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

Gillian Armstrong (10 months ago)
Amazing how some of these items have lasted thousands of years. They struggle to make things last a few years now. Lovely area and peaceful gardens.
Coffee n’ Peanuts (12 months ago)
Okay, 5 stars but, it not a high tech experience But, if you like history and old stuff, you don’t get much old and it sure is interesting! It’s a UNESCO site so, you know you got a treasure of human existence and a snapshot of the human experience. Who knows you could be walking in the steps of Giant Gods;). The little museum has lots of interesting information and few of the artifacts still left from over 5000 years ago. There are some short video documentaries to watch and enjoy. Don’t be disheartened by the little information available (from over 5000 years ago),go out the back and see the temple, look at the plants and the surrounding landscapes to invoke the spirits of the past and ask yourself how, why and what would you do to survive such a hostel yet inviting space?
Helene (12 months ago)
I really enjoyed the tour which took me about 2 hours for the museum and the temple. I appreciated that some content was driven by scientific assumptions such as their lifestyle and the way tools were used at the time. However, I found that some explanations were missing like for example more details on how the elevation of stones could have been done.
joe bloggs (2 years ago)
5600 year old megalithic complex(temple?). Well preserved and excellent interpretation centre. Absolute must see.
Gu B (2 years ago)
Nice to visit but we found the price a bit high for the visit: 10 euros per adult. Nevertheless, these 10 euros include the entry to visit a pretty mill next to it. It would be very nice if all the explanations were translated in other languages, everything is only in english and maltese, at least the languages of neighbouring countries would be good.
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