Were Prehistoric Temples Roofed?

Ta' Ħaġrat Temples

The prehistoric temples evidenced today are bare and subject to natural elements. Were these structures more elaborate and refined when they were built? Was there a roof on top? Who were these communities that inhabited the area, built and made use of such structures?

Ta’ Ħaġrat Temples
Set in the heart of Mġarr, a village in Northwest Malta, and smaller than most other sites of a similar nature, Ta’ Ħaġrat is home to two well-preserved adjacent structures.

The value of these temples has been recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Site
The dating of this site is still uncertain although the finds indicate a Saflieni phase (3,300 – 3,000 BC) date. 

Ceramic material from both earlier and later periods was found within the site, indicating that the site was used both before and after the construction of the Temples.

The West temple is the larger of the two buildings and dates from the earliest phases of megalithic construction – the Ġgantija phase (3600 – 3200 BC).

This structure has a monumental doorway and façade which give the site two of its most awe-inspiring and renowned characteristics. Other features include a bench, running along the facade’s length.

It also has a courtyard, measuring approximately 2.5m by 4.5m, surrounded by a raised stone kerb.

This space, accessible through the entrance corridor of the West temple, provides access to three chambers through megalithic doorways.

The East Temple is the smaller structure and is built on a 4-apse plan. It is linked to the earlier one through a doorway in the eastern room.

Discoveries
A number of pottery sherds and material found in this site hint to the fact that the temples replaced a village 

On Monday 3rd of September, 1923 a sculpted scale model of a roofed megalithic building was found in the East Temple. A sketch found in the Mgarr parish records is the only entry of the spot where this model was found.

This artefact was found under about 1 feet of soil in the area to the north of the ruins.

This artefact was found under about 1 feet of soil in the area to the north of the ruins.

An artefact found in the second campaign of excavations (1924 - 1925). There is a discrepancy concerning the findspot of this artefact

Excavation
How were these structures discovered and what necessary actions are being taken in order to conserve them for future generations?

A mound in the field known as ‘Ta’ Ħaġrat’ was reported by Themistocles Zammit by C. Rizzo in 1917.

Zammit visited the site with G. Despott and R. Bonello on the 21st of March of the same year.

Intrigued by the remains, he immediately expressed his wish to excavate the site when funds permitted.

Excavations commenced six years later by Zammit in 1923 (concluded in 1926).

The extensive damage done to the site before its discovery is referred to a number of times, both in the field notes and in the published reports.

The main doorway of this structure was restored in 1937 following damages done in the field-clearing operations. The work conducted by a small crowd consisted of the replacement of the door lintel to its original position.

The condition assessment of Ta’ Ħaġrat was carried out in December 2007. The visual inspection of this site led to the identification of a number of concerns which were identified and catalogued.

As part of targeted interaction by Heritage Malta members and onsite visitors between 2005 and 2007, the site was also assessed in terms of their archaeological and social value.

Following consultations with various stakeholders, ideal conditions were identified and priorities set.

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