Exhibition in the Netherlands highlighting Malta’s rich prehistoric culture highly successful


An exhibition in the Netherlands showcasing several artefacts from Malta’s rich prehistoric period has been highly successful, attracting more than 75,000 visitors until the end of its run.

The exhibition – ‘Temples of Malta’ – was held between the end of May and the end of October at the National Museum of Antiquities of the Netherlands – the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in the city of Leiden. Thanks to this exhibition, the museum witnessed one of its best periods in the last ten years with regard to admissions.

Heritage Malta transported over 90 artefacts and six temple models for the ‘Temples of Malta’ exhibition, offering an excellent cross-section of the Maltese Neolithic period, which dates back to 5900 – 2500 BC. The display included temple decorations, tools, decorated pottery and statuettes. A two-centimetre-high statuette found at Tarxien Temples, representing two figures in a loving embrace, was also part of this collection.

This exhibition was just one of the outcomes of a memorandum of understanding between Heritage Malta and the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden. Visitors of the Dutch museum had already been given an anticipatory foretaste of Malta’s prehistory through another exhibition born out of this collaboration. The first exhibition, featuring photographs of Maltese megalithic temples, was held between October 2020 and March 2021.

“The excellent feedback to this exhibition is a clear indication that our national heritage attracts many Dutch people and will pave the way for more Dutch cultural tourists, who in turn are living proof that the national cultural patrimony is an important asset for our country and a pillar for our economy. Such collaborations boost relations between Malta and the Netherlands, and between Heritage Malta and foreign museums, both in the Netherlands and beyond,” said Noel Zammit, Heritage Malta’s Chief Executive Officer.

Mark Pace, Malta’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, spoke of the role of diplomacy in strengthening relations among countries and people, and said that the best way for nations to get to know each other is by discovering each other’s cultures through exhibitions such as this one. The ‘Temples of Malta’ exhibition had an even deeper meaning because it happened during the Covid pandemic, underlining people’s need to be in each other’s physical presence though at times having to make do with virtual substitutes.

Wim Weijland, Director of the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, stressed that for the museum, close collaborations with foreign counterparts is of utmost importance. The Rijksmuseum van Oudheden focuses mostly on the Mediterranean region and the Middle East, fostering very good relations with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia. Malta is equally important, offering the opportunity of cooperation in various fields in years to come. One such area of collaboration would be the Egyptian collection at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta, providing fertile ground for research and a future exhibition and publication.

Marthe Van Leeuwen, who represents the Malta Tourism Authority in the Netherlands, expressed her satisfaction that the great effort that went into advertising the exhibition in the Netherlands really paid off, with ‘Temples of Malta’ being a resounding success.

The exhibition at the National Museum of Antiquities of the Netherlands was held with the support of the Malta Tourism Authority and the Embassy of the Netherlands in Malta.