Gozo’s ancient Ggantija temples are older than the Pyramids
If you’re a fan of history, then the Ggantija Temples in Gozo should be on your list of places to visit during your holiday.
They are easily the most important archaeological site in the Maltese Islands.
Ggantija in Xaghra actually consists of two temples dating back to between 3600 and 3200 B.C.
At more than 5500 years old, they are the oldest free-standing structures on Earth, and the world’s oldest religious structures, pre-dating the Pyramids in Egypt and even Stonehenge in Wiltshire.
The temples are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and attract thousands of tourists every year.
Why the name?
The name Ggantija derives from the word ‘ggant’, Maltese for giant, as Gozitans used to believe the temples were built by a race of giants.
That’s not so surprising when you see the size of the limestone blocks used to build the temples.
Some of these megaliths exceed five metres in length and weigh more than 50 tons.
Considering that the people who built the temples had no metal tools and were illiterate, the engineering skills used to move and link together the immense limestone megaliths is seriously impressive.
What is there to see?
Hard-wearing limestone was used for the construction of the outer walls, which is one of the reasons the buildings have survived so long.
Softer, smoother, Globigerina limestone was reserved for inner furnishings such as doorways, altars, and decorative slabs.
Each temple consists of a number of apses flanking a central corridor. There’s evidence that internal walls would have been plastered and painted.
Two plaster fragments marked with red ochre have been found and are now preserved at the Gozo Museum of Archaeology.
A small number of statuettes and other prehistoric objects found at Ggantija can also be seen in the museum at the Citadel in Victoria.
What happened at the Ggantija temples?
Of course, we will never know what exactly happened at the temples during the time it was used.
However, historians do have some ideas of the types of things that those worshipping there may have got up to.
There’s a large terrace space at the front, which is likely to have been the location for gatherings. Also, small animal bone remains have been found that historians think indicate some form of animal sacrifice rituals.
While you can read plenty about these amazing temples, the only way to really take in their amazing history and culture, is to visit them.
So, why not plan a trip over to Gozo from Malta and spend some time exploring these temples.
Even better than that, why not take the time to find out more about the rest of Gozo.
Malta’s beautiful little sister island isn’t short of great things to see and do.
Reasons to visit the Ggantija temples?
1. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
2. One of Malta’s best preserved prehistoric temples dating back to 3600/3200BC.
3. Considered as one of the oldest free standing monuments in the world, even older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids.
4. They represent a phenomenal cultural, artistic and technological development in a very early period in human life.
5. An exhibition of some of the most unique prehistoric artefacts discovered in Gozo.
June to October – Monday to Sunday: 9am to 6pm
November to May – Monday to Sunday: 9am to 5pm
Entrance to the Ġgantija Temples is from an impressive visitor centre in Xaghra, run by Heritage Malta.
The centre is also home to a selection of the most significant finds discovered at various prehistoric sites on the island.
It is linked to the temple site via an external pathway that provides visitors with unique views of the natural landscape that surrounds Ggantija.
Youths, Senior Citizens, Students: €7
5 more things you might not know about Gozo
1. Gozo is the second largest of 21 islands that make up the Maltese archipelago.
2. Its nickname is Isle of Calypso because of its association with Calypso, the nymph from Homer’s Odyssey who held Odysseus captive for many years.
3. The island’s population is 37,000 and the capital Victoria has two opera houses.
4. You can catch a 20-minute ferry from Mgarr harbour in Gozo to the car-less island of Comino, between Gozo and Malta. The white sand beaches and famous Blue Lagoon are brilliant for a day trip.
5. Gozo is almost nine miles long and four-and-a-half miles wide with many beautiful villages and excellent walking paths. See VisitGozo.com for more details.