Malta is a small Mediterranean island country between Italy and Tunisia, but it boasts an impressive prehistoric history. Malta is home to several prehistoric temples - some of which are UNESCO listed. They are so old, that some had claimed they were the oldest freestanding structures in the world until the discovery of Gobekli Tepe and other surrounding sites (that's also a fully-developed attraction).
Malta is one of the stunning attractions and places to visit in the Mediterranean Sea - famous for its stunning beaches and more. One can visit it as a destination in the Mediterranean or as part of a larger Mediterranean cruise.
The Megalithic Temples of Malta - Older Than The Pyramids
"They rank amongst the earliest free-standing stone buildings in the world and are remarkable for their diversity of form and decoration. Each complex is a unique architectural masterpiece and a witness to an exceptional prehistoric culture..."
The Megalithic Temples of Malta were an impressive architectural feat for their time - the builders were still Stone Age without metal tools to use. Aspects of their construction were remarkably sophisticated for their time. Not much is known about these early Maltese people before they disappeared in around 2500 BC.
- UNESCO Listed Maltese Temples: Ġgantija, Ħaġar Qim, Mnajdra, Skorba, Ta’ Ħaġrat, and Tarxien
Each one of these temples is unique, with a different plan and construction technique. They are found on Malta's two main islands, Malta and Gozo. In total, there are around 30 or so known temple complexes on the islands.
- Oldest: Some Of The Oldest Known Free-Standing Structures In The World
It is believed that the Megalithic Temples of Malta were built in three periods between around 3600 BC and 2500 BC. Dating and understanding the phases of activities with these temples is not easy. Later, Bronze Age peoples built their own structures overtop of the older Neolithic temples adding some confusion to archeology (especially before modern dating techniques).
Three Periods Of Temples of Malta:
Today the Ġgantija temples have been UNESCO listed since 1980, while five other megalithic temple sites were added in 1992.
Notable Megalithic Temples Of Malta
With 30 or so temples on the islands, there are too many to visit. These are some of the most notable.
The temple complex at Ġgantija is said to be the most important of the temples. It is made up of two temples set side by side with a single boundary wall surrounding them. They are the best preserved of the temples as well as being some of the oldest.
- Built: Between 5,600 and 5,200 years ago
- Preservation: Best Preserved
Ħaġar Qim Temples:
The Ħaġar Qim temples are in the Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra Archaeological Park and were also constructed, unlike the other temples. They are also large and well-preserved.
- Built: Between 5,600 and 5,200 years ago
Three temples make up the extraordinary Mnajdra temple complex. They were built at different times, with the oldest being fairly simple and built around 5,600 years ago. The second (called the South Temple) was built around 600 years later and is aligned with the rising sun at the equinoxes and solstices. The third temple was built between 5,000 and 4,500 years ago between the other two. They were likely part of a much large ritual center.
- Temples: 3 Temples
- Built: Between 5,600 and 4,500 years ago
Tours Of Malta's Megalithic Temples
There are plenty of guided tours of the Megalithic Temples of Malta. One example half-day tour of the temples includes the Temples of Tarxien, Ghar Dalam or the 'Cave of Darkness,' and the Ġgantija temples of Hagar Qim.
The tour sets out from the capital of Valletta and explores three of the island's most important archeological sites. The tour is ideal for first-time visitors to Malta who would like to get an understanding of the temples and the history behind them.
- Includes: Driver/Guide, Pick up/Drop Off, and Entrance Fees
- Departure: 9.00 am
- Duration: Approx. 4 Hours
- Temples: Ġgantija temples of Hagar Qim & Two Tarxien Temples
One will spend around an hour at each of the important temple sites exploring some of the most important Neolithic temples in the world. The tour also explores the Ghar Dalam Cave and Museum Ghar Dalam. One will see the fossilized remains of prehistoric animals that lived there during the glacial period.