Malta has been inhabited since about 5200 BC.
Archaeologists have been able to determine the origin of the first inhabitants
of the island with the help of pot sherds, found in the cave of Ghar Dalam in
Birzebbuga. The pottery used by these people shows a close resemblance to
Stentinello culture of Sicily from about the same time. Hence we may assume
that the first inhabitants of Malta originated from there. Sicily is about 60
miles north of Malta - a distance that could be crossed even in prehistoric
After some new immigrants arrived in Malta, the so called Temple Culture
around 4000 BC. The first temples were constructed about 3600 BC.
Ggantija in Xaghra (Gozo) is one of them. The temples were built with
huge stone blocks and almost always consist of a number of trefoil shaped
rooms, interconnected by a corridor.
The temples were used for the veneration of the goddess of fertility,
of which several statuettes were found. She is depicted as an obese woman;
archaeologists call these images 'fat lady' statues. In many cultures obesity is
a symbol of abundance and fertility.
Many discoveries were made in the temple complex of Tarxien, not far from the
capital city of Valletta. This temple complex belongs to the last phase of the
Temple Period and is characterized by numerous decorations, amongst others with
spiral motives and animal reliefs. Tarxien was excavated in the beginning of
the 20th century.
Apart from temples, several burial complexes were discovered dating back to the
Temple Period, like the hypogeum in Paola, not far from Tarxien. Here as well
large amounts of statuettes were found.
The Temple Period lasted until about 2500 BC, when the race of the temple
builders became extinct.
After the Temple Period the Bronze Age begins in Malta. Also from this period
discoveries were made, like the cart ruts, used by slide carts to carry heavy
loads of stone. The dolmens, found in many places in Malta, date back to
these times as well.
Ghar Dalam, the cave in Birzebbuga, can be visited and is especially interesting
because of the fossil remains from the Ice Age, that were found here. In the
near the cave one can see bones of pleistocene animals, like
(dwarf) elephants, hippopotamuses and deer.
The most visited
in Malta are
There are many other temple remains in Malta. Some are closed to the public,
others are accessible. A good tourist map will show the location of most of
Ggantija in Xaghra (Gozo)
Hagar Qim and Mnajdra, close to the village of Qrendi
in Paola re-opened for visitors after a nine-year conservation project. Visits
are limited to the time indicated on the admission ticket. Tickets can be
bought from the site itself, up to 28 days in advance.
can be found in many places, both on Malta as well as on Gozo. A good tourist
help you out again to locate them. Very interesting is Clapham Junction, not
far from Rabat.
If you are interested in archaeological remains, don't forget to visit the
National Museum of Archaeology
in Valletta. Most of the original finds from the Temple Period can be seen
There is also a small but nice Archaeology Museum in the
citadel in Gozo.