Mnjadra temple, offering shelf

Sun worship indicated by solstice position, calendar catches sunrise

The oldest known human building appears to occur on the island of Malta, in the structures of temples that were accomplished by a civilization we know little about.   The temples known as Hagar Qim, Tarxien and Mnjadra show basic structure that shaped and supported rock blocks, decorations in the  rocks, and contained some elemental stone sculpture.   The beginning foundation of the temples has been dated back at least 5,000 years and are the oldest known structure on the continent of Europe.

The photographs above are some that I took at Mnjandra temple, on the coast of Malta, and show some evidence of the sun worship that has been observed there.   At the solstice, people gather to celebrate the sun’s rise, and see the rays of the morning sun hit the calendar on the wall inside.

The Northern Temple’s first recess contains a round stone pillar and a rectangular slab held vertically ahead of the pillar. Resting on the slab are spherical hollows which may have served as holders in which to stand small libation jars.[32] Jars excavated from the site are characterized by a specifically oval base, designed to stand upright when placed in the slab.

Remnants of the vertical blocks which once flanked the recess are still observable today. To the right of this chamber is another recess, containing an acoustic opening called the “oracle hole”.[33] Sound passed from the main chamber into the recess, and vice-versa. The hole has also been linked to alignments of the Summer solstice.[34] On the right side of the chamber is a horizontal block that may have served as seating.

The ability of the ancient civilization to create structures out of shaped stone pre-dated much of our known civilization’s creation, even the pyramids.  What we find on Malta is a beginning of the art work we love now, in its earliest elementary form.

Sculpture is found in basic and elementary carvings, that indicate a civilization just beginning to try to objectify what it reverenced, and most of the work is of symbols later associated with fertility and maternity.   Like all known early society, the first citizens of Malta that we are aware of associated their sacred places with the basic elements of primitive life, the production of food, and their attempts to return thanks to mysterious forces they depended on.

Like much of our civilization today, early societies like these appear to have tried to bring some influence to bear on their needs, and to apply some of their powers of reason to produce a bit more of the necessities of their existence.  On the structures where they worshiped they began to decorate and produce the earliest art we know.

Decorations of temple walls, early attempts to produce art

Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.

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