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Ggantija Temples

Ggantija Temples


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The Ggantija Temples are a UNESCO-listed megalithic temple complex on the island of Gozo and the second oldest manmade structure in the world. Comprised of two well preserved stone temples enclosed by a wall, Ggantija in Maltese means ‘giantess’.

Ggantija Temples history

The Ggantija Temples were erected between 3600 – 2500 BC during the Neolithic era. Malta had been inhabited since 5900 BC, but by the time the temples were erected the inhabitants of the island were farming and domesticating animals.

The temples included design elements of a ceremonial site for fertility rituals; both for people and the natural world. Gozitan folklore told the story of a giantess or Ggantija who ate nothing but broad beans and honey. She gave birth to a human child, and with the child over her shoulder, built the temples as a place of worship.

Ggantija Temples were built on the edge of the Xaghra plateau facing the south-east, encompassing two temples and an incomplete third, partially built before it was abandoned.

The temples were built without use of the wheel or metal tools – an incredible feat of construction. Instead, ball bearings were used for the vehicles transporting the enormous stones used for the temples. At the entrance, the builders placed a large stone block with a dip in it, believed to be a ritual ablution or cleansing point before worshippers entered.

Islanders were long aware of the temples, and it was based on this local knowledge that excavator Jean-Pierre Houël drew up plans in the 18th century. After excavations in 1827, the ruins fell into decay as the land was held privately until 1933 when the Government acquired it. Following this, the Museums Department did archaeological work on the site until the late 1950s clearing, preserving and researching the temples.

Ggantija Temples today

Restored in the late 2000s, visitors can now spend a couple of hours walking around the remarkable preserved temples on an accessible and lightweight walkway built in 2011 to protect the floor.

There is also a small visitor’s centre that explains what you are about to see, and there is a small gift shop if you want to take home a reminder of your visit. Afterwards, head down to nearby Ramla Bay beach to enjoy the Neolithic coastline of the island.

Getting to Ggantija Temples

The easiest way to reach the temples is to get a 10 minute bus direct from the Victoria Bus Terminal. The entrance for those driving is on John Otto Bayer street, and there is parking on site.


10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Malta’s Ancient Ggantija Temple Complex

Aerial view over the ancient megalithic complex of Ggantija.

Malta’s Ggantija Temple Complex is an absolute wonder of ancient architecture that has survived thousands of years to reach us in its almost original state. Located on the Maltese island of Gozo, it is one of the tenths of megalithic complexes scattered on the small territory of Malta.


Why the name?

The name Ggantija derives from the word ‘ggant’, Maltese for giant, as Gozitans used to believe the temples were built by a race of giants.

That’s not so surprising when you see the size of the limestone blocks used to build the temples.

Some of these megaliths exceed five metres in length and weigh more than 50 tons.

Considering that the people who built the temples had no metal tools and were illiterate, the engineering skills used to move and link together the immense limestone megaliths is seriously impressive.


Contents

Many of the names used to refer to the different sites carry a link with the stones used for their building. The Maltese word for boulders, 'ħaġar', is common to Ta' Ħaġrat and Ħaġar Qim. While the former uses the word in conjunction with the marker of possession, the latter adds the word 'Qim', which is either a form of the Maltese word for 'worship', or an archaic form of the word meaning 'standing'. [11]

Maltese folklore describes giants as having built the temples, which led to the name Ġgantija, meaning 'Giants' tower'. [12] The Maltese linguist Joseph Aquilina believed that Mnajdra (Arabic: منيدرة) was the diminutive of 'mandra' (Arabic: مندرة), meaning a plot of ground planted with cultivated trees (the same usage is in Egypt colloquial today) however he also named the arbitrary derivation from the Arabic root 'manzara (Arabic: منظرة), meaning 'a place with commanding views.' [13] The Tarxien temples owe their name to the locality where they were found (from Tirix, meaning a large stone), as were the remains excavated at Skorba.

Dates Edit

The temples were the result of several phases of construction from 5000 to 2200 BC. There is evidence of human activity in the islands since the Early Neolithic Period (ca. 5000 BC) testified by pottery shards, charred remains of fires and bones. [14] [15] The dating and understanding of the various phases of activity in the temples is not easy. The main problem found is that the sites themselves are evolutionary in nature, in that each successive temple brought with it further refinement to architectural development.

