Megalithic Temples of Malta

Megalithic Temples of Malta

Seven megalithic temples are found on the islands of Malta and Gozo, each the result of an individual development. The two temples of Ggantija on the island of Gozo are notable for their gigantic Bronze Age structures. On the island of Malta, the temples of Hagar Qin, Mnajdra and Tarxien are unique architectural masterpieces, given the limited resources available to their builders. The Ta'Hagrat and Skorba complexes show how the tradition of temple-building was handed down in Malta.

Temples mégalithiques de Malte

Les îles de Malte et de Gozo abritent sept temples mégalithiques, chacun témoignant d'un développement distinct. À Gozo, les deux temples de Ggantija sont remarquables pour leur réalisations gigantesques de l'âge de bronze. Dans l'île de Malte, les temples de Hagar Qin, Mnajdra et Tarxien sont des chefs-d'œuvre architecturaux uniques étant donné les ressources très limitées dont disposaient leurs constructeurs. Les ensembles de Ta'Hagrat et de Skorba témoignent de la façon dont la tradition des temples s'est perpétuée à Malte.

معابد مالطا المبنيّة من الأحجار الضخمة المستعملة في عصور ما قبل التاريخ

في جزيرتي مالطا وغوزو سبعة معابدَ مبنيّة من الأحجار الضّخمة المستعملة في عصور ما قبل التاريخ، يشهد كلُّ معبدٍ منها على تطوّرٍ مميّز. فغوزو تضمّ معبدَي غانتيا الفريدَيْن بسبب بنائهما الهائل الذي يعود الى العصر البرونزي. أما في جزيرة مالطا، فتُعتبر معابد هاغاركين ومونيادري  وتركسيان  تحفًا هندسية فريدة نظراً للمصادر المحدودة جدًا التي كانت متوفرةً في ذلك الوقت لمعمرّيها. كما تشهد مجموعة تاهاغراط  وسكوربا على الطريقة التي أتاحت لتقاليد المعابد أن تدوم في مالطا.

source: UNESCO/ERI

马耳他巨石庙

在马耳他岛和戈佐岛上发现了七个巨石庙,其中每一个都是独立发展的结果。戈佐岛上的两座詹蒂亚寺庙以其巨大的青铜时代建筑而最引人注目。对当时的建筑者来说,资源非常有限,考虑到这一点,马耳他岛屿上的哈贾尔基姆、姆纳耶德拉和塔克西恩也可以看作是举世无双的建筑精品了。Ta'Hagrat 和 Skorba 建筑表现了马耳他寺庙建筑传统的流传方式。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Мегалитические храмы Мальты

На островах Мальта и Гоцо найдены семь мегалитических святилищ, каждое из которых имеет свою историю. Два святилища Джгантии на острове Гоцо замечательны своими гигантскими сооружениями, относящимися к бронзовому веку. Святилища Хаджьяр-Им, Мнайдра и Таршьен на острове Мальта – это уникальные архитектурные сооружения, воздвигнутые древними строителями, в распоряжении которых были весьма ограниченные ресурсы. Комплексы Та-Хаграт и Скорба демонстрируют процесс формирования на Мальте традиций сооружения храмов-святилищ.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Templos megalíticos de Malta

Las islas de Malta y Gozo albergan un total de siete templos megalíticos con características individuales propias bien diferenciadas. En Gozo, los dos templos de Ggantija se destacan por sus gigantescas estructuras de la Edad del Bronce. En Malta, los templos de Hagar Qinn Mnajdra y Tarxien son obras maestras arquitectónicas únicas en su género, habida cuenta de los recursos extremadamente limitados de que dispusieron sus constructores. Los conjuntos de T'Hagrat y de Skorba atestiguan la perdurabilidad de la tradición de construcción de templos en Malta.

