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The Megalithic Temples

The Megalithic Temples of Malta

One of the most surprising yet well known (if at the same time mysterious) attractions is the Megalithic temples found throughout the islands. There are more major temples in Malta from this period than in the rest of Europe combined and they are thought to be the oldest buildings in the world, predating the Egyptian pyramids by 1,000 years. The oldest is the Ta' Hagrat Temple in northern Malta, dated as early as 3,600BC, while the Ggantija temples in Gozo are not far behind in age. Both are evidence of a previously unknown at level of primitive architectural ingenuity.

The mystery of the temples has puzzled generations of scholars. Constructed of megaliths as a series of monumental caverns, the temples' "twin lobes" floor-plan is thought to either mimic the so-called "fat ladies" of the Neolithic matriarchal fertility cult or the interconnected underground sarcophaguses that preceded the temples.

The most intact and evocative temples are Hagar Qim, Mnajdra and Tarxien, although the most religiously symbolic of all is the Hypogeum. One of the world's most impressive ancient monuments, this subterranean temple's three levels have been gouged out from the earth to the same pattern as its above-ground counterparts. As such, it provides a rare insight into how the temples' interior looked when they were intact, before their roofs caved in.