main temple and three additional megalithic structures beside it. The main temple was built between 3600 and 3200 BC; however, the northern ruins are considerably older. The outside entrance serves as an interior passage and connects six large chambers. The right apse is constructed as an arch to prevent the upright slabs falling inward. The outside wall, built of huge upright blocks, projects inwards, thus creating an extremely solid building.This entrance passage and first court follow the Maltese megalithic pattern but as building progressed, this design was considerably modified. The northwesterly apse was replaced by four independent enclosures.

Ħaġar Qim shares its basic architectural design with the Mnajdra, Tarxien and Ġgantija temple complexes. The basic shape includes forecourt and façade, elongated oval chambers, semi-circular recesses and a central passage connecting the chambers. This configuration is commonly termed "trefoil". It is also suggested that the shape of the temple in some way mimics the sacred sculptures found within them.

Temple Forecourt

An extensive forecourt paved with large, irregular slabs occupies the area before the outer wall.It is a solid floor, encumbered with large blocks that once formed part of the walls or a series of chambers.One of the paving stones is pierced through and is theorized to have once served the purpose of a fireplace. The Ħaġar Qim forecourt shares many characteristics with Mnajdra's southern temple forecourt.

 

The Ħaġar Qim forecourt

Dwelling-Houses and Bastion[edit]

A group of middle-sized stones form small, semi-circular areas commonly referred to as "dwelling-houses". Alongside these, four rectangular monoliths approximately two-feet thick enclose a rectangular area, leaving an entrance in one corner.

The bastion flanks the temple and is built from large stone blocks. Its western wall is about 20 metres long, curving in on itself towards the main temple and an outdoor shrine. It has been theorized that this was done to protect the complex from wild animals, which are known to have been plentiful at that time on the islands. It also distinguished the temples as sacred spaces.

The Ħaġar Qim façade contains the largest stone used in Maltese megalithic architecture, weighing 57 tons. The upright menhir stands 5.2 m (17 ft) high.Erosion has affected the outer southern wall where the orthostats are exposed to sea-winds. Over the millennia, the temple has suffered severe weathering and surface flaking.

Northern Temple

 

Reconstruction of the temple roof

The northern temple is the oldest part of Ħaġar Qim,[17] containing an oval chamber with a semi-circular apse on each side. Following the second doorway is another chamber with similar apses.

The northern temple uniquely has three insulated layers of flooring. The pavement on the topmost level is not marked by sacrificial fires, unlike the lower floors. Due to the different methods used in polishing the stone, scholars have theorized that the three layers of pavement illustrate three major shifts in construction at Ħaġar Qim.

Stone balls of different sizes are located alongside the walls of the northern temple and other parts of the structure. These are theorized to have been the rollers used to transport the megaliths. Excavations have revealed such rollers buried beneath the megaliths, thus contributing to a solid foundation.


 

Women's Chamber

The Northern Temple's first recess contains a round stone pillar and a rectangular slab held vertically ahead of the pillar. Resting on the slab are spherical hollows which may have served as holders in which to stand small libation jars. Jars excavated from the site are characterized by a specifically oval base, designed to stand upright when placed in the slab.

Remnants of the vertical blocks which once flanked the recess are still observable today. To the right of this chamber is another recess, containing an acoustic opening called the "oracle hole". Sound passed from the main chamber into the recess, and vice versa. The hole has also been linked to alignments of the Summer solstice. On the right side of the chamber is a horizontal block that may have served as seating.

Main Temple[edit]

Beyond the temple entrance is an oval area 14.3 m (47 ft) long and 5.5 m (18 ft) wide with large slab walls, originally topped by courses of masonry.The two apsidal ends are separated from the central court by two vertical slabs pierced by rectangular openings. These openings are thought to have been adorned with curtains to limit access to the side apses.

The central area is paved with well-set smooth blocks, and along the walls are low stone altars, originally decorated with pit-marks. Some of these blocks are discolored by fire. In 1839, archaeologists discovered important objects in this court, now shown in the Valletta Museum. These include stone statuettes, a detailed altar-stone with deep carvings representing vegetation, a stone slab with spirals in relief and a displaced sill-stone.

The right-hand apse once held a pen, theoretically intended for the corralling of animals. The left-hand apse has a high trilithon altar on its left, two others on right with one in a smaller chamber. An additional chamber beyond it combines a central court, niche and right apse.

The Niche

 

Pedestal altars flank the Niche

A doorway into the small enclosure follows an elaborately pit-marked annex, flanked by distinctively shaped stone altars with rounded and raised edges. The foot of one altar is pierced by two elliptical holes, one above the other.

The entrance to the enclosure is well-paved and neatly flanked by slabs on end. A threshold is provided by a couple of conical pits connected at the apex, demonstrating the "rope holes"seen in many other Maltese temples. Heavy slabs form a Niche to the left of the entrance, to the right a cell contains an altar constructed out of a single block of stone and deeply discolored by action of fire. This space is theorized to have been the most sacred in the temple.

