You know how it is - if you are a farmer that is - you are trying to plough one of your fields but keep striking great lumps of stone. You get a bit cheesed off about this after a while. But maybe it's not so bad when you eventually discover you have hit upon the remains of some ancient temples beneath your field.
And very old temples they proved to be, some built around 3600 BC - so that's over 5000 years ago. These are the Tarxien Temples of Malta - or what's left of them, first discovered in 1913 though they were still being excavated in the 1950s.
As you can see in the photo above some replica stones have also been included in the site, which is a shame. They are too square and exact and, for me, spoilt the feel and look of the place.
Nevertheless it's interesting to visit. It is believed that the buildings were built over a long period from about 3600 BC, as previously mentioned, to around 2500 BC.
The oldest remains are as shown in the photo below. These were built of smaller stones. The buildings were unfortunately damaged by the farmers with their ploughing.
Much larger stones were used for the later temples. The photo below shows the thickness of some of the floors.
The large boulders or stones weigh as much as an elephant, well that's what a sign states. But how heavy is an elephant? The theory is that these heavy stones were transported by rolling them on smaller round stones.
A few dodgy new stones have been included in the next photo and for some reason they also used cement - which has had an adverse effect on the original stones.
But there are good things to see, like the well ...
... and some of the carvings.
More thorough excavations are now being carried out, so you never know what they may still come across.
What was the purpose of these temples? This is the official line:
"Although we know little of the activities that took place within these buildings, they were clearly an important communal centre. The activities or rituals that took place here may have been of a religious, political and / or economic nature; however, following the sudden end of the temple culture the site was put to a very different use. During the early Bronze Age (after 2500 BC) the chambers of the Tarxien Temples were used for funerary purposes, being turned into a cremation cemetery."
We made our way to the Temples on a number 81 bus getting off at Paola. After we had seen all we wanted we got on the first bus that came along. We had no idea where it was headed but ended up in a lovely fishing village called Marsaxlokk. A good day out!
Photos: © Mike Perry
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