Furthermore, in some cases, later Bronze Age peoples built their own sites over the Neolithic temples, thus adding an element of confusion to early researchers who did not have modern dating technology. Sir Temi Żammit, an eminent Maltese archaeologist of the late nineteenth century, had dated the Neolithic temples to 2800 BC and the Tarxien Bronze Age culture to 2000 BC. [16] These dates were considered "considerably too high" by scholars, [17] who proposed a reduction of half a millennium each. [18] However, radiocarbon testing favoured Żammit's dating. [19] [20] A theory that the temple art was connected with an Aegean-derived culture collapsed with this proof of the temples' elder origins. [21]

Temple phases Edit

e h Maltese prehistoric chronology
(Based on recalibrated radiocarbon dating)
Period Phase Dates BC c.
Neolithic
(5000-4100 BC)
Għar Dalam 5000-4500 BC
Grey Skorba 4500-4400 BC
Red Skorba 4400-4100 BC
Temple Period
(4100–2500 BC)
Żebbuġ 4100–3800 BC
Mġarr 3800-3600 BC
Ġgantija 3600-3000 BC
Saflieni 3300-3000 BC
Tarxien 3000-2500 BC
Bronze Age
(2500–700 BC)
Tarxien Cemetery 2500–1500 BC
Borġ in-Nadur 1500–700 BC
Baħrija 900–700 BC

The development of the chronological phases, based on recalibrated radiocarbon dating, has split the period up to the Bronze Age in Malta into a number of phases. The first evidence of human habitation in the Neolithic occurred in the Għar Dalam phase, in c. 5000 BC. The Temple period, from c. 4100 BC to roughly 2500 BC, produced the most notable monumental remains. This period is split into five phases [ citation needed ] [22] however, the first two of these left mostly pottery shards. The next three phases, starting from the Ġgantija phase, begins in c. 3600 BC, and the last, the Tarxien phase, ends in c. 2500 BC.

Ġgantija phase (3600–3200 BC) Edit

The Ġgantija phase is named after the Ġgantija site in Gozo. It represents an important development in the cultural evolution of neolithic man on the islands. To this date belong the earliest datable temples and the first two, if not three, of the stages of development in their ground plan: the lobed or kidney-shaped plan found in Mġarr east, the trefoil plan evident in Skorba, Kordin and various minor sites, and the five-apsed plan Ġgantija South, Tarxien East. [23]

Saflieni phase (3300–3000 BC) Edit

The Saflieni phase constitutes a transitional phase between two major periods of development. [24] Its name derives from the site of the Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni.This period carried forward the same characteristics of the Ġgantija pottery shapes, but it also introduces new biconical bowls. [25]

Tarxien phase (3150–2500 BC) Edit

The Tarxien phase marks the peak of the temple civilisation. This phase is named after the temple-complex at Tarxien, a couple of kilometres inland from the Grand Harbour. To it belong the last two stages in the development of the temple plan. The western temple at Ġgantija represents, along with other units in Tarxien, Ħaġar Qim and L-Imnajdra, the penultimate stage in development, that is, the introduction of a shallow niche instead of an apse at the far end of the temple. The final stage is testified in only one temple, the central unit at Tarxien, with its three symmetrical pairs of apses. [26] The Temple culture reached its climax in this period, both in terms of the craftsmanship of pottery, as well as in sculptural decoration, both free-standing and in relief. [27]

Spiral reliefs resembling those at Tarxien once adorned the Ġgantija temples, but have faded to a level where they are only clearly recognisable in a series of drawings made by the artist Charles de Brochtorff in 1829, immediately after the temples' excavation. [28] The Tarxien phase is characterised by a rich variety of pottery forms and decorative techniques. Most shapes tend to be angular, with almost no handles or lugs. The clay tends to be well prepared and fired very hard, while the surface of the scratched ware is also highly polished. This scratched decoration remains standard, but it becomes more elaborate and elegant, the most popular motif being a kind of volute. [29]

