Arriving in the heat of the midday sun, the museum at the Ggantija Temples was a welcome respite. History from between 3600 and 3200 B.C, about the same time as Skara Brae on Orkney was inhabited is laid out. Despite the miles and the weather differences there is a comfortable similarity between this Mediterranean temple and those found in Orkney. As with the structures in Orkney and many other places these tombs fell into disuse around 2500BC and were not fully revealed to the modern eye until the nineteenth century.
The name Ġgantija derives from the word ‘ġgant’, Maltese for giant. Gozitans used to believe the temples were built by a giant. This isn't surprising surprising when you see the size of the limestone blocks from which it is constructed.
As we walk from the cool of the museum cicadas shout in the sunshine, the ground is baked in the intense heat but still the plants continue to flower. Carpenter bees lumber around and the sunflowers reach to the sun in the gentle breeze that flows.
Coming down the final slope, the temples come into view. Initially it appears to be a pile of rubble but as your eye adjusts you realise that there is order in the chaos. The blocks used to build this immense structure are huge, some exceeding five metres in length and weighing over fifty tons.
The remaining external walls are made of rough coralline limestone, the internal furnishings, doorways, alters and other decorative pieces are made of smooth Globigerina limestone. Softer and more delicate than the coralline limestone but now showing the effects of time.
Each of the temples has a central corridor with rooms coming off the corridor. Once plastered and painted these internal walls are now crumbling. Graffiti etched as the centuries have passed is visible taking the past into the modern era.
A large terrace over looking the surrounding hills and valley, once the location for ceremonial gatherings now stands empty, edged with date palms and views to Ta' Pinu. The dry vegetation attempting to survive in the exposed cracks of the ground.
These temples are special to the people of Gozo and deserve their UNESCO listing. Everyone we spoke to was proud that they had this history in a small hillside village and were keen that we spent time visiting the past.
Visiting the Ġgantija Temples
The temples are situated in the centre of Ix-Xagħra. They are clearly marked from the centre of the village and can be reached by bus.
They are also included on many of the jeep safari's and private tours as well as the 'hop-on-hop-off' bus service that covers the island.
The cheapest way to enter the temples is as part of the Discover Gozo ticket which includes entry to a number of sites on the island.
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