Mnajdra lies in an isolated position on a rugged stretch of coast overlooking the isle of Fifla and just 600m from another principle temple site, Hagar Qim. The surrounding area is designated a Heritage Park and is typical of rugged Mediterranean garrigue landscape. Barren in summer, the landscape is transformed in spring by flowering herbs and shrubs.
Mnajdra is a complex site consisting of three temples overlooking an oval forecourt. The first and oldest temple is a simple trefoil of the Ggantija phase (3600-3100 BC). The small rubble walls are a modern reconstruction but the small uprights, with their pitted decoration, are original.
The most impressive of the Mnajdra temples is the third, with its largely intact façade and bench constructed in the early Tarxien phase. This temple is perhaps the finest surviving on the Islands.
The masonry shows intricate knowledge of building techniques and excellent workmanship. The concave, corbelled form of the walls indicates the possibility of some sort of domed structure as roof. The spiral carvings and decorated, pitted slabs give an exceptional aspect to this remarkable site. Most dramatic is the porthole niche to the left, framed in its trilithon and two strangely tapered orthostats on either side. All are ornamented with the dotted pattern typical of Malta’s temple decoration.
The middle temple was the last one to be built and dates to after 3100 BC. It was inserted between the other two, and set at a higher level on a sort of terrace. Today, it is mostly modern reconstruction. Its apses have walls of orthostatic slabs of modest height, topped by horizontal courses, all of Globigerina limestone quarried from the hill above. Of particular note is the engraving of a temple facade on the first taller orthostat to the left of the passage leading to the inner apses.
The ruins of Mnajdra yielded valuable relics - stone and clay statuettes, shell and stone ornaments, flint tools and decorated earthenware. The lack of any metal objects here and at other similar temples is evidence of its Neolithic origin.
A fascinating aspect of Mnajdra is its apparent relationship and orientation to seasonal astronomical phenomena, particularly its alignment to the equinox. Sunrise on the first day of the four seasons enters the southern temple of Mnajdra and lights up its interior. On the equinox days, sunlight not only enters the temple but its beam also lights up the temple’s main axis. The temples are opened at sunrise for the spring equinox so as to offer the public the possibility to view this extraordinary event.
Joint admission fees to Hagar Qim Temples and Mnajdra Temples: 9 / 6,50 EUR
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