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4) Ggantija Temples, Malta: "Maltese Pre-historic Temples Coin Series": (Part I): First coin in the Series issued in 2016
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 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 façade 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.
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.
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".