Located on the Mediterranean island of Malta, the desolate megalithic temple complex of the Hagar Qim temple stands on a deserted hilltop overlooking the blue sea and the islet of Fifla. Enlisted in the coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ancient temple complex was constructed between 3600 and 3200 BC, around 1000 years before the construction of the Great Pyramids in Egypt.
Although it was first excavated in 1839, it is evident that the temple complex had never really been completely buried and the tallest stones of the temple remained exposed above the ground over the millennia, featuring early paintings of the 18th and 19th century. The name Hagar Qim originates from the combination of two Maltese words, while Hagar stands for boulders, the meaning of the term Qim is worship. Hagar Qim was built on a hilltop near Qrendi, a village on the Southern coast of Malta. According to a popular theory, the village was originally known as Krendi.
The Hagar Qim temple complex consists of a central building and at least two other structures. The complex consists of only one temple, which is unlike most of the other Neolithic Maltese temple complexes. However, like the others, it consisted of a large courtyard and a huge façade. The complex was made up of a series of five half circular rooms or apses, which are arranged on each side of a central space, serving as a corridor down the middle. Somehow, the total arrangement has an uncanny resemblance to the body of a woman, complete with the hips, chest and the head. Apart from that, the slabs of the walls were strangely equipped with square portholes, which might have served the purpose of doorways. However, the screened doorways at the heart of the complex also point towards the possible use of the oracles.
One of the apses, accessible through the inner passage, has an inner enclosure formed by a setting of low stone slabs. There is a small elliptical hole at the rear of the apse, hewn out in alignment with the Summer Solstice sunrise. During the Summer Solstice, the rays of the rising sun enter through the hole to illuminate one of the low slabs.
The discovery of stone and clay statuettes of obese ladies, one of which is exhibited in the museum as the Venus of Malta, suggested that the Hagar Qim temple complex was also used for fertility rituals. In addition to that, corpulent figurines are also found, along with a megalith which may be considered phallic. The presence of an altar with a concave top suggests the possible use for animal sacrifices, which is strongly supported by the discovery of the bones of numerous sacrificial animals.
Apart from the main temple, the remains of two more interesting structures were found, which are seemed to be older. One of them is a slab with a pair of opposing spirals in relief, while the other is a three-foot high stone pillar decorated on all four sides. Replicas of the items are kept on the open site and the originals are housed in the National Museum of Archaeology.
The Neolithic builders used hard coralline limestone to construct the external walls of the Hagar Qim temple complex, while softer globigerina limestone was used for the interiors. Due to the use of limestone, the temple has severely suffered from rough weathering, associated with the harsh coastal elements over the centuries.
Considerable surface flaking was also detected. To minimize further damage, a roof was added to cover the site in 2009. However, though the modern structure is capable of reducing the erosion, it is absolutely an eyesore, which definitely hinders the aesthetic beauty of the entire landscape.