The Maltese temple complexes were built in different locations, and over a wide span of years while each individual site has its unique characteristics, they all share a common architecture. The approach to the temples lies on an oval forecourt, levelled by terracing if the terrain is sloping. The forecourt is bounded on one side by the temples' own façades, which faces south or south-east. The monuments' façades and internal walls are made up of orthostats, a row of large stone slabs laid on end. [30]

The centre of the façades is usually interrupted by an entrance doorway forming a trilithon, a pair of orthostats surmounted by a massive lintel slab. [31] [32] Further trilithons form a passage, which is always paved in stone. This in turn opens onto an open space, which then gives way to the next element, a pair of D-shaped chambers, usually referred to as 'apses', opening on both sides of the passage. The space between the apses' walls and the external boundary wall is usually filled with loose stones and earth, sometimes containing cultural debris including pottery shards. [33]

The main variation in the temples lies in the number of apses found this may vary to three, four, five or six. If three, they open directly from the central court in a trefoil fashion. [34] In cases of more complex temples, a second axial passage is built, using the same trilithon construction, leading from the first set of apses into another later pair, and either a fifth central or a niche giving the four or five apsial form. In one case, at the Tarxien central temple, the fifth apse or niche is replaced by a further passage, leading to a final pair of apses, making six in all. [35] With the standard temple plan, found in some thirty temples across the islands, there is a certain amount of variation both in the number of apses, and in the overall length—ranging from 6.5m in the Mnajdra east temple to 23m in the six-apsed Tarxien central temple.

The external walls were usually built of coralline limestone, which is harder than the globigerina limestone used in the internal sections of the temples. [33] [36] The softer globigerina was used for decorative elements within the temples, usually carvings. These features are usually sculpted in relief, and they show a variety of designs linked to vegetative or animal symbolism. [37] These usually depict running spiral motifs, trees and plants as well as a selection of animals. [38] Although in their present form the temples are unroofed, a series of unproven theories regarding possible ceiling and roof structures have been debated for several years. [39] [40] [41]

Ġgantija Edit

The Ġgantija temples stand at the end of the Xagħra plateau, facing towards the south-east. Its presence was known for a very long time, and even before any excavations were carried out a largely correct plan of its layout was drawn by Jean-Pierre Houël in the late eighteenth century. [42] In 1827, the site was cleared of debris—the soil and remains being lost without proper examination. [43] The loss resulting from this clearance was partially compensated by the German artist Brochtorff, who painted the site within a year or two from the removal of the debris. This is the only practical record of the clearance. [43]

A boundary wall encloses the temples. The southerly one is the elder, and is better preserved. [44] The plan of the temple incorporates five large apses, with traces of the plaster that once covered the irregular wall still clinging between the blocks. [45]

Ta' Ħaġrat Edit

The Ta' Ħaġrat temple in Mġarr is on the eastern outskirts of the village, roughly one kilometer from the Ta' Skorba temples. [46] The remains consist of a double temple, made up of two adjacent complexes, both in the shape of a trefoil. The two parts are both less regularly planned and smaller in size than many of the other neolithic temples in Malta, and no blocks are decorated. [47] Sir Temi Żammit excavated the site in 1925–27. A village on the site that pre-dates the temples by centuries has provided plentiful examples of what is now known as Mġarr phase pottery. [48]

Skorba Edit

The importance of this site lies less in the remains than in the information garnered from their excavations. [49] This monument has a typical three-apsed shape of the Ġgantija phase, of which the greater part of the first two apses and the whole of the façade have been destroyed to ground level. What remains are the stone paving of the entrance passage, with its perforations, the torba floors, [50] and a large upright slab of coralline limestone. [51] The north wall is in better shape originally the entrance opened on a court, but the doorway was later closed off in the Tarxien phase, with altars set in the corners formed by the closure. [52] East of this temple, a second monument was added in the Tarxien phase, with four apses and a central niche. [53] Before the temples were built, the area had supported a village over a period of roughly twelve centuries.

