Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ħaġar Qim

 Ħaġar Qim, another one of the Maltese Megalithic Temples we've been highlighting here on the blog, is absolutely stunning to behold. The temple dates from the Ġgantija phase of temple construction, which is the earliest (3600 - 3200 BC). Vere Gordon Chile, who we've drawn upon for both blog and podcast once visited the site of Ħaġar Qim and commented about it being very old, so old it was the oldest place he'd ever been. That's academic excellence for you.

The great professor is right though, Ħaġar Qim is very old and very amazing to boot. Like many of the Maltese Megalithic Temples Ħaġar Qim uses a whole bunch of trilithons and roundish rooms in their construction. The complex is one main temple, with three adjacent and adjoining buildings. What's unique about the Ħaġar Qim temple is that while its main temple began construction in the Ġgantija phase some of the menhirs and other stone slabs on the northern end of the complex are considerably older dating from a pre-temple period we're going to highlight sometime on the blog. Be ready...

Ħaġar Qim is divided roughly into about six buildings or chambers and a front yard called a forecourt. The forecourt is made up of a bunch of limestone slabs. One slab has a hole in it believed to have served as a fire place. To enter the temple buildings proper you'd pass through a trilithon and then go into a passage that divides each of these buildings and complexes. The northern temple seems the most interesting because of its age, with some construction materials predating the Ġgantija phase. Also there are giant round stones that were found both beneath this room as part of the foundation and next to the chamber. Archeologists figure that these round stones were used to move the giant slabs of limestone into place to build all of the temple. Another feature that I found especially interesting about the Northern temple is that their are three distinct floors built on top of each other. Each of these floors represents a distinct construction period. The bottom two levels show signs of animal sacrifice. The top level does not. This however doesn't indicate that later prehistoric Maltese worshipers stopped making animal sacrifices, only that the animal sacrifice had migrated to other parts of the temple.

Ħaġar Qim is like many of the other Maltese temples in a number of ways. Obviously its roundish chamber shape is familiar to blog readers. It also contained a number of idols depicting fat ladies and the pottery found at the site is similar to other sites. Another interesting facet to Ħaġar Qim and other Maltese temples is their use of construction to aid acoustical nuances. The temple is set up to create acoustical anomalies and echos. There is a chamber area that many believe to be an oracle pit, where presumably an oracle would speak or chant from. This would then echo throughout the whole temple creating a spooky effect. The picture to the right shows an "oracle hole", an architectural technique to help the acoustics in these Maltese Temples to achieve their desired effect.


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