Tarxien Temples

The Tarxien Temples which located in Tarxien, Malta, lie hidden for centuries until its discovery in 1914, when local farmers struck large stone blocks while ploughing a field. Sir Temistocles Zammit, Malta’s first director of museums, excavated the site in 1915-17. The Tarxien consist of four megalithic structures built between 3600 and 2500 BC by the mysterious creed known as the ‘Temple Builders’. Between 1915 and 1919, the site was extensively excavated , with a number of minor interventions carried out in the 1920s. They date to approximately 3150 BC. The site was accepted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 along with the other Megalithic temples on the island of Malta.

The main entrance is a reconstruction dating from 1956, when the whole site was restored. The first temple has been dated 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 is dated at around 3100 BC. The remains of another temple, smaller, and older, having been dated to 3250 BC, are visible further towards the east.

By 1920, Zammit had identified and carried out restoration work on five separate but interconnected temples, all yielding a remarkable collection of artifacts, including the famous "fat lady" statue (a representation of a Mother Goddess or a fertility charm), and several unique examples of prehistoric relief, including ships. Further excavations at the temples were conducted in the post-World War II period under the directorship of Dr. J.G. Baldacchino.

The four temples are rich in megalithic art, constructed as they are from stone blocks adorned with relief-work in spiral patterns, as well as the depiction of goats, bulls, pigs and a ram. The spiral is the most common design in megalithic art on Malta, and indeed around the world. Believed by some to represent eternity, the design is expressed in a wide variety of forms across the islands and clearly had a significant meaning for the ancient Maltese peoples. The significance of the spirals remains ‘occult’ in the strictest sense, though archaeologists believe that the animals depicted may have been sacrificial offerings.



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