The Temples Sites

Temple Development

The Planning and Orientation


The Construction of the Facades


Sun Worship in the Hypogeum

Ta'Hagrat Temples(Figure 1)

Skorba (Figure 2)

Ggantija three-aps (Figure 3)

Ggantija Complex (Figure 4)

Hagar Qim (Figure 5)

3.Temple Development
.Anyone visiting the temples cannot fail to notice that they occur in groups of adjoining structures. At Ta' Hagrat, Skorba and Ggantija there is a group of two temples at each site, at Mnajdra there are three adjoining temples, and the large temple at  Hagar Qim has an irregular structure which appears like a cluster of temples within a common boundary wall.

If one stands in the forecourt facing the entrances to the temples in a group, one notices that temple on the left hand side (that is, the one in the west or the south) always appears to be the most important.  This temple is built on a larger and more monumental scale with more massive stones than the other temple or temples in the group. The large scale also probably explains why the left hand temple is usually in a better state of preservation, since the bigger stones cannot be easily carried away by latter day farmers and are more resistant to weathering than smaller ones. From published archaeological excavations, it is also possible to deduce that the left hand temple was always the first to be built on the site. From the following observations at the individual sites, we can see that this pattern is followed at every site, except the singular Hagar Qim complex, of course.

At Ta' Hagrat, it is quite clear that the west temple is better preserved and more impressive in size and layout than the east temple6. With regards to the smaller temple, Evans remarks that "It appears to have been built for the most part of much smaller and lighter material than that used in the W temple".7 Regarding chronology, Trump puts Ta' Hagrat west temple in the Ggantija phase while Ta' Hagrat east is dated to the later Saflieni phase.8 The same pattern can be found at Skorba. The west temple must have originally been a real super-structure, though it is less well-preserved than Ta' Hagrat west.  Considering its 3.90 m upright stone-slab flanking the doorway and the two large orthostats  in the inner court, one can imagine the massiveness of this truly megalithic monument.9  Similarly to Ta' Hagrat east, the Skorba east temple was probably less well built than the west temple at the site.10 Another similarity is that Skorba west is dated to the Ggantija phase, while the east temple goes back only to the Tarxien phase.

Moving to Gozo, of the two temple at Ggantija the southern building seems to have been the more important on account of its size and richer furnishings.11 We also find that the southern temple is the older and the better preserved.12 In terms of the sequence suggested by Trump, Ggantija south is certainly earlier than Ggantija north, which was probably built towards the end of Ggantija phase or perhaps very early in the subsequent phase.13

At Mnajdra, the east temple, which is the smallest at the site, was built in the Ggantija phase.  Of the remaining two, the southern one was the most important.14 This temple was built early in the Tarxien phase and visitors would agree that it is the best surviving temple in the Maltese Islands, though Ggantija south runs a close second.  The middle temple, which is inserted between the other two, was actually the last to be built at Mnajdra, well after 3000 B.C.15 Hagar Qim is an exception also in temple development because it seems that there were several additions to the main building at various stages of development, which together form a complex structure. 

From the observations in this section and the previous one, we can conclude that all of the temples facing south-east were the most important and consequently the most massive, monumental and well-constructed.  They are also the best surviving temples. But what was their function and why do they all face a south-easterly direction?

Copyright © 1999  Mario Vassallo. All rights reserved.