Mnajdra is a megalithic complex of three Neolith temples located on the south coast of Malta. It was built approximately in 3000 BC. Mnajdra is so important for Maltese culture that it is depicted on the coins of 1, 2 and 5 euro cents. Nowadays it is part of UNESCO World Heritage and is under legal protection.
Mnajdra temple is located not far from another monument of megalithic architecture – the Hagar Quim temple. These sights are separated by the distance less than 1 km. Despite their close location, the temples were built independently and do not have any relation.
The complex of Mnajdra was built of huge limestone rocks and is designed in the shape of four-leaf clover. It consists of three temples (the upper, medium and lower one) that are attached to each other, but not connected – each temple has its own entrance and they were built in different times. The upper north part is the most antique and its building refers to the period of 3600-3200 BC. Some parts of the temple were restored, but the pommel decorated with unique carves is original.
The medium part is the biggest and youngest one and was built in 3150-2500 BC. The lowest is the most significant example of Maltese medieval architecture: a spacious yard, stone benches, corridors and the fragments of the roof. Its walls are decorated with carved animal figures. Its roof might have had the shape of a dome and have been used as the astronomical observatory. In the days of equinox (the 20th of March and the 22nd of September) sun rays pass through specially designed holes in the stones.
Designation of this temple is not known for sure, but judging by the interior – stone tables and benches the scholars suppose that it was used for religious rituals, such as sacrifices and prays for health and fertility. The temple is adapted for astronomical observations, so it can be logically deduced this science was well-developed among the antique Maltese habitants. Mnajdra definitely was not used as burial – during the excavations neither human nor animal remains were found there.
The investigation of Mnajdra started in 1840. In 1901 the exact plan of the building was created. In December 1949 the archaeologists have found here stone and clay statuettes, plates, some flintstone building tools and a big spherical stone that could be used for transporting the biggest stones. In 1992 the temple was included to the World heritage of UNESCO. The influence of the weather condition caused the ruining of the temple and in 2009 the protective tent was installed.