Posted by Vi Warkentin on
While visiting Malta, we hiked out a few kms in the countryside from the village of Qrendi to a point high above the sea-side cliffs in southern Malta overlooking the Mediterranean. Just loved the look of this wind-whipped tree next to Hagar Qim (“HA-Jar eem”) - the best-preserved ancient temple (over 5,000 years old!) of several ancient limestone temples in Malta. And how old are these great stone temples of Malta, you may ask? They are among the oldest free-standing stone structures in the world with almost a thousand years seniority on the Pyramids! Incredible to be standing in front of and also walking through these ancient ruins. Hagar Qim was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.
Although it is not the oldest free-standing stone structure in the world (one of the Ggantija temples on Gozo, the second-largest island in Malta is THE oldest stone structure in the world) Hagar Qim is thought to date back to 3600 - 3200 BC! It is different from most other Maltese temples in that it is a single temple rather than a complex of two or three. Standing in the forecourt of Hagar Qim, I am looking at the south facade and entrance to Hagar Qim temple - made of locally available globigerina limestone. Sorry - hard to give perspective of exactly how large these stones really are! Trust me, they’re really BIG! Glancing at the larger stones to the left of the entrance, I couldn’t help but notice socket-like shapes hewn into the limestone. Could this be how these stones were levered into place? Also note the deterioration of this limestone. More on that later in this post.
A porthole/doorway to another room (apse) within the Hagar Qim temple.
Not sure but upon closer examination of this photo below, I think I can see sprocket-like shapes carved into the bottom of these stones also - again, possibly to maneuver these massive stones into place? Note the deterioration of the large stone on the left side of this wall. More on what Malta is doing to help preserve these ancient temples at end of this post.
It was truly amazing how very large these stones were - the stone pictured below is estimated to weigh close to 20 tonnes! (Sorry, I do find the sign that was posted in front of this wall somewhat confusing - it states 20 tonnes but also has the rock labeled as 10,160 kg. My conversion of 20 tonnes is 20,000 kg. Most references to this rock has its weight listed at approximately 20 tonnes!) Size is 3 meters x 6.40 meters (9.8 ft x 21 feet). Like I said, this is one massive rock!
Just a stone’s throw away (ok, maybe not these stones) or five hundred metres from Hagar Qim is another temple complex - this one known as Mnajdra. Another view of Mnajdra with a view in the background of the uninhabited islet of Filfla, 4.5 km off the coast in the Mediterranean Sea.
For some fun, check out this link to a virtual tour of Mnajdra.
I’m glad I saw Malta prior to 2009 because as of 2009, Mnajdra, along with nearby Hagar Qim, have been covered over with a permanent protective cover due to the severe deterioration of the temples due to the elements. Very unfortunate but I guess if future generations wish to see these amazing ancient ruins, action had to be taken to preserve them.