Malta’s Megalithic Temples – an Artist’s View 1
The Megalithic temples of Malta are among the oldest free-standing structures in the world, older than the Egyptian pyramids. Ggantija, on Malta’s sister island Gozo, is estimated to have been built around 3,700 BC. Several of these enigmatic structures still stand today, having been excavated in the middle of the last century, and they are now preserved as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Traces of many other temples – some say at least 80 – are scattered all over the tiny islands, mostly demolished and incorporated into the local rubble walls.
And that’s where the questions begin. Why were there so many temples built in Malta and Gozo? Who built them? What were they for? A few sacrificial knives have been found, and some animal remains in temple niches, but no indication of human sacrifice. There is little or no evidence of weaponry; the temple builders must have lived in peace. Neither is there much evidence of contemporary habitation; how could a small population have built so many huge structures?
Obviously, these massive stones – one of them is approximately 20 tons – were not cut, moved and erected so precisely for the fun of it. Tremendous importance must have been attached to the sites. Was it the space they occupy, or the buildings themselves? Or both? For some reason, Malta must have been held in high esteem by ancient peoples, and I wonder why…… I wonder what they knew that we are too ‘civilised’ to acknowledge today.
There are many theories concerning the whys and wherefores, from alien stargates to Goddess cults to primitive burial and ceremonial sites. As an artist, I have over the years been lucky enough to have had permission to work on site in these structures. Obviously, my impressions are of what I feel when I am painting rather than any facts or figures. By allowing myself to soak in the atmosphere and respond to it with colour and line, I find that the results often surprise and move me.
It seems obvious to me that prehistoric peoples had to survive alongside Nature, predicting her seasons and being intimately touched by her cycles. They knew that they were part of the great rhythm of the earth. They had to know when to plant, when to store grains and seeds. They also knew that women were precious to their survival, magical in their ability to bleed without dying, and to bring forth new life from within their bodies much as the earth did. They must have treasured the fertility of women as well as Nature, and found both worthy of deep respect. How else could they have had a future?
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