Maltese Temples

14 Jul 2019

At https://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2019/07/island-cores-unravel... ... the temple culture on Malta began nearly 6000 years ago (roughly 4000BC). This includes the famous Ggantija temple complex - which endured down to 2350BC. Professor Caroline Malone of Queens University in Belfast wanted to understand how the island ecology was able to sustain so many people over a long period of time - and why in the end it failed. Scientists drilled earth cores from 8 to 30m in depth, dating the sediments extracted by C14 methodology. They also collected pollen grains at 2cm intervals in the cores and used chemical signatures imprinted by the surrounding environment in order to understand what nutrients were or were not available to plants. Snails were also an important part of the picture as the different varieties have a preference for distinct habitats. Skeletal material from human remains was also part of the research - for DNA analysis. It seems that within a hundred years of arriving on Malta the inhabitants had removed and felled all the timber resources. Basically, trees had ceased to exist. On the other hand, trees may already have been scarce prior to their arrival as landscape fires appear to have been common across Europe around 4150BC. Presumably they found traces of trees within the first 100 years - but not afterwards. Oddly, the inhabitants ate no fish yet they were surrounded by the sea, teeming with marine life. They can hardly have been going hungry. As the centuries passed the soil became thinner and less ideal for farming. Newcomers appear to have arrived between 2600 and 2400BC (from both the south and the north). The decisive blow may have been an unknown catastrophe around 2350BC (which is also the date of a significant low growth tree ring event coincident with the collapse of urban Early Bronze age Sumeria, the Aegean region, and the Levant). A tidal wave has in the past been connected to the final stage of the temple culture and Malta remained unoccupied for a long time in the aftermath.

A similar project is being undertaken in the Canaries.