Thursday, 20 June 2013

Neolithic Malta: Mnajdra Temples

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Far away from the urban sprawl that characterises so many of our towns and villages, situated on a lonely cliff overlooking the sea and the island of Filfla, are the remains of three buildings known as the Mnajdra temples. The oldest, and simplest, building dates back to 3600BC.

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There is much that is still unknown about these structures, much that is still conjecture and hypotheses. What we do know is that these temples were built during the Stone Age – no metal implements have been found at this site; and they most likely were  used in some sort of fertility ritual (animal remains and flint knives were excavated at this site). One of the temples (the Lower Temple) is said to have a particular astronomical alignment.

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At the Equinoxes, the rays of the sun pass directly through the temple’s main doorway and  light up the main axis. During the summer and winter solstices, the sun lights up the megalith to the left and right of the doorway respectively. Whether this alignment is deliberate or accidental is still uncertain. The civilization that built them is long gone and they left no records behind. Evidence is scant and these structures will probably hold on to their secrets for many years to come.

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Mnajdra temples have been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1992. Since their excavation in the mid-1800s, these temples were open and exposed to the elements.  The oldest temple in the Mnajdra complex is one of the most ancient man-made structures in the world and pre-dates the pyramids of Egypt by about 1000 years. In 2009 the temples were covered with a tent-like structure that, from afar, resembles a giant sombrero, to protect them from the elements – particularly the harsh summer sun.


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In 2001, considerable damage was done to these ancient buildings by a group of people who have no care for our history or our heritage. The area is now cordoned-off and guarded, but I can remember a time when there was nothing to stop you from visiting Mnajdra at any time of the day or night. I feel privileged to have had the wonderful experience of being one of only a handful of visitors there and to be able to take in the scenery, the beauty, the mystery and the awe surrounded only by silence and tranquility.

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Location: Mnajdra Temples, l/o Qrendi

Opening Hours

Winter Hours - 1st October till 31st March

Monday to Sunday: 9.00-17.00
Last admission: 16.30

Summer Hours - 1st April till 30th September

Monday to Sunday: 9.00-19.00
Last admission: 18.30

Closed: 24, 25 & 31 December, 1 January, Good Friday

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