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Malta, Shrouded in Megalithic Mystery

Malta, Shrouded in Megalithic Mystery

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The crowd waited expectantly at Malta’s ancient Mnajdra Temple for the spring equinox sun to peek out from behind a nearby hill. Suddenly the sun broke through the low-lying morning mist. Warmed by its light, the honey-colored limestone walls of the partly ruined megalithic temple began to glow. Like liquid gold, a beam of sunlight flowed over the stone-paved corridor until it reached the main altar at the western end. Soon the altar was lit with the blessing of the sun. The Mnajdra spring equinox sunrise had been successfully witnessed in 2019, just as it has been for nearly 6,000 years.

The 2019 rising Spring Equinox sun shines down the central corridor of Mnajdra Temple and touches the main altar at the end. (Image © Elyn Aviva)

The 2019 rising Spring Equinox sun shines down the central corridor of Mnajdra Temple and touches the main altar at the end. (Image © Elyn Aviva)

That some ancient Maltese temples are aligned to the equinoxes and have internal markers for the solstices (and even a calendar stone) is no longer disputed. But much else about the temples—and about much of Maltese prehistory—remains puzzling, raising more questions and vehemently heated debates than answers. For example: Was Malta really first settled 7,000 years ago by farmers from Sicily? The same first settlers who, without apparent prior experience, 1,000 years later began to erect enormous megalithic temples? And why did they build so many? Surveys indicate some 66 megalithic temples existed on the relatively small islands of Malta and Gozo. Some archaeologists state that the underground Hal Saflieni Hypogeum , which resembles an above-ground temple complete with central sanctuary, was a huge multi-layer cemetery into which some 7,000 (decomposing) bodies were deposited. But was it?

Based on ‘obese’ statues and the interior layout of the temples, some people believe Malta was the site of a powerful Mother Goddess cult. But are the large-bottomed, kilted statues (often headless) actually female, and are the temples proof of a Goddess cult? Numerous limestone plateaus are covered with networks of enigmatic cart-ruts that run parallel, overlap, do ‘U-turns’, and even run down cliffs and under the water. How old are they and what were they used for?

The entrance to the two top apses of the Tarxien Temples in Malta. Spiral engravings can be found on one slab (Ethan Doyle White / CC BY-SA 4.0)

The entrance to the two top apses of the Tarxien Temples in Malta. Spiral engravings can be found on one slab ( Ethan Doyle White / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

History of Human Habitation of Malta

The Republic of Malta is composed of three main islands (Malta, Gozo, and tiny Comino). It is located at an important crossroads of the Mediterranean.

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Elyn Aviva Ph.D., M.Div., is an independent researcher specializing in sacred sites, powerful places, comparative religion, and pilgrimage. Her latest book, The Question: A Magical Fable , has just been released. 

Top Image: Templi megalitici di Mnajdra ( Alecastorina93/ CC BY-SA 3.0 )

By Elyn Aviva

Comments

Elyn and Gary's picture

Thanks again—I look forward to looking at your blog. One thing I’ve learned from my research on Malta is that there are numerous different opinions, theories, hypotheses, etc. I think of it as a deeply textured tapestry, constructed by many weavers.

Thank you Elyn and Gary, but I don't think Calypso has something to do with Malta, not even with any other particular place. If you wish, you can read my view about different issues of Odyssey in my blog "geometax12.blogspot.com", article "Odysseus and Calypso", in English.

Elyn and Gary's picture

Thanks, George. You may be onto something re the Odyssey. There is a cave known as Calypso’s Cave, on Gozo, and it is linked to the legend that Homer retells about Ulysses being kept captive on an island for 7 years by Calypso. Much to think about and continue to explore.

I believe Malta was the "isle of the Sun God" in Odyssey, where the sacred cattle of the god were kept and the hungry men of Odysseus thoughtlessly slaughtered. There are indeed engravings of cattle on the ancient ruins of Malta, and according to this article equinoxes and solstices played an important role in local culture. I dare also propose that the numerous obese female statues and statuettes found in Malta, actually may not represent a goddess of fertility but a female Sun.

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