Hypogeum Malta - Mediterranean Holiday Destinations

The Hypogeum is by far Malta's most impressive and finest temple. This world-class archaeological site was discovered by chance in 1902 as a stonemason prepared to lay the foundations of a house. What he uncovered was a rather macabre collection of the bones of over 7000 people. The earliest bones date back as far as 3600 BC, when its thought bodies of the dead were thrown into natural crevices. When these began to fill, new chambers were cut into the rock in a style that mirrored above ground temple architecture, and century after century, more bones were added.

This vast underground necropolis consists of passageways, rooms and halls, covering 500m2, cut into the rock to a varying degree of craftsmanship. The system is clearly cut in three different levels the oldest of which is the upper level, dating from 3600-3300BC. This consists of a central hall and a passageway with burial chambers cut in the side, one of which displays its original contents. The middle level, dating 3300-3000BC, is much more smoothly finished with some burial chambers still displaying red ochre paintings and carved facades. The newest, lower level dates from 3000-2400BC. 10.6m below ground, this level was empty. It is thought that the 'temple age' ended just as it was completed thus rendering it useless.

Unsurprisingly, this incredible archaeological find has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is now closely monitored and controlled to ensure its preservation. The Hypogeum was closed for a number of years after the carbon dioxide breathed out by the huge visitor numbers did serious damage to the delicate limestone walls. Consequently, visitor numbers are restricted to 80 people per day, which get booked up well in advance. Turn up expecting to get on the next tour is likely to get you laughed at so book early to ensure a place. Any tour of the site begins with a small exhibition and a film introducing the Hypogeum, its supposed creators and its relation to the temples above ground. This serves a dual purpose of not only informing visitors but also giving time for the air conditioning to cool their bodies prior to entering the temple proper. The surreal and sacred atmosphere leaves its mark on every visitor; the Hypogeum is undoubtedly one of the most impressive ancient monuments in the world.

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