Ggantija Temples - Gozo

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Let’s start this one with a history question! Where will you find the oldest standing structures in the world? Now, you don’t have to be any sort of genius to figure out that this is a Malta travel guide so the answer is going to be Malta. And you’d be … well, wrong actually, because they’re on the sister island of Gozo and they’re called the Ggantija Temples.

Like any good ancient site, this Neolithic one near Xaghra comes complete with a highly improbable but excellent myth. The story goes that the temples were created by a giant, a female one, a giantess, if there ever was such a thing … or even such a word? The temples’ name alludes to this - Ggant translates as giant.  


They are made out of unfeasibly huge lumps of rock that have been hewn and carved into highly decorated stones to provide the building blocks for the temples. As you glance at this remarkable structure you suspect that today’s contractors might struggle to put something of this size together using the heavy plant and machinery they have at their disposal.


So then, try to imagine how this major project was executed by a group of builders 5,500 years ago? Back then the most sophisticated tools at their disposal were rudimentary spades and picks plus, possibly, some worried looking donkeys.


You may have skipped over the age of this structure a bit too quickly in your excitement so let’s say it again – we’re talking 5,500 years ago – that’s 3,500 years before Jesus appeared and several generations before any Egyptian builders started thinking about putting in the foundations for a pyramid or two.


In this era, we imagine most humans did little more than chase around in fur underpants trying to spear a tasty animal to throw on the fire. How improbable then, that they were not only thinking about building such vast temples to their gods but also managing to pull it off!


The sheer achievement and magnitude of the structures is what convinced UNESCO to declare this as a World Heritage Site. So how did those ancestors of ours build them? How do you move gigantic stones from the nearby quarries in the village of Xaghra without a giant dumper truck? Was the Flintstones actually based on fact? Could you use a brontosaurus as a crane?


You will leave the Ggantija Temples with just as many questions as answers and that’s what makes this such an intriguing place for the layman visitor and the expert archaeologist alike, time and again.


So, as you walk from one chamber to another, take time to stop and ponder things like the sacrificial stone. Think about how the oracle worked and how these people, our own ancestors, lived, worked and loved.


Getting to Gozo, Malta’s cute and quiet little sister island, is very easy as ferries run every half hour from the port of Cirkewwa on the northern tip of the island. Once you’re across the water you need to head for Xaghra and the temples are signposted from there.

Further Information

Address: Temples Street Xaghra XRA 2161 Gozo
Phone: +356 2155 3194

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