A Lawyer's History of Malta

Home Pre-history - Up to 800 BC
Pre-History (Up to 800 BC)
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Man first appeared in Malta about 6,000 years ago. The islands were greener and had lots of deer, wild boar and other animals roaming. Remains of animals including the hippopotamus and the dwarf elephant were found in southern Malta. These discoveries from the basis of a theory that Malta once formed part of the continental land mass bridging Europe to Africa.

In about 3800 BC primitive seafarers from Sicily landed in Malta with their cattle, stocks of seed, rough implements and utensils. They were neolithic cave dwellers. It was the start of the "Ghar Dalam" phase named after the underground cave found in Malta.

About 200 years later, possibly as a result of further waves of Sicilian migrants, the inhabitants developed a better way of life, living in huts and villages. They produced a different kind of pottery, initially grey in colour, and later red. They also erected shrines and neolithic temples.

The underground temple of the Hypogeum, located in Paola on the island of Malta, consisting of a labyrinth of passageways and chambers hewn out of rock is an engineering masterpiece - only one of its kind in the world.

The temple-building phase lasted 1,000 years until about 1800BC. Remains from three famous temples at Ggantija in Gozo (considered the oldest monuments in the world) and at Hal-Saflieni and Tarxien in Malta are still standing.

The triple temple at Tarxien, built about 2200 BC is the finest technically and of outstanding beauty and complexity. It is hard to believe that huge monoliths could be fitted and positioned so accurately by the ancient builders using ropes, rollers and rough pulleys. The temple includes altars, hearths, carvings and niches for sacrificial offerings, cremation rooms and burial chambers - the first known clues to the religion of the early inhabitants.

While these early inhabitants must have retained some link with Sicily, their cultures were unique and indicated some degree of isolation.

With the arrival of the Phoenicians in about 800 BC, Malta returned to the mainstream Mediterranean lifestyle.

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