We know many things about history.
However, the unknown far outweighs the known. Throughout my travels, I have come not only to embrace, but to seek out history’s mysteries. If your eyes are keen and your mind is open you can find mysteries wherever you travel.
Malta is a place where the mysteries are too numerous to count The culture is too rich to understand in just a few days. Although Malta contains hundreds of historic mysteries, seven are highlighted below for you to ponder.
Malta’s famous Sleeping Lady was discovered on the lower floor of the Hypogeum of Hal-Safleni . She is 5,000 years old. When you stop for a moment to pause and think about that span of time, that figure is remarkable. More questions remain about the Sleeping Lady than have been answered. Does she represent death? Meditation? Sleep? Why was she created? What is her purpose? Is she an offering to the Gods? The Hypogeum of Hal-Safleni is an underground chamber and a place of deep spiritual significance. Recent evidence indicates that the underground chambers in the Hypogeum were specifically carved to achieve acoustic frequencies that induce a meditative state.
How did a culture over 6,000 years ago track the equinoxes? We don’t know, but they left behind a snapshot of their work on a megalithic stone at the temple of Mnajdra at Qrendi. How were the equinoxes tracked and recorded? Why were they tracked? Who was in charge of tracking such events?
Mnajdra is considered one of the oldest religious sites in the world. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the only archaeological sites in Malta that is protected by a tent. I was annoyed at first. How could the views of such an amazing place were obscured by a white tent? However, upon closer examination it’s obvious that these intricate carvings would eventually disappear if left exposed to the elements of wind, water, and time.
The Phoenician Face (1500 – 300 BCE)
This face is a rare find in Malta. No one knows exactly what it was used for or what it represents. Is it a crude image of a long dead Phoenician? Is it a figurative representation of death? In the Phoenician world some images are meant to ward off death. Could this face be such an image? Or are the tightly slit eyes and mouth meant to prevent death from getting in? We will never know, but it’s fun to speculate.
This limestone sculpture is the oldest representation of a temple in the world. It is from the Hagar Qim group in Malta and dates from about 3300 BCE. We know that this tiny temple is a true architectural rendering of the some of the larger megalithic structures in Malta. What we don’t know is why it was made. Is it a kind of draft for a life-size model? Is it an offering for the Gods? Is it a child’s toy?
The Venus was discovered in the Hagar Qim temples (3300 BCE). She is from the same time period as the miniature temple above. A consensus is that these Venus figurines represent fertility. Thousands of these Venus figurines have been found all over the world. The most famous of which is the Venus of Willendorf, which dates to 25,000 BCE! We know the age of these figurines but we don’t know their purpose. Was this meant to represent the worship of a mother or fertility goddess? Was it something kept in the home? Was it used in a religious ritual?
This dagger was found in an inaccessible cliff-cave below Dingli, Malta. We do know that there was a thriving Bronze-Age culture in the area. What we don’t know why they chose this cave in which to deposit their artifacts. When I first saw this dagger I imagined that it looked like something from the Trojan War.
Later I discovered that Mycenaean pottery shards were found in the Bronze Age village where this dagger was discovered. Did my subconscious pick up the slight Mycenaean-Greek influence in the artwork of this dagger? Perhaps. Why was this dagger deposited in this cave? What is its purpose? Finally, what does the circular pattern on the hilt mean? Did the Mycenaean Greeks actually influence this design, or is that wishful thinking on my part?
These statues raise more questions than they answer. Are they male or female? Why do they all have one hand over the abdomen? They have holes in the neck. Did they once have interchangeable heads? Hundreds of these figures have been found in Malta, all without heads. They date to the Hagar Qim period (3300 BCE) What happened to the heads? Maybe one day an archaeologist in Malta is going to discover a pit of disarticulated heads that fit all of these statues. Until then we are left wondering.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed the discussion of these unique artifacts from Malta. I can’t wait to go back for a second visit with keener eyes and uncover more mysteries of Malta.