The Tarxien Temples site consists of a complex of four megalithic structures built between 3600 and 2500 BC and re-used between 2400 and 1500 BC. Discovered in 1913 by local farmers, the site was extensively excavated between 1915 and 1919, with a number of minor interventions carried out in the 1920s, by Sir Themistocles Zammit, Director of Museums at the time.
The earliest of the four structures, located at the easternmost end of the site and built sometime between 3600 and 3200 BC, survives only to near ground level although its five-apse plan is still clearly visible. The South Temple, the most highly decorated of megalithic buildings with its relief sculpture and the lower part of a colossal statue of a skirted figure, and the East Temple, with its well-cut slab walls and ‘oracle’ holes, were built between 3150 and 2500 BC. The Central Temple was constructed with its unique six-apse plan and contains evidence of arched roofing.
Of the four structures, three were substantially reconstructed by Zammit during the excavation itself with further interventions taking place in the 1960s. They contain highly decorated stone blocks and screens, reliefs of domestic animals and spirals, the colossal statue and a number of altars, one of which contained a flint knife and animal bones. Their location and the relationship with the temple itself are our best indications of the type of activities which took place on site. Tarxien has also contributed to the study of the construction of these megalithic structures with the discovery of stone spheres which have been interpreted as being stone rollers, used as aids to transportation of the megaliths. Remains of cremation found at the centre of the South temple indicate that the site was re-used as a Bronze Age cremation cemetery, between 2400 and 1500 BC.
An elevated walkway was completed in 2012. This provides visitors with the opportunity to view the prehistoric remains from a unique viewpoint. The construction of a Shelter, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) 2007-2013 as part of the Archaeological Heritage Conservation Project, was also finalised.
*(Note: Because of some narrow points within the Temple structures, it is best to use wheeled vehicles such as wheelchairs and pushchairs which are not more than 62cm wide. For the convenience of visitors, a wheelchair is available on site free of charge upon request.)
Reasons to visit
1. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of six inscribed as ‘The Megalithic Temples of Malta’ in the World Heritage List.
2. One of the largest and most complex of the prehistoric sites on the islands.
3. Home to some of the best examples of prehistoric art which have survived the millennia, including the well-known reliefs of two bulls and a sow.
4. Walkways within and outside the temple provides accessibility to all.