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Visiting the oldest structures on the planet.

8 July 2013

Hal Saflieni Hypogeum
They say only the Brits go out in the midday sun, and you would have thought from my previous experience in Gozo, that I would be a little wiser when it comes to power of the sun, especially during the summer months. However, I am British, and yes, I have been out in the sun all day, and no, I did not put enough sunblock on, so yes, I am again receiving some wonderful advice from my adoring wife. Hindsight is a beautiful thing.

Jokes aside, the real reason why I am suffering is for my love of the old and nothing excites me more than visiting the oldest free standing structures on the entire planet. Not many people know about these stones and structures compared to the Pyramids of Egypt or Stonehenge back in the UK however these temples in Malta outdate them both. I am referring to the Megalithic Temples of Malta built approximately between three different time periods dating back as far as 5000BC up until 700BC.

Our first visit, early in the morning, began at the Tarxien Temples. Tarxien was the very first temple site to be excavated and preserves some incredible artefacts dating as far back as 3000 BC. There are stone idols, domestic animals carved into stone, altars and screens decorated with spiral designs and similar patterns.

Shortly after, we visited the next site which is considered the most unique archaeological discoveries known as Hal Saflieni Hypogeum. This ancient monument can be found 12 metres underground below street level. It consists of a network of passages, chambers and caves carved on three levels with a lot of similarity to the interior of the megalithic temple we saw earlier that morning.

Back on street level we continued to Ghar Dalam. The Ghar Dalam Cave is where you can find the earliest evidence of human settlement on Malta, some 7,400 years ago. This massive cavern is some 144 metres deep however we were only allowed to enter within the first 50 metres. The lowermost layers, more than 500,000 years old, contained the fossil bones of dwarf elephants, hippopotami, micro-mammals and birds.

We continued to the unique Hagar Qim & Mnajdra sites. Hagar Qim has the largest and heaviest megaliths out of all the temple sites around the Maltese Islands, some slabs weighing an incredible 20 tons and the Mnajdra Temple lies tucked in a hollow in the cliffs, overlooking the tiny isle of Fifla. The site is probably the most atmospheric of all Malta’s temples and where we spent the rest of our afternoon.

During the Equinox, either on the 20th March or the 22nd September, the rays of the sun pass directly through the temple’s main doorway and light up the main axis. I have marked the date for September in my diary. I will be back, with or without the wife.

Author: Adam Claffey


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