Discover Ħaġar Qim in Malta: Ancient Marvel from 5,000 Years Ago

Written by Albert Fenech
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“Malta Ancient Marvel from 5,000 Years Ago, Ħaġar Qim”

Many world sites boast about their “unique qualities” that cannot and should not be missed, but nobody should miss this one because it is unique ingenuity and shows the mental and physical achievements of humanity 5,000 years ago and can only be found here.

Do you want to stand in wonder amidst a unique place in the world? Then visitors have to visit Ħaġar Qim in Malta– and go back 5,000 years!

Introduction

Antiquities – are they just “old stuff” not worth wasting time over and anyway, we have heard all about them over and over again? A proportion of travellers/tourists are now more interested in today’s beers and wines and filling the stomach with grub and splashing around in a clean, blue sea.

The homelands of antiquities rightly boast about them internationally and yes, yes, we have heard of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China and a number of others –Including Stonehenge in England.

Are there more?

There certainly are in Malta and Gozo and these by far supersede in importance the other entire world wonders put together!

Ħaġar Qim in Malta Entrance

Background of Ħaġar Qim in Malta

Weight-watching and other anorexic-figured ladies would not have earned a second glance from Malta’s Stone Age Men. Indeed, 5,000 years ago this would have been a field day for a battery of Dieticians, Cardiovascular Specialists, Obesity Consultants and Personal Trainers – trying to get Stone Age Women into shape!

This is highly apparent in all the stone figures and figurines of the female shape excavated from that era where the “perfect” female shape was rated as being short, stocky – if not to say obese – with the widest possible expanded hips and posteriors as well as general, all-round roundness, or otherwise not worth a second glance.

Why? The sole human motivation was one of basic instinct and the human craving to procreate and increase the species as a means of biological sustainability for the human race. Women with wide hips were classed to be ideal for fertility and the ideal carriers of babies and hence offspring and therefore, the wider the figure, the more desirable.

The entrance to the temples

What Will I Be Visiting in?

When the former Professor of Prehistoric European Archaeology from London University’s Institute of Archaeology, V. Gordon Childe, visited Malta’s Ħaġar Qim and other Stone Age temples  he later wrote, “I have been visiting the prehistoric ruins all round the Mediterranean, from Mesopotamia to Egypt, Greece and Switzerland, but I have nowhere seen places as old as these.”

The whole are of course UNESCO World Heritage Sites, together with the nearby temple of Mnajdra and the temples in Ggantija (Gozo) as well as The Hypogeum and the Tarxien Neolithic Temple, a record for so many sites in such a confined territorial area as the Maltese Islands.

The free-standing stone temple of Ħaġar Qim (literally translated as Adored Sacred Stones – purely Semitic) in the north east of Malta has been dated back to 3,000 BC (that is 5,000 years ago) and, together with a number of other Stone Age temples spread over Malta and Gozo, all these are classed as being the oldest free-standing temples in the world.

Recently, on a visit to the Roman temple at Ephesus in Turkey with an internationally mixed group of tourists I listened patiently to our Turkish tour guide patriotically boasting of Turkey having “this oldest free-standing temple in the whole world” before I took him aside and told him confidentially that he was mistaken and explained why.

He was simply astounded, having never previously heard of Ħaġar Qim and for which shortcoming he profusely apologised after searching and certifying through his laptop – while probably cursing me even more profusely under his breath!

The Hagar Qim Temple facade before the plastic roof covering

What Experience Will I Obtain?

My first experience on entering the Ħaġar Qim temple as a 12-year-old boy was one of awe and reverence was not to make the slightest sound and just to experience the age of 5,000 year old stones in my bones. The 5,000 years were totally beyond my concept of meaning.

As the years and my concepts increased my reverence in that my forebears had built such a magnificent structure and the utility for them of that structure grew to one of great awe.

The temple itself is a complex rather than merely a large assembly chamber and provides an insight of the extent we tend to underestimate Stone Age Man with his limitation of tools and limitation of cultural development.

It consists of an Assembly Forecourt through which one had to be searched and noted before entrance (like all hotels and offices today). On entering there are dwelling-rooms (for the resident sacred priests) and protective bastions, a Northern Temple, a Women’s Chamber, the Main Temple, the Niche and the Watering Place.

