November 22, 2013

0874, 0274 & 0322 MALTA - Megalithic Temples of Malta (UNESCO WHS)

Posted on 10.07.2012, 15.09.2012, and 22.11.2013
The Megalithic Temples of Malta are eleven prehistoric monuments, of which seven are UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Ġgantija Temples (on Gozo island - two temples), Ħaġar Qim (in Qrendi), Mnajdra (in Qrendi), Ta' Ħaġrat Temples (in Mġarr), Skorba Temples (in Żebbiegħ) and Tarxien Temples (in Tarxien). Ġgantija temples were listed in 1980, but in 1992 the listing was extend to include the other five megalithic temples. Built during three distinct time periods between 5000 BC and 700 BC, they have been claimed as "the oldest free-standing monuments in the world" (Professor Lord Renfrew), and are considered by archaeologists a result of local innovations in a process of cultural evolution.


Ġgantija Temples, located on the small island of Gozo, at the end of the Xagħra plateau, were built during the Neolithic Age (c. 3600-2500 BC), in the typical clover-leaf shape, enclosed within a boundary wall. The southerly one, better preserved, is the larger, highest (6m) and elder, dating back to approximately 3600 BC. The finding of animal bones in the site suggests that was used for animal sacrifice. According to local Gozitan folklore, a giantess built these temples and used them as places of worship. Even the name of the complex, Ġgantija, is derived from the word Ggant, meaning giant.

Mnajdra, located on the southern coast of the island of Malta, at about 500m from the other complex, Ħaġar Qim, consists of three conjoined but not connected temples, made of coralline limestone, and the main structure, corbelling with smaller stones, but also post-and-lintel with large slabs. Some books assign Mnajdra to the Ggantija phase, but according to Anthony Bonanno both complexes were built during the Tarxien phase (3000 BC - 2500 BC). Anyway, the fact is that the sites aren't contemporaneous. The cloverleaf plan appears more regular than that of Ħagar Qim, and seems reminiscent of the earlier complex at Ggantija. The south, or lower, temple (of which entrance, oriented due east, you can see it on the postcard) is astronomically aligned with the solar equinoxes, but this may be accidental.

Little is known about the people who built these temples. The original inhabitants, farmers who grew cereals and raised domestic livestock, probably crossed over by sea from Sicily, sometime before 5000 BC. They worshipped a mother goddess whose type is known from early statuettes found scattered around the Mediterranean. What is known undoubtedly is that  the temples builders disappeared from around 2500 BC. Whether this was due to over-exploitation of the natural resources, compounded by years of climate change, or  the population was completely wiped out, or assimilated by a worlike people, remains speculative.

According to Marija Gimbutas "Old Europe's disintegration occurred after 3500 BC, in the most part of Central-Eastern Europe and the Balkans, with the exception of mountain and coastal areas, of islands of the Aegean and the Adriatic and of Italy. The Kurgan superstratum (Indo-European) is identifiable by the predominance of warlike elements, as well by different traditions regarding religion, arts and crafts. Several acropolis with massive stone fortifications appeared to the south (...) The urban settlements of Old Europe with their temples, with rafined altars, ritual pottery, tripods and sculptures, disappeared."

About the stamps
On the first postcard
The stamp is part of the series Wild and Domestic Fauna of the Maltese Islands, issued on June 20, 2013, designed by Cedric Galea Pirotta, and comprising two stamps:
• Wild Rabbit (0.37 EUR) - it's on this postcard
• Maltese Ox (2.25 EUR)

On the second and third postcard
The stamp is part of a definitive set, designed by Edward D. Pirotta / Paul Psaila, issued on December 29, 2009, dedicated to the history of Malta and comprising 17 stamps:
• Skeleton of Prehistoric animal (Pleistocene Period) (1c)
• Ruins of stone temple (Early Temple Period) (2c)
• Carved stone pattern (Late Temple Period) (5c)
• Pair of Pots ( Bronze Age) (7c)
• Gold statue (Phoenician and Punic Period) (9c)
• Mosaic (Roman Period) (10c)
• Gold coin (Byzantine Period) (19c)
• Fragment of carved stone (Arab period) (26c)
• Painting (Norman and Hohenstaufen Period) (37c) - it's on these postcards
• Stone tablet carved with shield (Angevin and Aragonese Period) (50c)
• Gold pattern with central Maltese Cross (Knights of St. John) (51c)
• Painting of officers and crew disembarking in rowing boats from ships (French Period) (63c)
• George Cross (British Period) (68c)
• Independence (86c)
• Republic (1.00 EUR)
• EU Accession (1.08 EUR)
• Arms of Malta (5.00 EUR)

Megalithic Temples of Malta - Wikipedia
Megalithic Temples of Malta - UNESCO official website
Prehistoric Temples Of Malta - Art and Archaelogy
The Prehistoric Archaelogy of the Temples of Malta - Bradshaw Foundation
Mnajdra - Wikipedia
Ġgantija - Wikipedia
Civilizaţie şi cultură, by Marija Gimbutas - Ed. Meridiane, Bucureşti, 1989
History of Malta stamps series - Malta Philately

sender 1: Ana
sent from (Malta), on 29.09.2013
sender 2: Radka (direct swap)
sent from (Malta), on 01.07.2012
sender 3: Nina Kramlinger (direct swap)
sent from Marsa (Malta), on 07.09.2012


  1. Beautiful postcard. I like the contrast with the color of the sky and the Mnajdra temple.

    1. Indeed, lostforwords101. The contrast give the illusion of 3D. :)

  2. It really is a beautiful postcard - I loved reading the history. I especially love the stamp - a perfect fit for this card!

    Happy PFF!

  3. What a beautiful postcard. I am fascinated with ancient cultures and their ruins. I love all the interesting facts you include, too. Thankyou!

    Happy PFF!