The Tarxien temples are four megalithic temples constructed in southern Malta between 3600 and 2500 BC. They are notable for their complexity, fine construction and variety of figural carvings.
The Tarxien temples were built between 3600 and 2500 BC.
In this prehistoric period, the temples were used regularly for rituals including animal sacrifice, as attested by the discovery of a flint blade, a long bone spatula, animal bones, and seashells within a carved altar.
In the Bronze Age (2400-1500 BC), Tarxien was reused as a cremation cemetery.
The site lie hidden for centuries until its discovery in 1914, when farmers struck large stone blocks while ploughing a field. Sir Temistocles Zammit, Malta’s first director of museums, excavated the site in 1915-17.
What to See
The Tarxien temple complex consists of four temples connected by a square court. The temples each have separate entrances.
Uniquely, the central temple consists of six apses. This is the only known example of such a layout and it represents a final phase in the long evolution of Maltese temple architecture. A narrow staircase connects the central temple to the east temple.
The Tarxien temples are notable for their fine worksmanship and decorative carvings, which include domestic animals carved in relief, exquisite spiral designs, and other patterns. Especially impressive is a relief of two bulls and a sow between the South and Central temples.
The spiral is the most common design in megalithic art on Malta, and indeed around the world. Believed by some to represent eternity, the design is expressed in a wide variety of forms across the islands and clearly had a significant meaning for the ancient Maltese peoples.
Fertility goddess figures (now in the national museum in Valetta) discovered in the ruins indicate that the temples were dedicated to the Earth Mother, as were many Maltese temples. The most famous of these figures is a sculpture of large hips with feet, dubbed the "Fat Lady."
Spherical stones found at the site have provided a valuable clue as to how the great stones of Malta's megalithic temples were moved into place—they were probably rolled on the stones while being towed with ropes.
Quick Facts on Tarxien Temples
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|Coordinates:||35.869269° N, 14.512199° E (view on Google Maps)|
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Map of Tarxien Temples
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- Tarxien Temples - Heritage Malta
- Tarxien Temples - The Malta National Museum of Archaeology
- Tarxien Temples - Visit Malta
- The Tarxien Temples - GuidetoMalta.net
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- Peg Streep, Sanctuaries of the Goddess: The Sacred Landscapes and Objects (1994).
- Karen Tate, Sacred Places of Goddess (2006).
- Tarxien Temples - Go Historic
- Photos of Tarxien Temples - here on Sacred Destinations
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