Hal-Saflieni Hypogeum

Paola, Malta

The Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni is a subterranean structure dating to the Saflieni phase (3300-3000 BC) in Maltese prehistory. It is often simply referred to as the Hypogeum, literally meaning 'underground' in Greek. The Hypogeum is thought to have been originally a sanctuary, but it became a necropolis in prehistoric times, and in fact, the remains of more than 7,000 individuals have been found. It is the only known prehistoric underground temple in the world. The Hypogeum is UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is a complex made up of interconnecting rock-cut chambers set on three distinct levels. Earliest remains at the site date back to about 4000BC, and the complex was used over a span of many centuries, up to c. 2500 BC.

The uppermost level consists of a large hollow with burial chambers on its sides. This hollow was probably originally exposed to the sky and excavations in the early 1990s indicate that there might also have been a monumental structure marking the entrance. A doorway leads to the Middle Level, which contains some of the best known features of the Hypogeum such as the intricate red ochre wall paintings and the beautifully carved features in imitation of architectural elements common in contemporaneous Megalithic Temples. The deepest of the three levels is known as the Lower Level, which is accessed down seven steps in the chamber popularly known as the ‘Holy of Holies’.

The Hypogeum was first opened to visitors in 1908 and since then it has been visited by many thousands of people. Unfortunately, this has had a toll on the delicate microclimate of the site which has affected the preservation of the site and the unique red ochre paintings. For this reason, after a conservation project which saw the site closed for 10 years between 1990 and 2000, a new system was established in which only 10 visitors an hour are allowed in for a maximum of 8 hours a day, complemented by an environmental control system which keeps temperature and humidity at required levels.

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Address

Triq Ic Cimiterju, Paola, Malta
See all sites in Paola

Details

Founded: 4000-2500 BC
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in Malta

Rating

4.3/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Gary Umstead (20 months ago)
Totally enjoyed the movie and the tour of the tombs from centuries ago. This is a must see if your visiting Malta. Be advise you must purchase tickets at least 3 weeks in advance to get on one of the tours of the crypts.
Raúl Fabregat (20 months ago)
I managed to get some tickets for this site (10 days before) and I am glad I did. They only allowed 80 people a day (10 pax per time slot) so it is recommended to book well in advance. It was totally worth it. You get to see an underground necropolis built 5000 years ago and well-preserved. Do not hesitate to book it.
Katarína Greškovičová (2 years ago)
Couldnot get in. You need to book quite some time in advance. But i saw the movie about the spot and it was very good and with a lot of information. Nice introduction and good solution if you do not have a lot of time to wander about.
M R (2 years ago)
Extraordinary site. Book well in advance as the tour only takes 10 people a few times a day and it is a massive difference to the sound and video session. The staff is very kind and helpful. We loved it.
David Camilleri (2 years ago)
One of those top 5 things to do in Malta - amazing underground neolithic structure of unclear use (that adds to the fascination of the place) which can only be visited by 10 people per hour - place tends to get booked out - so once you know you are going to Malta go ahead and book some tickets. We booked from Australia about 2 months ahead - the day we were there in early December, they had no tickets until mid January. Visit is a mix of an audiovisual presentation about place and than a visit into the structure itself with audioguides explaining the site and what you are looking at.
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