The prehistoric temples of Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra hold a special place in the visitor’s heart. It has captured the attention of many locals and visitors alike leaving one with a sense of reverence and awe

Their idyllic setting, the questions they raise and the awe they inspire have placed them on the itinerary of visitors to the Maltese islands since the 18th century

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

Soon after their excavation, Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra became national icons appearing on Maltese stamps and currency since 1926.

Building
Majestic in size, intricate in design. But what were these buildings used for? Who built them? How did they do such a grand feat?
Ħaġar Qim
Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra are found in the garigue landscape along the south-western coast of Malta, 2 km from the village of Qrendi

Standing at the top of a ridge, with the ground sloping away on all sides, Ħaġar Qim must have always been a conspicuous landmark.

Both megalithic complexes were built between the 4th and 3rd millennia BC, placing them amongst the earliest monumental buildings of such sophistication in the whole world.

Through the application of carbon dating techniques to the Maltese prehistoric sequence in the 1960s, Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra were unequivocally attributed to the 4th millennium BC.

The site consists of a number of structures; the most extensive and best preserved of these, the main building, is found at the centre of the complex.

There are also two smaller outlying ones and the remains of a wall of another structure.

The monumental concave façade has become an icon of the Maltese islands. It faces south-east and is approached across an oval forecourt.

Particularly noteworthy in the façade are the larger megaliths which are notched in the corners of horizontal blocks.

The entrance in the middle of the façade, is of the typical trilithon construction consisting of two uprights standing on either side of a threshold and supporting a horizontal lintel.

Flanking either side of the entrance is a stone ‘bench’ running along the length of the façade. Its function was probably structural helping support the upright megaliths, although it may have had other purposes once in place.

In front of the entrance are two interconnected holes cut in the rock floor. Similar holes are often found in front of the temple entrances.

Their original use is not clear; theories about them range from the possibility that they were libation holes for liquid offerings to their having a technical role in the construction of the doorway.

Discoveries
Mysterious statues and intricate pedestals. What is their significance and why were they unearthed in such places?

An item that was discovered in the 1839 excavation was a stone decorated altar discovered in the first central court

In 1839, five statuettes were found close to the altar and another four were excavated from apse 2.

This clay figurine, one of the most refined statuettes discovered at Ħaġar Qim, was unearthed from the first apses of the Main Building.

Conservation
Once the monuments were unearthed, natural elements started having its effect on these megalithic structures. The position of the temples on top of a ridge is subject to such conservation issues.

In 1999, following an international meeting of experts held in Malta to identify the way forward for the conservation of the Megalithic Temples, a Scientific Committee was set up.

The task of this committee was specifically to look into the problems of deterioration of the Temples and to recommend solutions.

In 2000 the Maltese Government approved committee’s recommendation to protect the temple sites by means of open-sided shelters.

These shelters protect against solar radiation by directly shading the Temples.

It also eliminates the effects of water through rainfall, preventing the leaching of infills which could lead to structural instability. These also reduce plant growth and diminish wind impact

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