Monday, March 14, 2011

Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni and The Tarxien Temple

On Sunday, the 13th, we had tickets to the much-anticipated Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni. This site is an underground temple that may have been a burial site at one time. It is also the only prehistoric underground temple in the world (or at least the only one discovered so far). Getting tickets requires about a 2 week wait, so we had to book them before we even left for Malta, and when we arrived, the site was booked until the 29th of March. There are also only 80 people allowed to visit the site on any given day, and the visitors are visit the site in groups of 10. Unfortunately, no pictures or videos were allowed to be taken during our tour, so we don't have any taken pictures to share.

The Hypogeum was broken into 3 levels, the highest of which was originally above ground and outside. Now, however, it is buried underneath the streets of Paola, where it was accidentally discovered while building a cistern (like the ones we're exploring!) underneath a house being constructed there. An entrance has been built so the site is accessible from the streets.

One of the rooms we visited on the second level is a semi-large chamber called the Oracle Room. This room was especially interesting due to a property that its shape gave it: acoustic resonance. Basically, deep tones resonated in the room created like an echo inside, where higher pitches didn't really do much. Another interesting feature was the ceiling: it had elaborate paintings of spirals done in red ochre ( which was amazingly preserved due to being contained underground with limited exposure to water, sunlight and air. Another amazing room, and probably the most famous, the Holy of Holies. This room contained a smooth, entryway carved deep into the limestone.

The Hypogeum is amazing because it models so closely what the other, aboveground temples look and feel like. It showed that the ancient peoples had some kind of consistency even when creating the underground levels of this temple / burial site / whatever else it may have been used for.

Afterwards, we visited the Tarxien Temples just down the street.

These were very similar to a few of the other temples we have visited, but the visit was a bit different due to the rainy weather (which was unfortunate...). There were a couple of cool features though, including a giant sculpture of the "fat lady" present at many of the sites. There was also this really cool pot which was carved out of limestone and had some designs carved into it.

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