The first inhabitants of Malta probably arrived around 5200 BC from Sicily, and originally fished, farmed, and hunted for their survival. As their society progressed, buildings and culture became more and more complex, eventually arriving at the time now known as the ‘Temple Period’ on Malta. Built around 3600 BC, the prehistoric Maltese temples are the oldest free-standing stone structures in the world – older than the Pyramids or Stonehenge.
Although it is not known why the Maltese people built so many large temples, most of the temples share the same form – five semi-circular rooms connected at the centre – and so it appears that they were related in some way. One suggestion has been that these rooms might have represented the head, arms, and legs of a deity, since the most common finds in these temples were “fat lady” statues. Images of large women are often celebrated in ancient cultures as symbols of fertility.
Finds from the temples indicate that the buildings were used for sacrificing animals, mainly goat, sheep, and ram. Several altars were found in temple rooms, though the rooms themselves were only large enough to hold several individuals.
Unfortunately, the people of ancient Malta did not leave behind any writing or inscriptions that may have provided more insight into the culture and its temples. Instead, around 2500 BC, the Temple period came to a sudden and inexplicable end – the entire culture seems to have vanished.
New people such as the Phoenicians would later colonize the island, and ownership disputes would be ongoing until 1964, when Malta was finally granted status as an independent nation.
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