Monday, 14 April 2014

Hagar Qim

The extraordinary temple of Hagar Qim ( pronounced Hajar Eem) stands on a rocky plateau about a kilometer above the temple of Mnajdra on the west coast of Malta. Both temples date from the Tarxein phase (c 3600-3200 BC) which constitutes the high point of temple building on the islands. Together these temples form one of the most spectacular sacrilized landscapes in Malta and are among the oldest known religious sites on Earth.

The name Hagar Qim means standing stones; before the site was excavated at the beginning of the 19th century, all that was visible was a large mound of earth from which large stones were protruding.

The facade of the temple at Hagar Qim is an extraordinary sight, for the gigantic size of the blocks of stone and for the skill with which it was constructed, but also for the elegance of the design.

The facade of Hagar Qim.

The main entrance to Hagar Qim in the centre of the south east facade is made of two characteristically large slabs on end facing each other. Originally the passage was covered with horizontally placed slabs. The entrance leads to six large oval chambers. The north western apse shows evidence that the building was adapted over time when it was subdivided into four smaller and independent chambers. A separate entrance leads to these rooms.

Chamber with a cylindrical pillar.

Features of the temple architecture at Hagar Qim indicate the builders concern with suitable accommodation or the sacrifice of animals, burnt offerings and ritual oracles. Niches have been found to contain the remains of animals. Excavations have produced numerous examples of decorated pottery and the famous 'fat-figure' statuettes of deities of which seven have been found at Hagar Qim as well as the more naturalistic nude figurine the so-called 'Venus of Malta'. Unique to Hagar Qim is the four sided altar with stylized vegetation decorating each face. These fabulous objects are on display in  the National museum  in Valletta.

Entrance to the north western chambers

Shrine inserted into the outer  wall.
In the centre a tall stone stands behind a triangular stone said to represent female genitalia.

Two mushroom or phallic shaped altars

The facade