Mnajdra & Ħaġar Qim - A Journey into Malta’s Ancient Past (Part 1)

Posted February 9, 2021 by Rachel Davis

If you come across a €2 coin in Malta, you’ll notice a stonehenge-type structure on the back. This is Mnajdra, an ancient temple perched on Malta’s southern coast. Along with its neighbour Ħaġar Qim, these complexes are a fascinating inclusion to any Maltese itinerary.

Both temples are UNESCO-listed as unique architectural masterpieces, but they must be seen in person to truly appreciate their impressiveness. This is partly due to their age; Mnadjra & Ħaġar Qim are some of the oldest structures on Earth and their construction predates that of the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge. In a period before the invention of the wheel, ancient architects went to the effort of cutting limestone, hauling into position and meticulously arranging the stones to create places of worship. 

With this in mind, I found myself on a bus to the village of Qrendi with a desire to learn more about these incredible temples and the civilisation that built them.

After a brief introduction at the visitor’s centre, I went straight to the first temple, Ħaġar Qim. The complex stands at the peak of a hill, overlooking the striking coastline. Ħaġar Qim is shaped like a clover; a main temple with three additional apses - all completed in different eras. The northern part of the temple is the oldest, yet was actually constructed with attempts at insulated flooring and roofing. Altar spaces and recesses within this northern temple indicate that the area may have been used in the worship of feminine deities. Various female statues and carvings have been discovered in the immediate vicinity, thought to have been used by priestesses during their worship.

As I walked through the site, I was frequently awed by the feats of skill it would have required to construct Ħaġar Qim in a time where the most advanced tools available were a hammer and chisel. One stone, part of an external wall, towered over me at an impressive 5.2m tall, and some 20 tonnes in weight.

Further on, I came across a beautiful relief with intricate designs on it. I recalled from my visit at the Museum of Archaeology that the meaning behind etchings were disputed. Some viewed them as palm fronds symbolizing peace and prosperity, or alternatively as bull’s horns representing fertility. The relief was one of many recovered from Ħaġar Qim, and the designs are beautiful in their simplicity as the artists had taken inspiration from the environment around them.

Continue on to Mnajdra here….

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Malta Explorer

Culture | Archaeology

Megalithic temples, medieval cities and Mediterranean landscapes

£1,350 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
6 days
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