Pyramids—not the Oldest Free Standing Buildings

Extracts from a new book,

"The Pyramid Builder's Handbook"
Derek K Hitchins©

Full copyright and intellectual property rights retained

Considerably less famous than the pyramids of Egypt are the temples of Gozo and Malta. Yet some of these stone buildings precede the pyramids by 1,000 years.

The picture shows Ggantija on Gozo (Homer's Calypso Island), said to be the oldest free-standing stone structure in the world. It is very different from the pyramids in construction, and seemingly in purpose, too

Ggantija, Gozo

The temple is made up a number of curved stone chambers, referred to as apses - hence apsidal tombs. Apparently, before the they made free-standing structures, the mysterious people who built these tombs dug into the sides of hills and cliffs. To avoid the roof caving in, the dug sideways to create chambers, leaving a central septum of stone uncut to support the roof. When they changed to free standing structures, they simply kept to the traditional pattern.

It is difficult to see the stonewrk from the photograph above. This picture below, of Hagar Qim (Hajar'eem) shows that the stonework was rather fine. Hagar Qim is on the sister island of Malta

Hagar Qim, Malta

The third photograph is of the temple of Manajdra, just 500m from Hagar Qim. This photograph not only confirms the excelent stonework, with its "Flemish Bond" overlay, but also shows two small holes in the stones. Behind these stones may be found a hidden chamber. the temples seem to have been used as oracles, possibly foretelling the weather, rainfall, or events

Manajdra, Malta

So, the temples of Gozo and Malta not only precede the pyramids of Egypt, but they are different in both form and purpose:-

  • Whereas the pyramids are determinedly rectilinear, the temples of Gozo and Malta are equally set on being curvilinear, with barely a straight line in sight
  • While the pyramids appear to have been for burial or to act as cenotaphs, the apsidal temples seem to have been oracles, with little evidence of associated burials

So, what happened to the builders of these ancient temples of Gozo and Malta? They had no writing, so they left no records. They left the islands around 2500BC, just as the Old Kingdom was getting into its stride. Where they went, nobody seems to know... But their temples stand as testimony to the strong relationship between architecture and culture, and in stark contrast to the pyramids of Egypt.

© D K Hitchins 2015