Ggantija Temples in Xaghra,
Gozo, are one of the most important archaeological sites in Malta.
The origins of Ggantija date back to the Ggantija phase (3600 –
3200 B.C.). John Otto Bayer was the first to excavate the temples
in 1827. Extensive archaeological and restoration work was carried
out in the early 20th century to ensure their preservation.
The Ggantija megalithic complex consists of two temples
surrounded by a massive common boundary wall. One of the most striking
features of the entire complex, the boundary wall, is built using
the alternating header and stretcher technique, with some of the
megaliths exceeding five metres in length and weighing over fifty
The temples at Ggantija are built with rough, coralline
limestone blocks. Each temple contains five apses connected by a
central corridor leading to the innermost trefoil section. The first
temple is larger and contains a variety of features such as altars,
relief carvings and libation holes. The second temple was built
later and is devoid of such features. Also of interest is the corbelling
technique evident on the inwardly inclined walls, suggesting that
the temple was roofed.
The gigantic dimensions of the megaliths have always
struck a chord with popular imagination. In centuries past, some
locals even believed that the Islands’ temples, in particular
those of Ggantija, were the work of giants. This particular temple
site in Gozo bears witness to this ancient legend: its name, Ggantija,
is Maltese for giant.
The Xaghra Stone Circle
Like the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, the Xaghra Stone Circle, was used
for funerary rites. It was also built on a promontory to the West
of a major megalithic site, that of Ggantija Evidence suggests that
this site was utilized for burial purposes over the period 4000
- 2500 BC. The Neolithic people at the time made use of a number
of natural caves.
The Xaghra Stone Circle was originally marked by
two entrance monoliths which seem to have been 14 -16 feet high.
Although the exact position has not been located, they seem to have
been aligned with the Ggantija Temple.
These monoliths together with several other megaliths
formed part of a wall which circled the entire site. This circle
was approximately 45 m in diameter.
The interior is composed of a central ritual area
entered through a huge stone threshold and down steps into the rough
caves. The central chamber is subdivided into two distinct sections
by a series of elegant megalithic trilithon altars and a massive
Burials were concentrated in smaller caverns, surrounded
by rough coralline stone walls.
The most important discoveries from the Xaghra stone
circle may prove to be the rare but remarkably preserved human remains.
Ta' Cenc Tombs
On the northern lip of Ta’ Cenc, looking across towards Xewkija,
three tombs assumed to be of the Early Bronze Age Tarxien Cemetery
phase can be found, if carefully sought.
The first consists of two rows of upright slabs,
perhaps once the walls of a gallery grave. Close to them is a more
typical dolmen, with a capstone supported on other blocks. The third
is similar, built into a more recent field wall 600m to the east.
There may once have been a fourth well off to the south east, but
this can no longer be found.
Gozo has four good sets of the mysterious cart-ruts, and a few minor
ones. At Tan-Nemes, well east of Qala, a pair runs out onto a spur
overlooking the Fliegu ta’ Ghawdex.
At Ta’ Tingi, several fine pairs can be found
in the olive grove west of the pumping station, just south of Xewkija.
An extensive system covers the Ta’ Cenc plateau, best seen
between the hotel and the cliffs, and running near, but not to,
Borg l-Imramma. They continue for nearly a kilometre to the east.
An impressive pair zigzags down the slope from the San Lawrenz quarries
to end on the cliffs above the Azure Widow at Dwejra.
Ta' Marziena Temple
On the southern tip of the Victoria plateau, looking
across towards Ta’ Sannat, the ruins of a temple lurk under
carob trees. The scanty surviving walls suggest an original plan
of five apses within an enclosing wall. The approach is by a path
opposite the windmill tower.