An Undisturbed Tomb Recently Discovered in Tarxien, Malta, Dates Back 2,000 Years

Written by Albert Fenech
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I have written it before and I am sure I’ll write it again, wherever you dig in Malta and Gozo you are bound to come up with something significant and historical. And it happened again in 2020 when another highly precious discovery was unearthed in Tarxien, a town in southeastern Malta that’s most notable for a megalithic temple complex of of four megalithic structures that are among the oldest freestanding structures on Earth. Tarxien is known as an archaeological centre in Malta, with multiple discoveries stretching across various periods of history and pre-history made in the past century.

The site is a must visit any time you’re in Malta.

 

Malta Tarxien

Around the complex visitors will see various statues and reliefs of animals, including goats, for which Malta is noted. Photo by Frank Vincentz, CC BY-SA 3.0

A Tomb Discovered in Tarxien, Malta

While digging was taking place in a stretch of private land at Tarxien, a tomb that had been undisturbed all these years was uncovered. Tarxien is an area of Malta packed with historic remains including the world-famous Hypogeum underground burial cemetery, catacombs, and the Hal Saflieni Stone Age Temples.

The undisturbed burial site with its original stone sealing slab still in place was discovered by a team of archaeologists with the architecture and consultancy firm QPM Limited working together with Malta’s Superintendence for Cultural Heritage. Experts stated the find in such an undisturbed condition was a rare occurrence in Malta, and included a chamber with an intact set of burial equipment. The urns that lined the sides of the chamber contained ashes probably from cremation rituals and there was an assortment of small pots and amphora containing funeral items.

Later, two skeletal remains of adults were found in a further cluster of tombs. The National Heritage Ministry confirmed that in 1974 another tomb had been discovered in the area. In the following weeks and a second tomb found, which held funerary pots containing burnt human bones and the pots were covered by plates. There was also a trefoil jug, an oil lamp and other related items.

Malta Tarxien Temples

The Tarxien Temples date to approximately 3150 BC and are a “Must Visit” when in Malta (Photo By Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0)

About the Tarxien Temples

The name Tarxien is thought to have originated from Phoenician times and from the word “Tirex,” meaning a large stone.  The motto of the town is “Tyrii Genure Coloni,” which means “the Phoenicians created me” and the oldest temple here is said to date back to about 3600 BC.

Most notable of the statues found in the Temples are about 2.5 metres  tall and are said to represent a Mother Goddess and fertility. The site was on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1981, one of the island’s first, along with the other Megalithic temples on Malta and Gozo.

The main entrance is a reconstruction dating from 1956, when the whole site was restored. At the same time, many of the decorated slabs discovered on site were relocated (for protection) to the Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.

The first temple dates to approximately 3100 BC and is the most elaborately decorated of the temples of Malta. The middle temple dates to about 3000 BC, and is unique in that, unlike the rest of the Maltese temples, it has three pairs of apses instead of the usual two. The east temple dates to around 3100 BC.

Malta temple tarxien

The ‘fat lady of Malta’ is considered to be a fertility figure and was found inside the Western Temple. Photo by Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0

 

The remains of another temple, smaller, and older, are visible further toward the east. Of particular interest at the temple site is the rich and intricate stonework, which includes depictions of domestic animals carved in relief, altars, and screens decorated with spiral designs and other patterns.

Demonstrative of the skill of the early builders is a chamber set into the thickness of the wall between the South and Central temples and containing a relief showing a bull and a cow.

Excavation of the site revealed it was used extensively for rituals, which probably involved animal sacrifice. Especially interesting is that Tarxien provided a rare insight into how the megaliths were constructed: stone rollers were left outside the South temple. Additionally, evidence of cremation has been found at the centre of the South temple, which is an indicator that the site was reused as a Bronze Age cremation cemetery.

 

This unique monument bears testimony to a civilization that has disappeared and is one of the “Must See” sites of Malta. It can be reached on Malta Public Transport bus route and is about a 30-minute drive from Valletta. Visits to the temple complex are highly booked.

Take a virtual tour here.

 

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BeSeeingYou In: Malta and its historic megalithic stone temples

Good To Know: Temples that record the evolvement of humanity

WOW! Factor: Temples that go back 5,000 years

Tip: It is highly advisable to book before arrival via Heritage Malta.com or VisitMalta.com

Author bio: Albert Fenech salina46af@gmail.com

 

Read more about travel in Malta here

Find more travel inspiration at BeSeeingYou

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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