The Ta’ Ħaġrat temples in Mġarr, Malta is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with several other Megalithic temples. They are amongst the most ancient religious sites on Earth. The larger Ta’ Ħaġrat temple dates from the Ġgantija phase (3600–3200 BCE); the smaller is dated to the Saflieni phase (3300–3000 BCE).
Set in the heart of Mġarr, a village in Northwest Malta, and smaller than most other sites of a similar nature, Ta’ Ħaġrat is home to two well-preserved structures. The site was excavated between 1923 and 1926 with some other minor interventions in 1953 and in the 1960s. The larger of the two buildings dates from the earliest phases of megalithic construction – the Ġgantija phase (3600 – 3200 BC).
This structure has a monumental doorway and facade which give the site two of its most awe-inspiring and renowned characteristics. Other features include a bench, running along the facade’s length, as well as a courtyard, measuring approximately 2.5m by 4.5m, surrounded by a raised stone kerb. This space, accessible through the entrance corridor of the temple, provides access to three chambers through megalithic doorways. The main doorway of this structure was restored in 1937 with the replacement of the door lintel in its original position. The smaller structure, built on a 4-apse plan, is linked to the earlier one through a doorway in the eastern room.
The dating of this building is still uncertain although the finds indicate a Saflieni phase (3,300 – 3,000 BC) date. Ceramic material from both earlier and later periods were also found within the site indicating that the site was used both before and after the construction of the Temples.
The excavation of plentiful pottery deposits show that a village stood on the site and predates the temples themselves. This early pottery is dated to the Mġarr phase (3800-3600 BCE).
Ta’ Ħaġrat is built out of lower coralline limestone, the oldest exposed rock in the Maltese Islands. The complex contains two adjacent temples. The smaller temple abuts the major one on the northern side.
The two parts are less regularly planned and smaller in size than many of the other neolithic temples in Malta. Unlike other megalithic temples in Malta no decorated blocks were discovered; however a number of artifacts were found. Perhaps most intriguing is a scale model of a temple, sculpted in globigerina limestone.
The model is roofed and shows the typical structure of a Maltese temple including a trilithon façade, narrow-broad walling technique and upper layers of horizontal corbelling.
The Ġgantija phase temple is typically trefoil, with a concave façade opening onto a spacious semicircular forecourt. The façade contains a monumental doorway in the center and a bench at its base. Two steps lead up to the main entrance and a corridor flanked by upright megaliths of coralline limestone.
The corridor leads into a central torba (a cement-like material) court, radiating three semi-circular chambers. These were partially walled off at some time in the Saflieni phase; pottery shards were recovered from the internal packing of this wall. The apses are constructed with roughly-hewn stone walls and have a rock floor. Corbelling visible on the walls of the apses suggest that the temple was roofed.
The Saflieni phase temple rests to the north and is six and a half meters long. It is entered through the eastern apse of the larger temple. Smaller stones have been used in its construction and it exhibits irregularities in design considered archaic or provincial.
The site was excavated between 1923 and 1926 by Sir Temi Zammit, then Director of Museums. The site was again excavated by John Davies Evans in 1954, and British archaeologist David Trump accurately dated the complex in the 1961 excavation.
The temple was included on the Antiquities List of 1925.