History doesn’t get much older than the history of Malta. It is believed that humans first arrived here about 5200 BCE. By the years 3500 – 2600 BCE the Temple Builders of Malta we’re building megalithic structures that are the oldest surviving structures in the world. And we are not talking about one such structure, but six UNESCO recognized sites and several others. This makes the oldest Structure here a thousand years older than the pyramids and 600 years older than Stonehenge. It kind of boggles the mind!
On Sunday we visited two of these structures in Paola, Malta. The first one was the Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni. It is an underground burial chamber built in limestone on three levels more than 5000 years ago. It is estimated that 7000 people could have been buried within its chambers, but no one really knows since most of the bones had disintegrated by the time the site was discovered. The site was discovered in 1902 when digging a cistern for a building above. Visitation to the site is limited to ten people per hour and you have to reserve your spot several months in advance. That explains why we visited at 9 AM on a Sunday morning as it was the only time available during our stay. The presence of humans raises the humidity in a cave which encourages algae growth, which results in deterioration of the cave – particularly to the ochre paintings.This is the only picture I could take as we had to store all cameras and phones in a locker prior to entering the cave. They had to dig the rooms using only stone tools and beaks of a bird. It is believed they took advantage of natural cracks in the rock to dig the rooms. There is also evidence that they used the bird beaks to create holes in the rock to weaken the structure.This figure called The Sleeping Woman was found in one of the rooms. It is only about four inches long and is located in the Archeological Museum. For some pictures from the internet, click here. If that doesn’t work, Google “Hypogeum” and select “images” at the top.
About a ten minute walk from the Hypogeum, is the megalithic temple site of the Tarxien Temples discovered by a farmer plowing his field in 1914. It dates back to 3150 BCE. We were lucky in that the site was free today. We were unlucky in that the site was free today so it was jammed with people. There are three separate but attached temples on the site. There is evidence they were used for animal sacrifice, but there is no evidence of human sacrifice.This gives an idea of the layout of one of the temples. It is unique in that it has three pairs of apses instead of the usual two. The wall made of small pieces of stone is a reconstruction.This shows you the size of the stones they had to cut and move to make the temple. The decorated piece is a replica.These are some of the original decorated stones from the archeological museum.This shows how they moved the stones. They placed the sphere under the block and pulled it over the spheres. As a sphere became uncovered at the rear, they would move it to the front. Sounds like hard work to me! This room has a replica of the Fat Woman statue.The actual one is in the museum.This is another of the so called fat women statues. In reality, there is no indication of the sex of the statue. It is also noteworthy that they do not have heads, but do have a hole where the head should be. It is theorized that different heads could be added depending on the occasion.This statue is known as the Venus of Malta and is considered to be quite remarkable for the way it accurately shows the muscles of the body. It is only a few inches tall.
Well, that is enough of the really old stuff. We leave for home on Monday. We fly to Orlando and overnight there. On Tuesday, we will visit our friends Mary Anne and Steve from the world cruise before flying home later in the day. I will have a final post on more contemporary Malta ASAP.