Culture

The Bugibba Temple, a megalithic monument in the gardens of a Maltese hotel

The Dolmen Resort Hotel is a well-known tourist accommodation in Malta, located in Saint Paul’s Bay, north of the main island of the Mediterranean country and about 16 kilometers from its capital, Valletta.

It has all the comforts one could ask for in a hotel of its category, with an extra bonus: in its gardens, near the pool, there is nothing less than a megalithic monument, a small prehistoric temple discovered in the 1920s.

Both the hotel and the temple are close to the coast and to the town of Bugibba, from which the monument takes its name, at an altitude of 15 metres. It was discovered by the Maltese archaeologist Themistocles Zammit in what was then just an agricultural field.

The temple surrounded by the hotel complex / photo Karelj on Wikimedia Commons

The temple was built from coral limestone during the Tarxien period of Maltese prehistory, approximately 3150-2500 BC after which the Bronze Age begins. Its central axis is oriented in a south-southwest direction, towards the sun and with its back to the sea. It was excavated by Zammit himself in 1928, and again in 1954 to determine its chronology.

Of the construction, only the trilitho (two vertical stones on which a third horizontal one rests, similar to those of Stonehenge) that supposedly gave entrance to the central area of ​​the enclosure, where there were three apses. At the back, traces of the floor of the temple are still preserved. The rest of the structure was destroyed over the centuries, due to the successive leveling of the land to adapt it to agricultural uses.

The pieces found with incised decoration / photo culturalheritage.gov.mt

During the excavations, two decorated stone blocks were found in the enclosure, one is believed to be an altar and shows two reliefs with opposite spirals and V-shaped motifs; and the other presents carved fish on two of its sides. Also ceramic remains, which helped to date the structure. These pieces are on display today at the National Museum of Archeology in Valletta.

The unfortunate name of the hotel in whose compound it is located (despite the efforts of the secretary of the ministry of culture in 1968 who tried to persuade the owners to change it) often leads to confusion for tourists, because it is not really a dolmen but a trilith the structure that remains standing, and those are from a different era than the temples.

There is no other access to the temple other than through the hotel reception, which usually does not hinder visitors who want to get to know it.


Sources

Superintendent of Cultural Heritage / Malta & Gozo A Megalithic Journey (Neil McDonald) / Cult in Context: Reconsidering Ritual in Archeology (Caroline Malone and David Barrowclough) / The Megalithic Portal / Wikipedia


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