Πέμπτη 18 Ιανουαρίου 2024

Tarxien Temples, Malta

One feature that helps the Tarxien Temples stand out is the stone carvings that give visitors a glimpse of well-preserved prehistoric art. Spiral designs and animals are the most prominent, but the most memorable is the lower half of a female figure wearing a pleated skirt. The upper half has been lost to history, but what remains is yet another example of how females were revered in ancient Malta and how detailed the Maltese craftspeople were even 5,000 years ago.
Ħal Tarxien Prehistoric Complex
The lower part of a colossal statue of a figure wearing a pleated skirt stands sentinel to the dawn of civilisation in the highly decorated South Temple within the Tarxien Neolithic Complex site. Discovered in 1913 by farmer Lorenzo Despott, the site consists of a complex of four megalithic structures built in the late Neolithic and then readapted for use during the Early Bronze Age. 
Only the lower part of the walls survive in the Easternmost structure, the oldest part of the complex. However, it is still possible to see its concave façade and five chambers. The extensive archaeological excavations, undertaken between 1915 and 1919 were led by Sir Themistocles Zammit, Director of Museums at the time.
The South structure is rich in prehistoric art, including bas-relief sculpture depicting spirals and animals. The domesticated animals depicted include goats, bulls, pigs and a ram. The large number of animal bones discovered in this complex, most of which were found in specific areas, indicates the importance these animals played at the time. 

The Eastern building follows the traditional design of these megalithic structures with a central corridor flanked by a semi-circular chamber on each site. Evidence of arched roofing in the unique six-apsed Central Structure, the last of the four to be built, helps visitors to imagine how these temples might have looked when covered.

Passages between different areas of the complex are sometimes blocked by physical barriers, suggesting that parts of these buildings were accessible to only a part of the community. A large hearth in the corridor between the first apses and a smaller one in the corridor between the second pair of apses of the Central Structure, are evidence of the use of fire within. 
A bowl in the central Tarxien Temple.

Although we know little of what took place within these buildings, evidence suggests that they were important structures central to the lives of the Neolithic inhabitants of the island. In the early Bronze Age (after 2,000 B.C.) new arrivals to the islands turned some areas within the site, into a cremation cemetery leaving a rich record of customs and objects
The Tarxien Temples (Maltese: It-Tempji ta' Ħal Tarxien) are an archaeological complex in Tarxien, Malta. They date to approximately 3150 BC. The site was accepted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 along with the other Megalithic temples on the island of Malta.
A relief showing goats and rams in one of the temples at Tarxien.


Description
The Tarxien Temples consist of three separate, but attached, temple structures. The main entrance is a reconstruction dating from 1956, when the whole site was restored. 
The entrance to the two top apses of the Tarxien Temples.

At the same time, many of the decorated slabs discovered on site were relocated indoors for protection at the Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. The first temple has been dated to approximately 3100 BC and is the most elaborately decorated of the temples of Malta. The middle temple dates to about 3000 BC, and is unique in that, unlike the rest of the Maltese temples, it has three pairs of apses instead of the usual two. The east temple is dated at around 3100 BC. The remains of another temple, smaller, and older, having been dated to 3250 BC, are visible further towards the east.
Palagian Spirals, Luwian Hieroglyphs, Tarxien Temple Spiral
Chian pottery found at Vulci, Rome and Tarxien Temple spirals. There seems to be no doubt that these Tarxien spirals are similar if not the same spirals as the Chian pottery from Chios which had strong links with Egypt. Both Thera and Crete were midway. It might symbolise Neith as the fingers of dawn and the Sun which rises in the morning. This is Minoan Cycladic culture and Luwian. Source, pg 159, “Early Greek Vase Painting” John Boardman, 1998″.

Of particular interest at the temple site is the rich and intricate stonework, which includes depictions of domestic animals carved in relief, altars, and screens decorated with spiral designs and other patterns. Demonstrative of the skill of the builders is a chamber set into the thickness of the wall between the South and Central temples and containing a relief showing a bull and a sow.


Function in prehistory
Excavation of the site reveals that it was used extensively for rituals, which probably involved animal sacrifice. Especially of interest at Tarxien is that stone rollers left outside the South temple were probably used for transporting the megaliths. Additionally, evidence of cremation has been found at the center of the South temple, which is an indicator that the site was reused as a Bronze Age cremation cemetery.