The temple complexes of Malta are almost as old as the Irish Newgrange, but more more extensive. Built with megalithic stones between approximately 7000 and 2500 BC, seven of the twenty-three temples identified so far are still preserved today.
We know very little about how the ancient inhabitants of Malta worshipped their gods. Occasional bone finds suggest that animal sacrifices were offered in the temples found there, and their existence demonstrates that religion must have played an important role in this civilization. The stone temple complexes are constructed with great care and inventiveness. The plan of the Ggantija Temple, for example, resembles the form of a cloverleaf.
Some calculate that several successive generations must have worked on the construction of each temple. Given the dimensions of the structures and the approximately 50-ton weight of the stones, a 500-year-long construction period would be required.
REMAINS OF AN UNKNOWN PEOPLE
The stone temples of Malta are remains of a sophisticated culture that continues to pose riddles today. Apart from the existing structures, along with individual undergroun graves or temple complexes and a few art objects, nothing else from this civilization seems to have survived. Nothing has been discovered so far that would divulge any information as to the origins, identity, or later whereabouts of this culture.
What the remains do tell us is that these builders possessed an extraordinary knowledge of astronomy. Most of the temples were laid out according to the paths of heavenly bodies, perhaps allowing the buildings to be impressively illuminated on specific days. One stone fragment was found incised with a pattern that can be interpreted as a map of the stars. Some parts of the temples have stones or walls cut through with an unusual number of holes. While these are usually interpreted as having a purely decorative function, the pattern could also represent the stars or plant life.
some of the temples incorporate megalithic stone formations with unusual, irregularly fissured upper ends. In many cases the blocks are laid next to each other in such a way that the structures resemble faces. One theory proposes that these stones served as representations of certain creatures, such as ghosts or gods.
The available evidence suggests that women played an important role in this society, or at least in the religion. Many of the preserved artifacts are female figures, often with unnaturally small heads, hands and feet. These representations lead some scholars to conclude that Malta was the home of a fertility goddess. Others interpret the common occurrence of female figures in the temples as evidence for the existence of a matriarchy, that is, a society ruled by women.
It is questionable whether the future will provide additional information about this culture that has long since disappeared. The salty air that surrounds Malta has already inflicted great damage on the ruinds, and it is certainly possible that other relics have already suffered this fate long ago. Ideally, however, one can still hope to find additional underground temples containing objects that would provide further leads for investigation.