Sunday, August 16, 2009

Day 70, the megalithic temples of Malta

Okey dokey guys...we are now flying over Malta.....

There are the Tarxien Temples are an archaeological complex in Tarxien, Malta. They date back to approximately 2800 BC. The site was accepted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 along with the six other Megalithic temples on the island of Malta.

The Tarxien consist of three separate, but attached, temple structures. The main entrance is a reconstruction dating from 1956, when the whole site was res tored. At the same time, many of the decorated slabs discovered on site were relocated indoors for protection at the Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. The first temple has been dated to approximately 3100 BC and is the most elaborately decorated of the temples of Malta. The middle temple dates to abo ut 3000 BC, and is unique in that, unlike the rest of the Maltese temples, it has three pairs of apses instead of the usual two. The east temple is dated at around 3100 BC. The remains of another temple, smaller, and older, having been dated to 3250 BC, are visible further towards the east.

Of particular interest at the temple site is the rich and intricate stonework, which includes depictions of domestic animals carved in relief, altars, and screens decorated with spiral designs and other patterns. Demonstrative of the skill of the builders is a chamber set into the thickness of the wall between the South and Central temples and containing a relief showing a bull and a sow.

Excavation of the site reveals that it was used ext
ensively for rituals,which probably involved animal sacrifice. Especially interesting is that Tarxien provides rare insight into how the megaliths were constructed: stone rollers were left outside the South temple. Additionally, evidence of cremation has been found at the center of the South temple, which is an indicator that the site was reused as a Bronze Age cremation cemetery.

The prehistoric temples of Malta are unique in all the world. They are the oldest standing stone structures which remain to us from ancient times. The temples date from 4000 - 2500 BC. They are older than Stonehenge, older than the Pyramids. Their architecture is beautiful and inspiring, their scale impressive yet human. Excellently preserved, they were covered with soil from early times and ignored by the long march of history. They were rediscovered and carefully restored by European and native Maltese archaeologists beginning in the 19th century.

Little is known about the people who built these megalithic temples. The original inhabitants of the Maltese Islands probably crossed over by sea from Sicily, which lies 58 miles to the north, sometime before 5000 BC. The temple builders were farmers who grew cereals and raised domestic livestock. They worshipped a mother goddess whose type is known from early statuettes found scattered around the Mediterranean. Similar statues are also found on Malta, several being of uniquely large size.

Although the temples are large in overall extent, the interior chambers do not have enough room to hold more than a few people at one time. Therefore public worship in large groups, as practiced in typical churches and temples today, would not have been possible. It is likely that the priests and priestesses carried out rites inside the temples, and the public was not invited.

The worship of a Mother Goddess is usually associated with female priestesses, although male figures which may represent priests have also been found.

Hmmm, Mother Goddess...animal sacrice....guys....sounds vaguely familiar??? Mother Kali worship??

Did individual worshippers participate in ceremonies related to important events in their lives - birth, puberty, marriage, sickness, death?

Did community leaders consult the temples about planting and sowing, community disputes, food stores, or new settlements? Were the temple leaders also the political rulers of the community?

People are still searching for answers to questions such as these, for the first inhabitants of Malta left no writing behind them when they vanished, as mysteriously as they had first appeared, sometime around 2500 BC.

The Maltese temples are constructed of stone, in a cloverleaf (trefoil) floor plan. Their typical architectural elements include the incomplete dome and the horizontal arch, or post-and-lintel trilithon. The curvatures of the temples perhaps elaborate the circular plan of ordinary dwellings of the time, but are also reminiscent of underground burial chambers.

Due to the size and complexity of the temples, and the extensive resources which must have been required to build and maintain them, they must h

ave played a very important part in the ongoing life of the community. Without more evidence, though, we can only wonder and admire, across the gap of millennia that separates us from the temple builders.

Hey guys, I just received a call from Mel who said that we cannot leave Malta without a visit to the Blue lets go.
We are going to the The Blue Grotto, known as Il-Hnejja (meaning 'The Arch') in Maltese.

Yes, I know that this is Malta, not Capri, but the name was given its English name by a British soldier who thought it similar enough to Grotta Azzuzza (The Blue grotto) in Capri to deserve the same name.
Wow, our boat has entered under an immense arch into a 140ft high cave cut into the rock face. This is so cool...the system consists of six caves carved by years of relentless pounding by the sea, of which the Blue Grotto is the largest and most impressive.
The water seems an impossible cobalt colour as the sky reflects off the white sand bottom. The caves sparkle both with blue reflections of the sea and orange, purple and green of the various minerals present in the rocks.
Thanks Mel...this was really beautiful.

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