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Mnajdra Megalithic Temples

Mnajdra Megalithic Temples

Mnajdra lies tucked in a hollow in the cliffs on Malta’s southern coast. It lies in an isolated position on a rugged stretch of coast overlooking the isle of Fifla and just 500m from another principle temple site, Hagar Qim.

The surrounding area is designated a Heritage Park and is typical of rugged Mediterranean garigue landscape. Barren in summer, the landscape is transformed in spring by flowering herbs and shrubs. Mnajdra is a complex site consisting of three temples overlooking an oval forecourt. The first and oldest temple is a simple three-apsed building and dates to the Ggantija phase (3600-3200 BC). The small rubble walls are a modern reconstruction but the small uprights, with their pitted decoration, are original.

Thanks to its good state of preservation and spectacular location, Mnajdra is considered the most atmospheric of Malta's ancient temples. The Mnajdra complex consists of three temples that radiate from an oval forecourt. The three temples adjoin one another but are not connected; each has its own entrance.

The first and oldest temple (on the north) is a simple three-apsed structure dating from c.3600-3200 BC, not long after Ggantija was built. The small walls have been reconstructed but the small uprights, with their pitted decoration, are original.

The middle temple is the largest and was the last to be built, closer to 2000 BC. It was inserted between the other two and set at a higher level, and is unusual in having a great 3-meter high porthole slab (now broken) as its main entrance, with a second doorway beside it. To the left of the passage leading to the inner apses is an engraving of a temple facade.

The most impressive of the Mnajdra temples is the lower (southern) temple, with a largely intact façade and bench constructed sometime between 3150 and 2500 BC. Its corbelled walls indicated the temple was roofed (as at Ggantija), and the stone slabs are decorated with intriguing spiral carvings and dotted patterns. The porthole niche to the left is especially impressive, framed in a trilithon and two strangely tapered megaliths on either side.

In the right-hand apse of the lower temple is a porthole doorway at the top of a flight of steps giving access to a intramural chamber. An oracle hole opens from that chamber and another oracle hole in a recess communicates with the back and outside of the temple. Within the first side chamber is an altar on a double-hourglass shaped pillar.

The lower temple is astronomically aligned. On the equinoxes (March 20 and Sept. 22), the rays of the sun pass directly through the temple’s main doorway and light up the main axis. At the summer solstice (June 21), the sun lights up the edge of a megalith to the left of the doorway, connecting the first pair of chambers to the inner chambers. At the winter solstice (Dec. 21), the same effect can be seen on the corresponding megalith on the right hand side. The temples are opened to the public at sunrise on the spring equinox to allow visitors to view the impressive event.

Artifacts found at Mnajdra include stone and clay statuettes, shell and stone ornaments, flint tools and decorated earthenware. The lack of any metal objects is one of the indications of its Neolithic origin.


Mnajdra Temples futuristic roof

Mnajdra Temples futuristic roof

The Mnajdra Temples were opened to the public in April 2009 following the installation of a protective roof shelter. The shelters are intended to mitigate the effects of the elements on the prehistoric temple structures.

A protective structure has also been installed at Ħaġar Qim temples, the total cost of €4.2 million was funded through the European Regional Development Fund.
 
 
 

Resources:


Sacred Destinations - worldwide guide to sacred sites, holy places, pilgrimage destinations, religious architecture and sacred art.

Heritage Malta - Government of Malta agency set up to manage the heritage sites of Malta and Gozo.



Mnajdra Aerial View
Mnajdra Aerial View