The oldest structure is the eleven-metre-long straight wall to the west of the temples' first entrance. [54] The deposit against it contained material from the first known human occupation of the island, the Għar Dalam phase. Among the domestic deposits found in this material, which included charcoal and carbonised grain, there were several fragments of daub, accidentally baked. [55] The charcoal fragments were then radiocarbon dated, and their age analysis stood at 4850 BC. [54]

Ħaġar Qim Edit

Ħaġar Qim stands on a ridge some two kilometers away from the villages of Qrendi and Siġġiewi. [56] Its builders used the soft globigerina limestone that caps the ridge to construct the temple. [57] One can clearly see the effects of this choice in the outer southern wall, where the great orthostats are exposed to the sea-winds. Here the temple has suffered from severe weathering and surface flaking over the centuries. [58]

The temple's façade is typical, with a trilithon entrance, a bench and orthostats. It has a wide forecourt with a retaining wall, through which a passage runs through the middle of the building. [59] This entrance passage and first court follow the common, though considerably modified, Maltese megalithic design. [60] A separate entrance gives access to four enclosures, which are independent of each other and replace the north-westerly apse. [61]

Mnajdra Edit

L-Imnajdra temples lies in a hollow 500 metres from Ħaġar Qim. [62] It is another complex site in its own right, and it is centred on a near circular forecourt. Three adjacent temples overlook it from one side, while a terrace from the other separates it from a steep slope that runs down to the sea. [63] The first buildings on the right are small irregular chambers, similar to the enclosures in Ħaġar Qim. [64] Then there is a small trefoil temple, dating from the Ġgantija phase, with pitted decorations. Its unusual triple entrance was copied on a larger scale in the second temple. [31] The middle temple was actually the last to be built, inserted between the others in the Tarxien phase, after 3100 BC. [65] It has four apses and a niche.

The third temple, built early in the Tarxien phase and so second in date, opens on the court at a lower level. [66] It has a markedly concave façade, with a bench, orthostats and trilithon entrance. The southern temple is oriented astronomically aligned with the rising sun during solstices and equinoxes during the summer solstice the first rays of sunlight light up the edge of a decorated megalith between the first apses, while during the winter solstice the same effect occurs on a megalith in the opposite apse. [67] During the equinox, the rays of the rising sun pass straight through the principal doorway to reach the innermost central niche. [68]

Tarxien Edit

The Tarxien temple complex is found some 400 metres to the east of the Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni. [69] The three temples found here were seriously excavated in the early twentieth century by Temi Żammit. [70] Unlike the other sites, this temple is bounded on all sides by modern urban development however, this does not detract from its value. One enters into the first great forecourt of the southern temple, marked by its rounded façade and a cistern, which is attributed to the temple. [71] The earliest temple to the north-east was built between 3600 and 3200 BC it consisted of two parallel sets of semi-circular apses, with a passage in the middle. [72]

The south and east temples were built in the Tarxien phase, between 3150 and 2500 BC. The second one has three parallel semi-circular apses, connected by a large passage the third one has two parallel sets of apses with a passage in a direction parallel to that of the first temple. The first temple is solidly built with large stones, of which some are roughly dressed. [73] The walls are laid with great accuracy, and are very imposing in their simplicity. [74] The second temple is more elaborately constructed, the walls being finished with greater care, some of the standing slabs being decorated with flat raised spirals. [75] In one of the chambers, two bulls and a sow are cut in low relief across one of the walls. [76] The third temple has a carelessly-built frame, but most of its standing stones are richly decorated with carved patterns.


Ggantija Temples

Built between 3600 and 3200 B.C, they fell into disuse around 2500BC and were not fully revealed to the modern eye until the nineteenth century.

The name Ġgantija derives from the word &lsquoġgant&rsquo, Maltese for giant, as Gozitans used to believe the temples were built by a race of giants. Not so surprising when you see the size of the limestone blocks from which it is constructed. Some of these megaliths exceed five metres in length and weigh over fifty tons.

Hard-wearing coralline limestone is used for the construction of the outer walls (which is one of the reasons the buildings have survived so long) whilst softer, smoother, Globigerina limestone is reserved for inner furnishings such as doorways, altars, and decorative slabs. Each temple consists of a number of apses flanking a central corridor. There is evidence that internal walls would have been plastered and painted. Two plaster fragments marked with red ochre have been found and are now preserved at the Gozo Museum of Archaeology.

The temples have a large terrace at the front which would probably have been used for ceremonial gatherings. Remains of animal bones suggest some sort of ritual involving animal sacrifice and the use of fire is evidenced by the presence of stone hearths. A number of libation holes in the floor may have been used for the pouring of liquid offerings.

