• Between 3600 BC and 2500 BC, in the Mediterranean archipelago of Malta, a farming culture of no more than 10,000 people built some 30 freestanding megalithic limestone temples.
  • The temples may have been dedicated to a mother goddess, an embodiment of fertility and creation.
  • All of the temples conform to a type, with simple exterior walls, multi-lobed interiors, and rubble fill in between.
  • The ovoid forms of the temple interiors may have deliberately recalled ritual caves; wall surfaces show traces of plaster finish, colored with red ochre.
  • Ġgantija, on the Maltese island of Gozo, is an exceptionally well-preserved example, a double temple of monumental construction.
  • A large forecourt accommodated crowds of worshippers, with the stone entrance façade of the temple serving as a backdrop.
  • Animal bones found on the site suggest that feasts, sacrifices, or both took place there.
  • The culture went into decline around 2500, possibly because the population’s needs outstripped the island ecology’s ability to sustain them.
  • Despite the proximity of the ocean, little evidence survives to indicate that the prehistoric people of Malta ate fish.
  • Some scholars speculate that the temples’ construction was a collective response to the ecological collapse, a monumental form of appeal to the mother goddess.


Gouder, Tancred, Anthony Bonanno, Caroline Malone, David Trump, Simon Stoddart. “The Death Cults of Prehistoric Malta.” Scientific American. Accessed March 4, 2019.

Koutrafouri, Vasiliki G., and Jeff Sanders. Ritual Failure: Archaeological Perspectives. Sidestone Press, 2013.

Sagona, Claudia. The Archaeology of Malta: From the Neolithic through the Roman Period. Cambridge University Press, 2015.