Sacred and Conscious Journeys


Under the crowded streets of housing south of Paola Square built around 1900, lies a unique monument. Apparently some natural cavities were adopted as a suitable repository for the bones of the dead of a flourishing community residing above the hed of Grand Harbour. Before their entrance, a setting of large blocks of Stone was erected, though its original form was ruined by modern developments. As the cavities filled up, new chambers were cut progressively deeper into the Globigerina rock of the area. Later additions to the site were elaborately carved into what can only be called a cemetery chapel. The important to us is twofold.

                                                                          Firstly, the funerary deposits, excavated by Father Magri from 1901, Temi Zammit from 1906, yielded a wealth of archaeologycal material, deposited with the deceased. This material included much pottery, mainly of the phase we call after this site, though spanning Zebbug, Ggantija and, in great quantities, Tarxien as well. With the exception of the cistern, to be mentioned shortly, there was none of later periods. There was also a great number of personal ornaments such as beads and amulets, the latter in the form of miniature polished Stone axes, Little carved animals and birds, and larger figurines. Of these, the ‘Sleeping Lady’ is one of the most important.
                                                                          Secondly, while many side chambers have simple oval plants, parts of the site were clearly carved to imitate te temples built above ground. Unlike those, these were not subject to weathering by the elements, nor, with the entrance sealed off, by human interferenc, both of which have done damage to the temples proper. This Hypogeum thus shows us details of, for example, the corbelled roofing, and in two of the chambers the interior decoration of spirals and honeycomb cells rendered in red ochre, which no longer survive above ground. In one small patch there is even a chequered panel of black and White squares.

                                                                        Sadly, a third value was not recognized sufficiently at the time of excavation, and so was not exploided. This was the wealth of information from careful study of the vast quantity of human bones found. Zammit made a rough calculation by extrapolation from the bones recovered from one small area that the total had amounted to around seven thousand. Such a study had to await the re-excavation of the Xaghra Circle 75 years later.
                                                                     We can only guess at the activities in this mysterious place. The burials are obvious, though the actual funeral rites less so. We might asume that the bodies were placed, probably in a crouched position, in the side chambers, together with those personal possessions. Even in this vast labyrinth there is hardly space for seveb thousand complete corpses, ore ven skeletons, so almost certainly bones, as they fell apart, were pushed to the back to make room for their successors, their descendants, century after century. Considering the duration of its use those vast numbers need not surprise us. The central chambers doubtless witnessed religious ceremonias, honouring both th dead and the gods. The reverberations of the Oracle Room may well have played a part here. The vast cistern to one side, ceretainly contemporary though kept open for use until much later than the rest of the site, as its contents showed, provided wáter for use in those ceremonies. The function of the lower level of the site, descending to a point 10.6 metres below the rock Surface, is more problematic, for the storage of the community’s grain is at least a possibility, where few others make much sense.


                                                                   The end of the site appears to have been quite sudden, as enlargement of the chamber behind the Holy of Holies was interrupted, and perhaps that lower level would have been brought into more obvious use if the temple culture had survived a little longer.
                                                                       The baffling problems of interpretation merely add to the mystery, and to the powerful feeling of religious awe this remarkable monument inspires.
                                                                       So much for the site itself. Visitors have the chance to enjoy an informative introduction in the foyer. After passing through the ticket office, they are offered a number of well-displayed panels giving some description of the site, its Discovery and exploration. They then pass into an auditórium for a short video show, with commentary in a choice of languages, which gives further explanations. Although a valuable foretaste, none of this is a substitute for the visit to the site itself.
                                                                         This took many years to be adapted with carefully controled air conditioning, together with the removal of some, though nota ll, of the overlying houses, the emptying of water cisterns and re-routing of services, to ensure the long-term preservation of this unique site. Additionally, all steps, pathways and hand rails had to be replaced as the safety of visitors has to be considered as well as that of the site.


I have extracted this text from the book: Malta Prehistory and Temples, written by David H. Trump

María Sánchez-Villacañas de Toro

Sacred and conscious journeys leader
Priestess of the Moon, the Goddess and Avalon
Clinical, energetic and spiritual psychologist
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Sacred and Conscious Journeys

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