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Ġgantija

Ġgantija
Entrance of the main temple of Ġgantija
Ġgantija is located in Malta
Location within Malta
Location Xagħra, Gozo, Malta
Coordinates
Type Temple
Part of Megalithic Temples of Malta
History
Material Limestone
Founded c.3600 BC
Periods Ġgantija phase
Site notes
Excavation dates 1827 and 1933–1959
Condition Ruins
Ownership Government of Malta
Management Heritage Malta
Public access Yes
Website Heritage Malta
Official name Megalithic Temples of Malta: Ġgantija, Ħaġar Qim, Mnajdra, Ta' Ħaġrat, Skorba, Tarxien
Type Cultural
Criteria iv
Designated 1980 (4th session)
Reference no. 132
Region Europe and North America
Extended 1992

Ġgantija (Maltese pronunciation: , "Giants' Tower") is a Neolithic, megalithic temple complex on the Mediterranean island of Gozo. The Ġgantija temples are the earliest of a series of megalithic temples in Malta. The Ġgantija temples are older than the pyramids of Egypt. Their makers erected the two Ġgantija temples during the Neolithic Age (c. 3600-2500 BC), which makes these temples more than 5500 years old and the world's second oldest manmade religious structures, after Göbekli Tepe. Together with other similar structures, these have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Megalithic Temples of Malta.

The temples were possibly the site of a Fertility cult; archeologists believe that the numerous figurines and statues found on site are connected with that cult. According to local Gozitan folklore, a giantess who ate nothing but broad beans and honey bore a child from a man of the common people. With the child hanging from her shoulder, built these temples and used them as places of worship.[1][2]

Contents

  • Description and design 1
  • Excavations and recognition 2
  • Gallery 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Description and design

Stone spheres found at Ġgantija, believed to have been used to transport the temple's enormous stone blocks

The Ġgantija temples stand at the end of the Xagħra plateau, facing towards the south-east.

This megalithic monument is in fact two temples, built side by side and enclosed within a boundary wall. The southerly one is the larger and older, dating back to approximately 3600 BC. It is also better preserved.[3] The plan of the temple incorporates five large apses, with traces of the plaster that once covered the irregular wall still clinging between the blocks.[4]

Ġgantija Temple

The temples are built in the typical clover-leaf shape, with inner facing blocks marking the shape which was then filled in with rubble. This led to the construction of a series of semi-circular apses connected with a central passage. Archaeologists believe that the apses were originally covered by roofing. The structures are all the more impressive for having been constructed at a time when no metal tools were available to the natives of the Maltese Islands, and when the wheel had not yet been introduced. Small, spherical stones have been discovered. They are believed to have been used as ball bearings to transport the enormous stone blocks required for the temples' construction.

The temple, like other megalithic sites in Malta, faces southeast. The southern temple rises to a height of six metres. At the entrance sits a large stone block with a recess, which led to the hypothesis that this was a ritual ablution station for purification before entering the complex.[5] The five apses contain various altars; the finding of animal bones in the site suggests the site was used for animal sacrifice.

Excavations and recognition

Engraving of the temple made in 1848

Residents and travelers knew about the existence of the temple for a long time. In the late eighteenth century, even before any excavations were carried out, Jean-Pierre Houël drew a mostly correct plan based on that knowledge.[6] In 1827, Col. John Otto Bayer, the Lieutenant Governor of Gozo, had the site cleared of debris.[7] The soil and remains were therefore lost without having been properly examined.[8] However the German artist Brochtorff had painted a picture of the site within a year or two prior to removal of the debris, so there was a record of the site before clearance.[9]

After the excavations in 1827, the ruins fell into decay. The land was held privately until 1933, when the Government expropriated it for public benefit. The Museums Department conducted extensive archaeological work in 1933, 1936, 1949, 1956–57 and 1958-59. Its goal was to clear, preserve and research the ruins and their surroundings.

The Ġgantija temples were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. In 1992, the Committee decided to expand the listing to include five other megalithic temples situated across the islands of Malta and Gozo. The Ġgantija listing was renamed as "The Megalithic Temples of Malta"[10]

The temple and the surrounding areas were restored or rehabilitated in the 2000s.[11] Lightweight walkways were installed in the temple in 2011,[12] while a heritage park was opened in 2013.[13]

Gallery

See also

References

  1. ^ De Soldanis, Gozo, Ancient and Modern, Religious and Profane, Book I, pp. 86–88 
  2. ^ "3600BC Ggantija Temples on Gozo - Millennium before the Pyramids or Stonehenge". Carnaval.com. Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Trump, Malta: An Archaeological Guide, p. 159 
  4. ^ Żammit, Mayrhofer, The Prehistoric Temples of Malta and Gozo, p. 152 
  5. ^ Żammit, Mayrhofer, The Prehistoric Temples of Malta and Gozo, p. 150 
  6. ^ Trump, Malta: An Archaeological Guide, p. 156 
  7. ^ Gunther, Michael D. "Prehistoric Temples Of Malta". Retrieved 19 September 2008. 
  8. ^ Żammit, Mayrhofer, The Prehistoric Temples of Malta and Gozo, p. 155 
  9. ^
  10. ^ "World Heritage Centre - World Heritage List". Retrieved 2008-09-19. 
  11. ^ Meilaq, Charles (7 November 2007). "Extensive works at Ggantija Temples".  
  12. ^ "Enhanced visitor experience at Ggantija".  
  13. ^ "Ġgantija Heritage Park project inaugurated".  

External links

  • National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands
  • Heritage Malta's Ġgantija page
  • Ġgantija Temple on Google Maps
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