source: UNESCO/ERI

マルタの巨石神殿群
地中海のゴゾ島やマルタ島に築かれ、世界で最も古い石造建造物の一つと考えられています。今世紀にはいって先史時代の神殿が30以上も発見され、六つが世界遺産に登録されています。そのうちの一つマルタ島北西のゴゾ島にあるグガンチャ神殿は、前3000年ごろの建築で、巨大な天然石を積み上げてつくられた神殿遺跡です。

source: NFUAJ

Megalithische tempels van Malta

Er bevinden zich op de eilanden Malta en Gozo zeven uit grote stenen opgebouwde tempels, elk het resultaat van een specifieke ontwikkeling. De twee tempels van Ggantija op het eiland Gozo, zijn bijzonder vanwege hun uit het Bronzen Tijdperk stammende bouwwijzen. Op het eiland Malta staan de tempels van Hagar Qin, Mnajdra en Tarxien. Gelet op de beperkte middelen die beschikbaar waren voor de bouwers zijn dit unieke architectonische meesterwerken. De Ta’Hagrat en Skorba complexen laten zien hoe de traditie van de tempelbouw werd door gegeven in Malta. Ze zijn beide essentieel om de grote meesterwerken te begrijpen.

Source: unesco.nl

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The Megalithic Temples of Malta, Hagar Qin © Sacred Sites
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The Megalithic Temples of Malta (Ġgantija, Ħaġar Qim, Mnajdra, Skorba, Ta’ Ħaġrat and Tarxien) are prehistoric monumental buildings constructed during the 4th millennium BC and the 3rd millennium BC. They rank amongst the earliest free-standing stone buildings in the world and are remarkable for their diversity of form and decoration. Each complex is a unique architectural masterpiece and a witness to an exceptional prehistoric culture renowned for its remarkable architectural, artistic and technological achievements.

Each monument is different in plan, articulation and construction technique. They are usually approached from an elliptical forecourt in front of a concave façade. The façade and internal walls consist of upright stone slabs, known as orthostats, surmounted by horizontal blocks. The surviving horizontal masonry courses indicate that the monuments had corbelled roofs, probably capped by horizontal beams. This method of construction was a remarkably sophisticated solution for its time. The external walls are usually constructed in larger blocks set alternately face out and edge out, tying the wall securely into the rest of the building. The space between the external wall and the walls of the inner chambers is filled with stones and earth, binding the whole structure together.

Typically, the entrance to the building is found in the centre of the façade, leading through a monumental passageway onto a paved court. The interiors of the buildings are formed of semi-circular chambers usually referred to as apses, symmetrically arranged on either side of the main axis. The number of apses varies from building to building; some have three apses opening off the central court, whilst others have successive courts with four, five, and in one case even six apses.

The temple builders used locally available stone of which they had a thorough knowledge. They used hard coralline limestone for external walls and the softer globigerina limestone for the more sheltered interiors and decorated elements.

Decorated features found within the buildings bear witness to a high level of craftsmanship. These elements consist mainly of panels decorated with drilled holes and bas-relief panels depicting spiral motifs, trees, plants and various animals. The form and layout of these buildings, as well as the artefacts found within them, suggest they were an important ritual focus of a highly organized society. 

Criterion (iv): The Megalithic Temples of Malta are remarkable not only because of their originality, complexity and striking massive proportions, but also because of the considerable technical skill required in their construction. 

Integrity

All six components of the property are in a reasonably good state of conservation, although the Tarxien complex is less well preserved than the others. All their key attributes are within the boundaries of the property. Surviving vestiges attest to the techniques used in the building of these complex structures, and the knowledge and skill of the people who built them. However, the structures are vulnerable to both material and structural deterioration, so research continues to be conducted to identify preservation strategies for the buildings. 

Authenticity

The six components of the property have a high level of authenticity. They consist of well-preserved remains of megalithic temples, with evidence of different phases of construction in Antiquity. The components have been recorded in travel accounts since Early Modern times, while photographic records of some components go back to the early 1900s. Various restoration interventions have been carried out on five of the six components since their excavation. These included moving decorated blocks indoors to protect them from weathering, and capping the surviving blocks with cement. Current conservation interventions are guided by international standards, guidelines and charters. 

Protection and management requirements

All six temples are subject to the main legal instrument for the protection of cultural heritage resources in Malta, the Cultural Heritage Act (2002). This Act provides for and regulates national bodies for the protection and management of cultural heritage resources.

