Mnajdra is one of the most ancient religious sites on Earth. These were built a thousand years before the Pyramids at Giza making the Mnajdra Temples one of the oldest surviving free-standing man made structures. It is made of Coraline limestone which is a very hard form of limestone.
The site consists of three structures which are conjoined together forming the figure 8. The oldest and upper structure was built during the Ggantija phase (3600-3200 BC), the second (middle) and last (lower) temples were built during the Tarxien phase (3150 – 2500 BC). However, the lowest temple is the best example when it comes to discussing Maltese megalithic architecture as the temple has a large forecourt with furniture such as stone benches and tables and an entrance passage covered with horizontal slabs. It is also decorated with spiral carvings and windows but more interestingly, it is astronomically aligned and was possibly used as a calendrical site.
The sunrise of the first day of Autumn and Spring, an event known as the Equinox, take a much greater meaning at the Maltese temples which are perfectly aligned with the rising sun. This event marks the beginning of the Summer and the beginning of the Winter seasons known as Solstice. During these ancient times, the movements of the sun and the moon were closely linked to the seasons as they were observed by prehistoric agricultural societies in order to indicate when the crops were to be planted and harvested.
Despite not having any written records to highlight the purpose of these structures, archeologists have reasoned out their use from the ceremonial objects found within them such as sacrificial knives and rope holes that were most likely used to sacrifice animals, this theory was further confirmed due to the animals bones found on site. Other artefacts that were recovered could also suggest that the temples were used as a place to heal illness and to promote fertility.
This year Heritage Malta marked the Autumn Equinox with guided tours that took place on the 21st and 22nd of September. Visitors met up at 6:15 am to experience the the first rays of the sun’s rising light, lighting up the central passage which is located on the South of the UNESCO world heritage site.