A small number of statuettes and other prehistoric objects found at Ġgantija can be seen in the Gozo Museum of Archaeology.


Ggantija Temples

The Ġgantija temples located on the island of Gozo are the earliest of the Megalithic Temples of Malta. These temples are older than the pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge. The temples at Ġgantija were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.

The temples have a large terrace at the front most probably used for ceremonial gatherings as remains of animal bones have been found here suggesting some sort of ritual involving animal sacrifice. The use of fire is evident by the presence of stone hearths. Also a number of libation holes in the floor have been found which may have been used for the pouring of liquid offerings.

Entrance to the Ġgantija Temples is from the Interpretation Centre which provides visitors the opportunity to explore various aspects related Neolithic life. The Centre is linked to the temple via a pathway that provides visitors with unique views of the natural landscape that surrounds Ġgantija. At the centre you will also find a selection of the most significant finds discovered at various prehistoric sites around Gozo.

Maltese folklore tells of great giants having built these temples, which led to the name Ġgantija, meaning 'Giants’ tower'.


Ancient Gozo – A Megalithic Paradise.

Part Three: Discover More about Neolithic Gozo.

Gozo is a megalithic paradise and not just for the most famous tourist locations such as the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ġgantija. For hikers or more casual walkers, there are a lot of Neolithic wonders sitting quietly, without signposts, in the countryside.

  • L-Imrejzbiet
  • L-Imrejzbiet
  • Qala Menhir

The Ta’ Blankas olive grove in Xewkija is a beautiful public garden for picnics, walking, and nature. What few people realize is it’s also home to a dolmen. These rather unusual structures can be found all over the world. Around forty percent of global dolmens are in South Korea. They are made up of a huge horizontal megalith sitting on two smaller stones, forming a sort of flat arch similar to the entranceways of the Maltese temples. Why ancient people would go to such tremendous lengths to erect these monuments is a mystery. It’s thought they were for burials or cremation urns but the finds rarely support that theory. They might be Bronze Age or Neolithic but what’s certain is that they are prehistoric and must have been important to the ancestors. Dolmens vary in size, shape, and design and sit within varied landscapes.

The Ta’ Blankas dolmen is on the northwest corner of the olive grove and is relatively small compared to others on the islands. It’s in direct alignment with the dolmens which look out from the edge of the Ta’ Ċenċ cliffs to the south. What’s even more intriguing is it looks as though a megalithic stone avenue once led up to it. In the 17th century, remains of what’s thought to have been a Neolithic temple were also found close to Ta’ Blankas, next to the area that the church was built on. Unfortunately, these didn’t survive.

Leaving Xewkija and moving on to Għajnsielem, there are two groups of megaliths that are not well known. They are on private land but can be seen from the road. The first group makes up what is known as the Borġ Għarib temple and is thought to be the remnants of a large megalithic structure. They are just north of the road of the same name and consist of two slightly curving walls which are easily reminiscent of the apses making up the more intact ancient temples. To the south of the Borġ Għarib temple is the L-Imrejżbiet stone circle. It’s not a full circle but certainly looks as though it once was. Stone circles are not common on the Maltese islands. In fact, there’s only one and it’s the megalithic ground-level entrance to the Xagħra Stone Circle, that wonderfully famous necropolis, the finds from which can be viewed at the Ġgantija Interpretation Centre. Although some Neolithic remains are little more than a few scattered megaliths, taking time to explore them and the surrounding areas helps to build up a picture of this ancient landscape during a time when ritual activity seems to have been at its peak.

Continuing up the road to Qala, a solitary menhir can be seen surrounded by houses. It’s possible it once belonged a larger building but nothing is certain. Close to the dolmens on the Ta’ Ċenċ Cliffs is an incredibly ruinous site referred to as the Borġ l-Imramma temple. Only a few megaliths look anything like the ones seen at other temple complexes so it’s hard to envisage what its original size and shape would have been. Like Ġgantija it would have had incredible views over the surrounding countryside. The Ta’ Ċenċ Cliffs are an awesome place to visit, not just because of beautiful sunrise views and a good amount of land for a lengthy walk, but also because of the history.