Many of these zones had their own multiple recesses, with the Northern Temple having a Woman’s Chamber consisting of altars where wide-based jugs of libations were placed. Was this used as a “segregation” area for the females not to mix with males, not so far-fetched because in some localities it is still in use in various places today!

The Northern Temple also has another fascination for the adoration of the Summer Solstice which from a hole can be viewed as the sun rises over the offshore minute island of Filfla, indicating that Filfla itself may have been viewed as a sacred locality from which the sun rises.

This in itself is a creation of ingenuity combining together solar admiration and worship, religious belief and worship, combining them with geo-physical accuracy and its transmission to humble humanity believing in the command of a “Greater Being” – later a belief in God and various religious entities.

Those were the values of humanity 5,000 years ago and in general they have remained. Little wonder one has to visit this temple is well as the others and stand in awe in one’s surroundings.

The Summer Solstices chamber contains a flat stone slab in the centre that was obviously used for sacrifices, animal as well as human, as the sun rose and its rays focused on the victim.

Equally amazing is a system through which sound could be conveyed throughout the temple – a stereo arrangement 5,000 years ago – making the presence of priests more awesome as their voices boomed throughout the chambers.

Constructed from globigerina limestone, it is wondrous to try to understand how the huge stones were hewn,  sculpted and placed standing in an era before the Iron Age and the amount of labour involved in the whole construction. Unfortunately, globigerina limestone is weather-prone and flakes under rains and winds and the whole temple was covered over with a plastic ceiling in 2009 to prevent further deterioration.

Some years back, Suzanne Psaila, an archaeology student, spent four years patiently visually reconstructing a model of the temple, virtually stone by stone as part of her PhD archaeology studies. In her own words it caused her “many a sleepless night” because of excitement.

Suzanne then explained it was not a matter of simply drawing stones on stones.  “Each stone is given all the dimensions and weights and the building simply cannot be constructed unless the structure can take the weight”. Once more this is a source of wonder at the ingenuity of the skills of Stone Age Man.

She also determined the whole temple would have had a roof structure covering it but which sadly collapsed in stages down through the centuries and the stones hauled away to be recycled in other buildings.

Her research was immaculate and included the 11.4 metre facade that she was able to reconstruct based on a 5,000-year-old model of the prehistoric building.

Nowadays we tend to think that the ability of mankind only became evident with today’s virtual technology but nevertheless quite humbling to consider the magnificence of the construction of Ħaġar Qim and the other stone temples given all the limitations of mankind 5,000 years ago.

Ggantija – Gozo

Possibility of Access to Malta Ancient Marvel?

This is not in any way a problem. Road access is easily indicated and a public service from Valletta is frequent for all sites 24/7. Guides are always available and this is an experience that SURELY must NOT be missed. It brings together 5,000 years of history and humanity. THE OLDEST IN THE WORLD.

Author Bio: Albert Fenech

e/mail – salina46af@gmail.com

Malta and Gozo

***

BeSeeingYou In: (Malta’s Stone Age temples)

Good To Know: (For lovers of human antiquities)

WOW Factor: (The OLDEST FREE-STANDING buildings in the world)

TIP: (Appreciating the marvels of humans 5,000 years ago)

Albert Fenech
Born in 1946, Albert Fenech’s family took up UK residence in 1954 where he spent his boyhood and youth before temporarily returning to Malta between 1957 and 1959 and then coming back to Malta permanently in 1965. He spent eight years as a full-time journalist with “The Times of Malta” before taking up a career in HR Management and Administration with a leading construction company building the Benghazi Hospital in Libya, later with Malta Insurance Brokers, Malta’s leading insurance Broker and finally STMicroelectronics Malta, employing 3,000 employees and Malta’s leading industrial manufacturer. Throughout he actively pursued freelance journalism and broadcasting for various media outlets covering social issues, current affairs, sports and travel. He was Publications Editor for the Malta Football Association for 25 years and has written for a number of publications both in Malta and overseas, as well as publishing two e-books.

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