At the front of the enclosure, the passage widens into a quadrangular area with an elaborate cell at the end. A slab, 0.9 meters high, blocks the entrance to this cell at floor level, and another slab rests on two pillars.This layout reduces the whole section to a rectangular window-like opening. Beyond this opening there is a small room. The first excavators failed to conclusively report what was found in this recess. In comparison with the Tarxien Temples, it is presumed to have contained the bones of sacrificed animals and ritually broken pottery.

The Watering Place

Il-Misqa (English: the Watering Place), is a flat area of bare rock atop a hill nearby the temple complex. It contains seven bell-shaped reservoirsthat still retain rain-water during any winter with an average rainfall. Of the seven, five wells hold water; the three wells which no longer hold water are the deepest and are joined as a single tank through subterranean channels.A monolith surmounts one of the dry holes and is theorized to have been used in drawing water from the well. An eighth well exists but is blocked up by a mature fig tree.

The water-channels cut in the surface of the rock distribute rain-water into the wells individually and the level of water in any well is kept relative to that of the immediately adjoining well.


Ta Hagrat Temple - Malta Island

Posted by edwinswagger on December 27, 2015 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

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Ta Hagrat Temple

35.9185 N, 14.3686 E


 

The Ta' Ħaġrat ([taˈħad͡ʒrat]) temples in Mġarr, Malta is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with several other Megalithic temples. They are amongst the most ancient religious sites on Earth.The larger Ta' Ħaġrat temple dates from the Ġgantija phase (3600–3200 BCE); the smaller is dated to the Saflieni phase (3300–3000 BCE).

 

Ta' Ħaġrat is on the eastern outskirts of the village of Mġarr, roughly one kilometer from the Ta' Skorba temples.Characteristics of the Ta' Ħaġrat façade resemble those in the Ta' Skorba complex

 

The excavation of plentiful pottery deposits show that a village stood on the site and predates the temples themselves. This early pottery is dated to the Mġarr phase (3800-3600 BCE).

Ta' Ħaġrat is built out of lower coralline limestone, the oldest exposed rock in the Maltese Islands.[The complex contains two adjacent temples. The smaller temple abuts the major one on the northern side.

 

The two parts are less regularly planned and smaller in size than many of the other neolithic temples in Malta. Unlike other megalithic temples in Malta no decorated blocks were discovered; however a number of artifacts were found. Perhaps most intriguing is a scale model of a temple, sculpted in globigerina limestone.

 

A sculptured temple discovered at Ta' Ħaġrat

The model is roofed and shows the typical structure of a Maltese temple including a trilithon façade, narrow-broad walling technique and upper layers of horizontal corbelling


Bugibba Temple - Malta Island

Posted by edwinswagger on December 27, 2015 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

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Bugibba Temple

35.954722 N, 14.418111 E

 


Buġibba Temple is a megalithic temple in Buġibba, limits of St. Paul's Bay, Malta. It is located in the grounds of the Dolmen Resort Hotel.


 

The temple is located a short distance from the coast, between Buġibba and Qawra Point. It was built during the Tarxien phase of Maltese prehistory. The temple is quite small, and part of its coralline limestone façade can still be seen. From the trilithon entrance, a corridor leads to a central area which contains three apses. Part of the temple's floor has also survived at the back of the site.

The rest of the structure was destroyed over the years, as the area was leveled due to being used for agricultural purposes.

Buġibba Temple was discovered by the Maltese archaeologist Themistocles Zammit in the 1920s, when he discovered large stones in a field close to Qawra Point. The temple was excavated in 1928 by Zammit and L. J. Upton Way, and was again surveyed in 1952. Two years later, in 1954, some minor excavations were made to ascertain the chronology of the temple.

During the excavations, two decorated stone blocks were found. One is a carved square block that was an altar, and the other is a rectangular block with carved fish on two of its faces. These blocks are now in the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.

The temple's capstone was also replaced in modern times.

Eventually, the Dolmen Resort Hotel was built around the temple, which was incorporated into the grounds of the hotel close to its swimming pools.




Ggantija Temple - Gozo Island

Posted by edwinswagger on December 27, 2015 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

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Ggantija Temple

36.047222 N, 14.269167 E


 

The Megalithic temples on the islands of Malta and Gozo are 'the 2nd oldest free-standing monuments in the world'. Gobekli Tepe has relegated Ggantija to 2nd place, 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.

Ħagar Qim and Mnajdra, although in the same tradition as the Ġgantija temples, are in no way duplicates of them. Each of these complexes is the result of a separate individual development, differing greatly in plan and articulation, as well as in constructional techniques, from Ġgantija and from each other. Both illustrate full mastery of the use of globigerina limestone for orthostats and for the regular courses of corbelling above in the interiors, in contrast to the rough boulders used in Ġgantija South.

 

Each complex has to be ranked as a unique architectural masterpiece which would be immensely impressive at any date, given the very limited resources of the builders, but is quite staggering when taken with the extraordinarily early dates now attributed to them.



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