Malta

The megalithic temples of Malta (Serio et al. 1992; Agius and Ventura 1981) began to be built about 3600 b.c., and construction continued for about a thousand years. Although the date and the tremendous stones used in the temples justify the term "megalithic," these sites are markedly distinct from other megalithic sites. The first major difference is implicit in the word "temple." To our knowl-

Figure 6.36. The Tal Qadi stone: The carving shows dividing lines between apparently sectored groups of star symbols and one marked-off segment containing a possible lunar symbol. Drawing by Sharon Hanna.

edge, no one has challenged the appropriateness of this term in Malta and no one has demonstrated that it is really appropriate in most of the megalithic world. There are some generic parallels of later date in Sardinia and Menorca. Great circles, standing stones, and elaborate graves, usually with an opening to the southeast, are absent. The orientations of the temples show completely different astronomical interests. Shifting alignments through time suggest that asterisms (including single stars) were of primary importance in this culture, in contrast to anything that can be clearly demonstrated in other megalithic sites. Art carved on Maltese monuments included geometric figures, animals, and watercraft. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, there are indications of numeracy, astronomical interest, and astronomical record-keeping at a different level than that found elsewhere in megalithic cultures. The most striking example may be seen in the Tal Qadi stone (Figure 6.36). The carving shows dividing lines between apparently sectored groups of star symbols and one marked-off segment containing a possible lunar symbol. This suggests the possibility that the sky was formally divided into nearly equal areas, perhaps marked by asterisms. There are reported to be five segments in the stone fragment and may have been as many as 14-18 on the entire stone face.

The work of Serio et al. (1992) shows that the 14 alignments of the temples of Malta (with the exception of the Mnajdra Temple I) are too far south ever to face a rising or setting Sun and at least 12 are too far south ever to face a rising or setting Moon. If the strongly clustered alignments are astronomically based, it is probable that they are associated with stellar risings, settings, or southern transits. They opt for the latter possibility with emphasis on a and b Cen and the stars of the Southern Cross. They think that the dif

Figure 6.37. Pillar markings at Mnajdra Temple III on Malta. Drawing by Sharon Hanna.

Table 6.7. Structure in pillar markings at Mnajdra Temple III.

West Pillar

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