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Malta, temple of Juno

2 June 2013
Ancient history

In Current World Archaeology issue 59, volume 5:11, May 2013 (see also www.world-archaeology.com and www.facebook.com/currentworldarchaeology) there is an article on Tas Silg, a temple recorded by the Romans, and dedicated to Juno. It was formerly a prehistoric temple, in the 3rd millennium BC (and earlier) that like the other Maltese temples of the period came to an abrupt end around 2500BC and was abandoned for a long period (or 2300BC in the Moe Mandelkehr model). After 1500BC, in the Bronze Age, it was re-occupied – but it seems this was domestic occupation and nothing to do with a temple. It was the Phoenicians, in the 8th century BC, that brought the site back into a religious sphere, possibly because it sits on a hill overlooking a natural harbour and the sea. This is reminiscent of Baal Zephon in N Syria and Baal Zephon on a small hill in the flat land of the Egyptian delta region. The temple continued in use during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, and was revived in the Byzantine period (when a Christian church was established in the vicinity). It appears to have been abandoned at about the time Islam dominated the Mediterranean, colonising Malta. In the 17th century a church was re-established not far away.

In an interesting footnote – excavations unearthed a piece of agate stone with seven lines of Babylonian cuneiform script which has been dated towards the end of the Late Bronze Age, between 1330 and 1230BC (on the conventional chronology). The Babylonian artifact is a bit of a puzzle as not much was happening at Tas Silg at that time – so how did it get there? All the old hoary chestnuts are trotted out – sailors, passed from hand to hand, heirloom etc. However, it did possibly arrive as a trade item – but when? The Phoenicians seem a fair bet – but what does that mean for the date of the object? Are the Late Bronze dates too early? Or was it swept up in the Sea Peoples movements, and maritime adventures prior to the Phoenicians – but if so, how did it get into later archaeological layers?

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