As well as dolmens and the remains of a temple, there are some well-preserved examples of the infamous and mysterious ‘cart ruts.’ Although they exist in other countries as well, the Maltese islands are absolutely littered with these parallel tracks cut into the bedrock, normally having a gauge of 1.41m. They are called ‘cart ruts’ because it’s thought they were worn by an ancient vehicle or carved out specifically to carry them. However, no one theory satisfies all of the characteristics of these grooves. Some are shallow, others are deep. Some run off cliffs, others go underwater. Some are straight, others are curved. Their age is debatable but they are most likely prehistoric.

Returning to the Ta’ Blankas olive grove there are also some fantastic examples of ‘cart ruts’ there. One set is double-rutted and very deep with the other, 150m to the north, much more shallow. The prehistory of Gozo is full of mystery and monuments. Visiting the remains of this fascinating period is a great way to collect clues and piece together your own theories about the ancient past.

  • Ta’ Cenc Cart ruts
  • Ta’ Blankas Cart Ruts
  • Ta’ Blankas Cart ruts

Intrigued to learn more about this mind-boggling era? Check out the MegalithHunter’s Website, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube Channel .

Author and Images: Laura Tabone Editor: GITH

Meet Laura Tabone. After years in business, Laura pursued her passion and fascination with the megalith builders of the Neolithic and undertook a Master of Arts in Mediterranean Studies from the University of Malta. She is now an independent, lay researcher and takes as much information as she can from academic papers to explore, debate, and try to shed light on the mysteries of prehistoric times. Laura’s dream is to find undiscovered megaliths while exploring the globe as the MegalithHunter.


Contents

The Ġgantija temples stand at the edge of the Xagħra plateau, facing toward the south-east. This megalithic monument encompasses two temples and an incomplete third, of which only the facade was partially built before being abandoned. Like Mnajdra South, it faces the equinox sunrise, built side by side and enclosed within a boundary wall. The southerly one is the larger and older one, dating back to approximately 3600 BC. It is also better preserved. [3] The plan of the temple incorporates five large apses, with traces of the plaster that once covered the irregular wall still clinging between the blocks. [4]

The temples are built in the typical clover-leaf shape, with inner-facing blocks marking the shape. The space between the walls was then filled in with rubble. A series of semi-circular apses is connected with a central passage. Archaeologists believe that the apses were originally covered by roofing.

The effort is a remarkable feat when considering the monuments were constructed when the wheel had not yet been introduced and no metal tools were available to the Maltese Islanders. Small, spherical stones have been discovered. They were used as ball bearings for the vehicles that transported the enormous stone blocks used for the temples.

The temple, like other megalithic sites in Malta, faces southeast. The southern temple rises to a height of 6 m (19.69 ft). At the entrance sits a large stone block with a recess, which led to the hypothesis that this was a ritual ablution station for purification before worshippers entered the complex. [5] The five apses contain various altars. Researchers have found animal bones on the site that suggest the space was used for animal sacrifice.

Residents and travelers knew about the existence of the temple for a long time. In the late 18th-century, before any excavations were carried out, Jean-Pierre Houël drew a plan based on that knowledge, which has been found to be highly accurate. [6] [7] In 1827 Col. John Otto Bayer, the Lieutenant Governor of Gozo, had the site cleared of debris. [8] The soil and remains were lost without having been properly examined. [9] German artist Charles Frederick de Brocktorff had painted a picture of the site within a year or two prior to the removal of the debris, so he made a record of the site before clearance. [9]

After the excavations were conducted in 1827, the ruins fell into decay. The remains were included on the Antiquities List of 1925. [10] The land was held privately until 1933, when the Government expropriated it for public benefit. The Museums Department conducted extensive archaeological work in 1933, 1936, 1949, 1956–57 and 1958–59. Its goal was to clear, preserve and research the ruins and their surroundings. [ citation needed ]

The Ġgantija temples were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. In 1992, the Committee decided to expand the listing to include five other megalithic temples located across the islands of Malta and Gozo. The Ġgantija listing was renamed "the Megalithic Temples of Malta" [11]

The temple and the surrounding areas were restored or rehabilitated in the 2000s. [12] Lightweight walkways were installed in the temple in 2011, to protect the floor. [13] A heritage park was developed and opened in 2013. [14]

