The Ġgantija Temples in Xagħra, Gozo, are one of the most important archaeological sites in the Maltese Islands and are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The site consists of two temples dating back to between 3600 and 3200 B.C.
The name Ġgantija derives from the word ġgant, the Maltese word for giant as the site was commonly associated with a race of giants. Notwithstanding its age, the monument survives in a considerably good state of preservation. This is evident in the boundary wall which encloses the two temples, and which is built in rough coralline limestone blocks. Some of the megaliths exceed five metres in length and weigh over fifty tons.
The hard-wearing coralline limestone is used extensively at Ġgantija, and is one of the reasons behind the preservation of the monument. The softer Globigerina limestone is reserved for inner furnishings such as doorways, altars and decorative slabs. Each temple consists of a number of apses flanking a central corridor. There is evidence of the internal walls having been plastered and painted over, as proven by two plaster fragments with red ochre, now preserved at the Gozo Museum of Archaeology.
Remains of animal bone suggest some sort of ritual involving animal sacrifice. The use of fire is evidenced by the presence of stone hearths. A number of libation holes in the floor may have been used for the pouring of liquid offerings. It is probable that during ceremonial activities, the congregation would have assembled outside the temple complex, since the large forecourt in front of the two temples was purposely raised by the same temple builders.
Entrance to the Ġgantija Temples is from a newly constructed Interpretation Centre that provides visitors with the opportunity to explore various aspects related to life in the Neolithic. The centre is also home to a selection of the most significant finds discovered at various prehistoric sites in Gozo. The Centre is linked to the temple site via an external pathway that provides visitors with unique views of the natural landscape that surrounds Ġgantija.
Reasons to Visit
- 1. UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- 2. One of Malta’s best preserved prehistoric temples dating back to 3600/3200BC.
- 3. Considered as one of the oldest free standing monuments in the world preceding Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids.
- 4. They represent a phenomenal cultural, artistic and technological development in a very early period in human life.
- 5. An exhibition of some of the most unique prehistoric artefacts discovered in Gozo.