The enigma of prehistory

Malta The islan

Hagar Qim Temples


Malta forms part of the continent of Europe. Prehistoric remains found in Ghar Dalam, a huge cave close to Birzebbuga, prove that during the Ice Age Malta was a land bridge connecting the European landmass to Africa. Animals, like elephants, hippopotami and reindeer, migrated South to escape the drastic drop in temperature. When the climate improved, the ice melted and the water rose, so that many animals perished as the isthmus became a chain of islands.


Altar at Hagar Qim

and of new beginnings


000 years ago, the island of Malta witnessed the first traces of man. A thousand years before Stonehenge, dozens of mysterious megalithic temples were built all over the islands. The huge stone complexes, which make up the temples of Ggantija, Hagar Qim, Mnajdra, Tarxien and the underground Hypogeum at Hal Saflieni, thrill the imagination. Built in honour of the Mother-Goddess of fertility, using tools made of flint and


obsidian, these gigantic structures are the result of a superhuman effort made over several centuries. How were these blocks of stone, weighing several tons, moved and lifted? This is where the mystery lies. "A faith to move mountains" is the expression which comes to mind, an expression which could have been invented to describe these creative and peace-loving people, who disappeared mysteriously about 2000 years BC.



Prayers to the Mother-Goddess
riginally situated on a land bridge linking Europe and Africa, the Maltese archipelago took its present shape after the global warming which brought the Ice Age to an end some 7000 years BC. Drawn by the fertility of the land, the first settlers came from Sicily with their traditional



farming methods and their stone crafts, particularly in obsidian and flint. More than just a tranquil haven, the Maltese islands must have seemed to them a place of magic, dedicated from time immemorial to their deity – the Mother-Goddess of fertility. In 4000 BC, new settlers made themselves her architects and, in the process, built carved megaliths and magnificent temples.



Hal Saflieni Hypogeum

T h e e n i gm a of p r e h i s t or y

Statues from the past
he pendants, magnificent pottery and finely decorated objects discovered among the debris close to the temples recall a golden age of peace and prosperity. These invaluable treasures form part of a collection, which makes Malta’s archeological museums a key site of Mediterranean culture. The famous Venus of Malta, the sleeping goddess, and the statuettes of fat ladies anticipate a sculpture tradition, which is later on echoed in the figurines found on the Greek I s l a n d s . The mysterious disappearance of these highly artistic people in the second millennium was followed by waves of new settlers. Several elements, like inscriptions and f ra g m e nts of



Mnajdra Temples



Mycenaean pottery, suggest that in the Bronze Age, Malta was open to a number of new civilisations, particularly those coming from the Aegean.

We wish to thank our photographers: Cilia D. : MTA : 3-4-5-6-8-9-10-13 12

Planchard E. : Cover-1-2-7-11
Reproduction of the photographs included in this brochure is strictly forbidden.



The Christian era
In the year 60 AD, the galleon on which the Apostle Paul was being taken to Rome as a prisoner awaiting trial, ran aground on the shores of Malta. Christianity on the island dates back to his threemonth stay here. Several extremely well-preserved catacombs,often decorated with frescoes, recall the beginnings of a religion which by the fourth century had become the official religion of the Empire.


From mythology to early


Maritime Museum - Birgu

D e co r a t i v e s p i r a l s a n d f r i e z e s fo un d a t Tar x ie n Te m p l e s



National Museum of Archaeology - Valletta

T h e e n ig ma o f p r e h i s tor y



St. Paul’s Catacombs - Rabat

The Venus of Malta

The beloved island
Its position in the centre of the Mediterranean explains why Malta was always at the heart of things in ancient times from the dawn of seafaring. Known as Ogygia, Gozo was the mythical island where Calypso seduced Ulysses. When the Phoenicians (9th century BC) and the Carthaginians (6th century BC) came to Malta, the islands provided an ideal base thanks to their many sheltered bays and natural harbours. Pottery and various carved objects suggest that Malta had great prestige at the time.

The National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta: Housed in the Auberge de Provence,this museum brings together a splendid Neolithic collection, as well as a vast array of objects found in Punic and Roman tombs. The Museum of Archeology in Gozo: Lo c ated in the citadel of Victoria, this museum contains a range of objects discovered on the island.

Roman Villa - Early Christianity The Roman peace

During the Punic Wars, the Maltese islands were invaded by the Romans.Several remains from this period can be seen at the Museum of Roman Antiquities in Rabat. Known as the Roman Villa, it houses an array of columns, cornices, fragments of mosaic, amphorae and several statues and busts, which are among the best examples of Roman portraiture.
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back in time
ou can’t possibly escape the spell of a land so profoundly rooted in the origins of mankind. As the sun sets over the omnipresent blue of the Mediterranean, 7000 years of history become an unforgettable image. Here, stones have a soul. Standing close to them draws you into the mystery and makes you tremble at the hidden faith of the early inhabitants. Malta is among those rare places in the world which provide a change of scene that can take you back in time so that, for a while at least, the present fades away.



To visit the sites: For special visits,guides who speak your language can be contacted at the Tourist Information Offices in Valletta, St. Julians, Malta International Airport and Mgarr in Gozo.
Malta Tourism Authority Auberge d’Italie, Merchants Street, Valletta CMR 02,Malta Tel:(356) 22 915 000 Fax:(356) 22 915 893

Mnajdra Temples