Ġgantija is a Neolithic, megalithic temple complex on the Mediterranean island of Gozo. The Ġgantija temples are the earliest of a series of megalithic temples in Malta (older than the pyramids of Egypt). Their makers erected the two Ġgantija temples during the Neolithic Age (c. 3600–2500 BC), which makes these temples more than 5500 years old and the world"s second oldest manmade religious structures, after Göbekli Tepe in Turkey. Together with other similar structures, these have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Megalithic Temples of Malta.

The temples were possibly the site of a Fertility cult; archeologists believe that the numerous figurines and statues found on site are connected with that cult. According to local Gozitan folklore, a giantess who ate nothing but broad beans and honey bore a child from a man of the common people. With the child hanging from her shoulder, built these temples and used them as places of worship.

This megalithic monument is in fact two temples, built side by side and enclosed within a boundary wall. The southerly one is the larger and older, dating back to approximately 3600 BC. It is also better preserved. The plan of the temple incorporates five large apses, with traces of the plaster that once covered the irregular wall still clinging between the blocks.

The temples are built in the typical clover-leaf shape, with inner facing blocks marking the shape which was then filled in with rubble. This led to the construction of a series of semi-circular apses connected with a central passage. Archaeologists believe that the apses were originally covered by roofing. The structures are all the more impressive for having been constructed at a time when no metal tools were available to the natives of the Maltese Islands, and when the wheel had not yet been introduced. Small, spherical stones have been discovered. They are believed to have been used as ball bearings to transport the enormous stone blocks required for the temples" construction.

The temple, like other megalithic sites in Malta, faces southeast. The southern temple rises to a height of six metres. At the entrance sits a large stone block with a recess, which led to the hypothesis that this was a ritual ablution station for purification before entering the complex. The five apses contain various altars; the finding of animal bones in the site suggests the site was used for animal sacrifice.

After the excavations in 1827, the ruins fell into decay. The land was held privately until 1933, when the Government expropriated it for public benefit. The Museums Department conducted extensive archaeological work in 1933, 1936, 1949, 1956–57 and 1958–59. Its goal was to clear, preserve and research the ruins and their surroundings.

The temple and the surrounding areas were restored or rehabilitated in the 2000s. Lightweight walkways were installed in the temple in 2011, while a heritage park was opened in 2013.

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Address

Triq It Tafla, Gozo, Malta
See all sites in Gozo

Details

Founded: 3600-2500 BC
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in Malta

Rating

4.3/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Globetrot With Mikalys (2 months ago)
The earliest temples known to mankind! These were built 5000 years ago and the population disappeared at 2,500 bce until another population appeared in the bronze age and they used these temples as a house. I felt so happy for visiting a monument older than the pyramids! It is well preserved and a small museum before seeing the real monument turned out to be pretty educative
Thomas Randall (4 months ago)
Very nice and surprisingly informative museum. Easy to park, but the route is A to B really. The site itself is small, good be maintained a little better, but well worth at least an hour. Good toilets and a small gift shop.
Kim Gehrke (5 months ago)
Absolutely incredible! A few thousand years old but very well preserved. They really take care of the remains. Also there is a fantastic organic farm just as you exit Ggantija, just before the souvenir shop where you can buy the most delicious fruit and other nice things. Highly Recommended!
Jordan Kevin Magtaan (5 months ago)
I wasn’t expecting the site to be large. Very interesting and educational experience. The displays are very informative with sufficient information for visitors, both in Maltese and in English. The museum part was laid out well and it’s impressive to see the monuments being able to withstand the test of time.
Tania At home (7 months ago)
Interesting displays. The ruins are well protected with flat walkways all round. It doesn't take long to see it all, so it's a good stop off between buses if you go on the hop on hop off bus tour. Recommended stop.
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