Anthropologist Kathryn Rountree has explored how "Malta’s neolithic temples", including Ġgantija, "have been interpreted, contested and appropriated by different local and foreign interest groups: those working in the tourist industry, intellectuals and Maltese nationalists, hunters, archaeologists, artists, and participants in the global Goddess movement." [15]

Reportedly, some Goddess tours refer to the two temples at Ġgantija "as the Mother & Daughter Temple." [16]


Ggantija Temples - History

First, we must consider the size and weight of some of the blocks that were used to build these temples. They were quite massive! Some measure over 5.50 metres (approximately 18 feet) in length and weigh some 50 tons. To give you a better idea about what this means, a modern-day adult African elephant weighs between 6-7 tons, so we are talking about the weight of 7 fully grown elephants per boulder.)

As Ġgantija was constructed on higher ground, most of these blocks would have had to be quarried from the surrounding areas and transported uphill. Outside the temples one finds specimens of the rollers that were used to haul the boulders, which would then have been slowly tipped into a hole in the ground so as to root the block, which would then have been propped upright and the hold packed tightly.

This method is said to have been used by various civilizations in building structures using massive stone blocks. The lintels, or horizontal blocks laid on top of doorways, would presumably have been carried up there by means of temporary ramps. One must bear in mind the fact that the population of Gozo must not have been more than 1700 persons at the time and so, as leading archaelogical scholar David Trump suggests, a workforce of no more than 330 men.


For more on Ġgantija, please go to our recommended sources page.

For our next topic, please click on: Xagħra Circle.

Close to the Ġgantija temple site, there is what many (mistakenly) refer to as the 'Brochtorff Circle'. At this time of writing, this burial site is closed for the public.

This misnomer comes from the fact that the first so-called excavation of this site in 1826, by Otto Bayer, was only recorded in the watercolour paintings of the artist Charles Brochtorff. This occured at the same time as the first Ġgantija clearance, also by Bayer. Brochtorff's paintings suggest that some artefacts were found at the time, however, this site was refilled and lost until it was brought to light again in 1964 by Joseph Attard Tabone and excavated by Dr Stoddart and Dr Malone between 1987 and 1994.

The site before and after

Brochtorff's paintings serve as snapshots of what existed in the artist's lifetime mostly lost over time owing to lack of archaeological and cultural awareness. For instance, we see in his older painting how the site looked (above the ground) before Bayer's excavation occured.

Upto 1826, two upright boulders, without the horizontal lintel, appear to have been the entrance to these sacred grounds, which were surrounded by a boundary that comprised some 120 metres of substantially sized stones, now almost completely gone. Whatever the reason, a prehistoric burial site has been desecrated in our times! Only 3 of the stones in the boundary wall are said to have survived dry-stone-walls (protecting fields) having replaced the original wall.


What was found in this hypogeum?

A hypogeum is a subterranean burial chamber, and the Xagħra Circle was just that! We know this from a quantity of human bones recovered from this site. Equally interesting is the fact that most of these bones were not found in skeleton form, but were found anatomically grouped, e.g. skulls, limbs, etc. and to have been rubbed in red ochre. This provides evidence of different rites having been introduced, such as the dismembering of skeletons (after the decomposition of bodies) to make room for more burials.

Not only did we find the bones of children and even a puppy, but archaeologists also uplifted 9 highly artistic statuettes – known as "Shaman's Sticks" – representing men, women, young children and a dog.

Also discovered was a statue of a pair of deities, presumably both female, one with a head, the other without. One of these Twin Deities is holding a baby (also headless).


For more on the Xagħra Circle, please go to our recommended sources page.


  • J.D. Evans, Malta (1959).
  • Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess: The World of Old Europe (1991).
  • Merlin Stone, When God Was a Woman (1976).
  • Peg Streep, Sanctuaries of the Goddess: The Sacred Landscapes and Objects (1994).
  • Geoffrey Aquilina Ross, Blue Guide Malta and Gozo, 5th ed. (2000).
  • Karen Tate, Sacred Places of Goddess (2006). - here on Sacred Destinations

Below is a location map and aerial view of the Ggantija Temples. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.

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Watch the video: Ġgantija Temples (May 2022).