GGANTIJA TEMPLES - THE OLDEST FREE STANDING STONE STRUCTURE IN THE WORLD
Ggantija is the site of two prehistoric temples on Gozo, the second-largest island in Malta. One of the Ggantija temples is the oldest stone structure in the world, predating Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids by hundreds of years.
Round in shape and containing statues of full-figured goddesses, the Ggantija temples were dedicated to the Great Mother Earth and probably included an oracle. The site was a place of pilgrimage for the ancient inhabitants of Malta.
The two temples of Ggantija are estimated to be 5,800 years old (built between 3600 and 3000 BC). According to an ancient legend, the temple walls were built in one day and one night by a female giant named Sunsuna, who did it while nursing a baby. Ggantija is Maltese for "giant's grotto."
According to archaeologists, the Ggantija temples were dedicated to the Great Earth Mother, a goddess of fertility. Evidence indicates there was an oracle here, as at the much-later Temple of Apollo at Delphi. A priestess prophesied while in a trance, possessed by the spirit of the goddess. Ggjantija also seems to have been a place to pray for healing.
In ancient times, the temples dedicated to the Mother Goddess at Ggantija drew pilgrims from across the island and even from North Africa and Sicily.
In addition to being the oldest, the Gjantija temples are the most complete shrine complexes on Malta. The two temples cover a total of 10,000 square feet. They are surrounded by a common wall, which reaches up to 17 feet, and they share a forecourt.
The Ggjantija complex is characterized by round, curved architecture, reflecting a powerful, full-figured Mother Goddess. The two shrines themselves suggest the body of the Earth Mother, with broad hips and full breasts.
The ritual rooms are round, and it is thought that the priestess entered symbolically into her Mother's womb and returned reborn. The temples were roofed with great domes, painted in red on the inside.
Each temple consists of five apses connected by a central corridor that leads to the innermost trefoil section. The first temple to be built is larger and has niches with altars, relief carvings and libation holes. The second has none of these features. The large common forecourt may have been where congregations gathered to attend rituals, while the inner rooms of the temple were reserved for the priestess.
A few artifacts have been found at the site, which are now displayed in the national museum. They include a small clay figure of a full-figured sleeping goddess that was found in an egg-shaped chamber.
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