Building development and land use are regulated by the Environment and Development Planning Act (2010) and subsequent amendments), which provides for and regulates the Malta Environment and Planning Authority. Since land use is a highly contested issue in the Maltese islands, the safeguarding of the Megalithic Temples and their buffer zone through the careful regulation of building development is therefore an issue of fundamental concern.

Each temple is protected by a buffer zone. The components and their buffer zones are formally scheduled by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority as Grade A archaeological sites, which means they are subject to wide-ranging restrictions of building development. The application of these restrictions varies according to the local context. An important challenge is to establish more rigorous control aimed at mitigating visual impact caused by building development in the vicinity of the buffer zones.

A Management Plan has been drawn up for the inscribed property, which covers each temple and its buffer zone.

The physical conservation of the Megalithic Temples is an area of concern and is the subject of the 2006-2011 Conservation Plan, which established the general principles. The sites were excavated during the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, leaving them exposed to erosion by natural and human causes. Protective shelters are presently the most prudent and effective means available to slow down the deterioration processes that are eroding the monuments. Lightweight, removable protective covers have been implemented as an interim strategy to prolong the life of these buildings, while research continues to identify alternative long-term preservation strategies.

Long Description

The monuments that make up this World Heritage site constitute the most characteristic examples of structures representing a major development in the cultural as well as the artistic and technological domains. Professor Lord Renfrew (Cambridge University), one of the leading prehistorians of the present day, has described the group of megalithic temples on the islands of Malta and Gozo as 'the oldest free-standing monuments in the world'. They are, moreover, remarkable for their diversity of form and decoration.

Being among the remarkable megalithic temples of the Maltese archipelago, the prehistoric ensemble of Ġgantija on the island of Gozo may be favourably compared with the three great temples of the island of Malta: Mnajdra, Ħagar Qim and Tarxien. Within a completely preserved enclosure wall, Ġgantija consists of two temples of multi-foil plan.

The southern temple, with its two elliptical cells, is the oldest; the northern temple, which is small in size, is more recent, although no later than 2200 BC. The ensemble of Ġgantija which serves as a point of archaeological reference - the 'Ġgantija Phase' (c. 3000-2200 BC) is one of the most important periods of the Maltese Bronze Age. The complex structure of the cultural group of Ġgantija, the excellent state of preservation of its materials - hard chalky coralline and the softer globigerina limestone - make it an excellent testament of megalithic prehistoric art.

Ħagar Qim and Mnajdra, although in the same tradition as the Ġgantija temples, are in no way duplicates of them. Each of these complexes is the result of a separate individual development, differing greatly in plan and articulation, as well as in constructional techniques, from Ġgantija and from each other. Both illustrate full mastery of the use of globigerina limestone for orthostats and for the regular courses of corbelling above in the interiors, in contrast to the rough boulders used in Ġgantija South. Each complex has to be ranked as a unique architectural masterpiece which would be immensely impressive at any date, given the very limited resources of the builders, but is quite staggering when taken with the extraordinarily early dates now attributed to them.

The same considerations hold for the Tarxien complex, except that it is considerably less well preserved than the others. It too is the product of individual development and displays some architectural features not found elsewhere. It is also unique in the wealth of elaborate carved ornament found there (although all this has unfortunately had to be removed from the site for protection), and the lower half of an extraordinary colossal stone figure. Another point is that because it is the only one of the monuments of this scale that has been regularly excavated and reported on, much more is known about what kind of use was made of it than of the others. The elaborate rituals to which the temples are testimony are a very remarkable manifestation of the human spirit, especially on a remote island at such an early date.

Ta' Ħaġrat offers the best preserved example of a temple with the early trefoil plan, plus the poorly preserved remains of what is assumed to be the earliest type of all. The former, although on a much smaller scale than the above monuments, would be considered remarkable for its date if they were not available for comparison. Its chief importance is as evidence of the development of the tradition, rather than in its own right, and this applies even more so, of course, to the smaller and earlier unit.

Both Ta' Ħaġrat and Skorba are significant mainly in terms of the information they provide about the development of the temple tradition in Malta. They are both essential to the proper understanding of the great masterpieces.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Notes
  • The Committee decided to extend the existing cultural property, the "Temple of Ggantija", to include the five prehistoric temples situated on the islands of Malta and Gozo and to rename the property as "The Megalithic Temples of Malta".