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Thursday, 21 June 2018

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

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

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The first in a series of seven coins (which will depict Malta's pre-historic monuments that are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage sites) showcases the Ggantija Temples.

The Ggantija Temples (3600 BC-3200 BC):

A  view of the Ggantija Temples Complex as it is seen/preserved today. 

The Ggantija Temples are a megalithic temple complex from the Neolithic Age, located in Xaghra, Gozo and one of the most important archaeological sites in the Maltese Islands. These two temples are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1980 and date back to between 3600 Bc and 3200 BC.

The name "Ggantija" derives from the word "ggant" (the Maltese word for "giant" as such Ggantija stands for "Giant's Temple") as the site was commonly associated with a race of giants.

According to Gozitan legend/folklore, a giantess who ate nothing but broad beans and honey, bore a child from a man of the common people. With the child perched on her shoulder, she built these temples and used them as places of worship. 

One of the oldest pre-historic temple Complexes in the world:

This Temple Complex is one of Malta's best preserved pre-historic temples and is one of the oldest free standing monuments in the world, preceding Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids and the second oldest existing man-made religious structure after Gobekli Tepe. The temples represent a phenomenal cultural, artistic and technological development in a very early period in human life.

Notwithstanding its age, the monument has survived the ravages of time and is still in a very good state of preservation, as is evidenced in the boundary wall which encloses the two temples and is built in rough coralline limestone blocks. Some of the megaliths exceed five metres in length and weigh over 50 tons.

The lay-out:

The Ggantija Temples stand at the end of the Xaghra plateau, facing towards the South-east. Like "Nanjdra South (another temple in the complex), the temples face the equinox sunrise, built side-by-side and enclosed within a boundary wall. The Southerly Temple is the larger and older one dating back to 3,600 BC (approx). It measures some 6.0 metres or 19.69 feet in height. It is also better preserved. The plan of the temple incorporates five large apses, with traces of plaster that once covered the irregular wall still clinging between the blocks. 

The temples are built in a typical clover-leaf shape, with inner facing blocks marking the shape which was then filled in with rubble. This led to the construction of a series of semi-circular apses connected with a central passage, which were originally covered with roofing.

Interestingly, the construction of this temple complex/monuments was done when the wheel had not been introduced and no metal tools were available to the Maltese Islanders. Small, spherical stones have also been discovered. Perhaps they were used as "rollers" or "ball bearings" for the "transporting vehicles" for carrying the stone blocks used for building the temples.

The megalithic monument encompasses two complete temples and an incomplete third, of which only the façade was partially built before being abandoned.

The materials used:

The hard-weaving coralline limestone has been used extensively in Ggantija and is one of the reasons behind the preservation of the monument. The softer Globigerina limestone is reserved for inner furnishings such as doorways, altars and decorative slabs. Each temple consists of several apses flanking a central corridor. The internal walls were plastered and painted over as is evidenced by two plaster fragments with red ochre, now preserved at the Gozo Museum of Archaeology.

Possible uses of various structures inside the temple complex:

The five apses contain various altars. Remains of animal bones found were possibly of sacrificed animals.

The use of fire is evidenced by the presence of stone hearths.

A number of libation holes in the floor were perhaps used for the pouring of liquid offerings.

It is probable that during ceremonial activities, the congregation would have assembled outside the temple complex, since the large forecourt in front of the two temples was purposely raised by the temple architects.

The present entrance to the Ggantija Temples is from a newly constructed "Interpretation Centre" which houses a selection of the most unique pre-historic artefacts and significant finds discovered at various pre-historic sites in Gozo and provides researchers/visitors an opportunity to explore various aspects related to life in the Neolithic Age.

Says 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 Gozo 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:

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

Inscriptions are "GGANTIJA TEMPLES 3600-3200 BC" and "MALTA 2016". The stars on the outer periphery represent the countries of the European Union (EU), which had initially joined the EU.

The Obverse designer is Noel Galea Bason.

The Coin Card in which the Coin is housed/encapsulated showing the Obverse face of the coin. 

It reads, inter alia:

"GGANTIJA TEMPLES - The pre-historic temples of Ggantija in Gozo date back to 3,600 - 3,200 BC and are one of the oldest free standing monuments in the world. In 1980, Ggantija was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List ."

The Reverse of the 2 Euro Bimetallic coin shows  the common 2 Euro side against a background of  representation of the Ggantija Temples.

Only 30,000 coin cards have been issued and the coins bear the "Cornucopia - Horn of Plenty" mint mark of Monnaie de Paris, France (the  Paris Mint),  where they have been minted).

                 The 25 Coin Rolls issued on the Ggantija Temples

2 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. There are a few more amazing temple monuments in Malta which I will be covering in the next two posts.

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