I left the Hagar Qim/Mnajdra heritage park with my head just about on overload. Tarxien was about 20 minutes drive away a drive that was to take me across the island and into the busy Maltese suburban sprawl.
When you look at a map you all the towns are neatly subdivided and labelled, no matter where you are in the world it is never like that. In Malta there is a huge sprawl centred around the Grand Harbour Basin. Tarxien is on the south side of this sprawl.
Once I actually found my way into Tarxien town I then had to negotiate a one way system which took me through a town that was never designed to handle motor traffic. Every now and then I would encounter a sign pointing to the temples sitting along side a no entry sign. But somehow the system worked and I found myself at the temples.
The contrasts between my morning visit to Hagar Qim and Mnajdra and Tarxien were marked. The Tarxien temples were in a very urban setting, there are no views here and the site is hemmed in on all sides.
At Hagar Qim and Mnajdra I was fortunate enough to have the place to myself, Tarxien was chocka block with people.
To be honest with you the place drained me. On any other day I would have been happy to walk around this wonderful temple and its wonderfully rich remains but on this day it felt all wrong. I had left a site which was wild and free and devoid of people, a site that was open to the elements and felt like part of the landscape. I had exchanged all of that for a site which was full of people and boxed into the middle of a sprawling dormitory town suburb. For me the atmosphere was one of claustrophobia.
This doorway is a 60's reconstruction. The stones are original but had a protective coating applied to protect them from erosion
The site wasn't discovered until 1914 when farmers began hitting the blocks of the temple with their ploughs. The site was excavated by Sir Temi Zammit. There are four temples which were eventually forgotten and became overlain by a Bronze Age cemetery which in turn became buried and unnoticed for a few thousand years.
The site has yielded many of the wonderful artefacts that have since become icons of Maltese prehistory including the huge 'goddess' statue that was smashed by the farmer leaving only 'her' lovely chubby legs and carved base.
This site is also deeply instrumental in making sense of the chronology of maltese prehistory
The site is littered with carvings, most of which are replicas but like I said in my previous entry, don't let this put you off.
There is a copy of this decorated frieze at Tarxien. This is the original which is now housed in the museum in Valletta.
This carving shows a bull. The carving below it has been interpreted as a sow feeding her piglets.
The badly weathered carving in this picture is actually a replica. This shows the importance of removing the original carvings and placing them in a more environmentally controlled environment.
In hindsight going to Tarxien after visiting Hagar Qim and Mnajdra was a mistake. In fact visiting anywhere after visiting Hagar Qim and Mnajdra on the same day would be a mistake. I should have just lingered a little longer on the Hagar Qim café terrace, drank a little coffee and then made my way home. Hindsight is wonderful isn't it?