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Saturday, 23 June 2018

749) Mnajdra Temples: "Maltese Pre-historic Temples Coin Series": (Part III): Third Coin in the series issued on 21.06.2018:

749) Mnajdra Temples: "Maltese Pre-historic Temples Coin Series": (Part III): Third Coin in the series issued on 21.06.2018:

For posts on Central Bank of Malta issues, please visit the following links:
This is the third coin in a series of seven coins which will depict Malta's Pre-historic monuments that are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites and showcases the Mnajdra Temple Complex.

The Mnajdra Temples Complex:


A frontal view of the Mnajdra Temple main doorway to a temple

Mnajdra Temples is a Megalithic Temple Complex found in an isolated position on a rugged stretch on the Southern coast of Malta. The Mnajdra Temples   lie at about 500 metres proximity to the Hagar Qim Megalithic Temple Complex.

Mnajdra was built around the fourth millennium BC with coralline limestone being used in its construction, which is much harder than the soft globigerina limestone used in the construction of Hagar Qim.

More than a thousand years before the ancient Egyptians built the Great Pyramid at Giza, the Neolithic inhabitants of Malta laid the stones of the Mnajdra Prehistoric Temples, making them perhaps the world's earliest free-standing structures still extant.

The main structural systems used in the temples are corbelling with smaller stones and post and lintel construction using large slabs of limestone.

The clover-leaf construction design/plan is more regular than that seen in in the Hagar Qim Temples and is reminiscent of the earlier complex at Ggantija.

The pre-historic structure/ruins of Mnajdra are grouped into three sanctuaries, each composed of several conjoined buildings arranged in the shape of a figure eight. One of the three Temple Complexes faces East and functions as a Solar Observatory.

On the Spring and Autumnal Equinoxes, the sun shines through the series of nested chambers to illuminate the altar. It is believed that the original inhabitants of Malta during the Neolithic Age were mariners.

The site was first excavated in 1940 and is much researched for its astronomical alignments.

The Lay-out:

The Temple Complex consists of three conjoined but not connected temples - the Upper, Middle and Lower.

Remains to the North-east and South of these buildings indicate that these structures are only the best preserved of a much larger complex.

The Upper Temple is the oldest structure in the Mnajdra Complex and dates back to the Ggantija phase (3600-3200 BC). It is a three-apsed building, the central apse opening blocked by a low screen wall. The pillar-stones were decorated with pit-marks drilled in horizontal rows on the inner surface.

The Middle Temple , (or the South Temple), was built in the late Tarxien phase (3150-2500 BC). The South Temple has its entrance set in a concave monumental fa├žade and leads to two rooms or apses. 

The main central doorway of the temple was formed by a hole cut into a large piece of limestone set upright, a type of construction typical of other megalithic doorways in Malta. Opposite the main entrance is the doorway to the second set of apses flanked by two large blocks decorated with small drilled holes.

This doorway and the decorated blocks mark the position of the rising sun on the first day of spring and autumn (Equinoxes) and the first day of summer and winter (the Solstices) and the sun's rays pass through a series of nested chambers to illuminate the central altar.


A beam of sunlight passes through the doorway of the Temple on an Eqiuinox/Solstice

 On Equinoxes and Solstices sunlight illuminates the edges of the megaliths to the left and right of this doorway.

This temple has a vaulted ceiling, of which only the base remains now on top of the walls. It is formed of slabs  topped by horizontal courses.

The Lowest Temple, (or the Central Temple) built in the early Tarxien phase, is the most impressive and the best example of Maltese megalithic architecture and is inserted between the other two. It has a large forecourt containing stone benches, an entrance passage covered by horizontal slabs, one of which has survived to the present day and the remains of a domed roof. The temple is decorated with spiral carvings and indentations and pierced by windows, some looking into smaller rooms and one onto an arrangement of stones.

Uses as an astronomical Observatory and Solar Year Calender:

This site apart being used as an Astronomical Observatory was also used as a Solar Year Calendar. The design, based on the Principle of the Camera Obscura, was the result of long evolution from the earliest archaic design, such as the small unit at the site. The image of the sunrise was translated mathematically into a linear passage of days. 

In the archaic design, this was done in the central apse which converted sinusoidal movements of the image of the sunrise on the horizon into a linear progression.

In the evolved design, the solstice stone translated sinusoidal movement into linear directly and more accurately.

Amazingly, besides calendric information, the later design was enabled to forecasting of the solstice date and hour with great accuracy.

General:

Several artefacts found on the site allude to ceremonial objects being found at the temple, viz.' sacrificial flint knives and rope holes used to tie the animals chosen for sacrifices to the elements which brought prosperity to the Island, as is evidenced by various animal bones found.

Other artefacts suggest that these temples were used primarily for religious purposes, apart from their astrological purposes.

Large images and statues of a  female mother goddess at several Maltese Neolithic Sites/Complexes suggest the primary worship of a fertility goddess. 

Adds the UNESCO book titled "Treasures of the World" in my personal library:

"The seven megalithic temples that make up the World Heritage Site in Malta and Gozo are outstanding examples of structures that represent a major development in culture, art and technology. All date from the third millennium BC and each is the result of an individual development, differing from the others in plan, execution and construction techniques.

The two temples of Ggantija on the island of Goizo are notable for their gigantic Bronze Age structures. On Malta, the temples of Hagar Qim, Mnajdra and Tarxien are unique architectural master-pieces, given the limited resources available to their builders. The Ta'Hagrat and Skorba complexes show how the tradition of temple-building was handed down in Malta. Each one is remarkable for diversity of form and decoration. The temples of Malta are the 'oldest free-standing monuments in the world'.

The elaborate rituals to which the temples are testimony are a remarkable manifestation of the human spirit, especially on a remote island at such an early date."

The Commemorative Coin:

On 21.06.2018 the Central Bank of Malta has issued a new Euro Coin Set dated "2018" in a "Brilliant Uncirculated" (BU) version. The set consists of eight Maltese Euro Coins, as well as, a 2 Euro coin depicting the pre-historic Temples of Mnajdra, the third coin in the series titled "Maltese Pre-historic Temples Coin Series".

The Coin set was struck at the Monnaie de Paris (the Paris Mint) in France. The sets are limited to a mintage of 15,000 pieces which have been presented in an attractive and illustrated blister-pack.

The Bister pack in which the Coin set of 8 coins, as well as the 2 Euro Coin depicting the Mnajdra Temples. The Pack also shows images of the Mnajdra Temple Complex


The Obverse of the 2 Euro Bimetallic Coin depicts a view of the Mnajdra Temple Complex.

Inscriptions are " MNAJDRA TEMPLES 3600-2500 BC" AND "MALTA 2018". The 12 stars on the outer periphery represent the 12 countries of the European Union (EU), which had initially joined the EU.

The Obverse designer is Noel Galea Bason.