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The temple builders of prehistoric Malta

Ferguson, IFG; (1991) The temple builders of prehistoric Malta. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Nowhere in the world have men discovered a temple culture similar to that of the Neolithic Maltese. Thus it appears logical to me to seek the reasons for this remarkable neolithic efflorescence within their own socio-economic context, firstly by examining their cultural remains, and secondly by inference, deduction and sometimes analogy. Copper being absent, I propose abandoning the term "Maltese Chalcolithic" while distinguishing between Neolithic A and B groups. This step is required by the material finds; it allows us to see the developments as originating within the microcosm of Malta, and to examine the considerable cultural achievements as responses to indigenous factors rather than diffusionism. I hold that the main factors were ecological and social. It is my further contention that there is sufficient evidence to show a substantial growth in population in the Gg and Tx phases, and that the resultant pressure on land and resources created a rare neolithic consciousness of 'territorial rights' which found an important and parochial expression in building temples. As these were probably associated with reverence for the dead ("ancestor worship") as well as fertility, the temples became the form through which a community could establish its claim to ancestral lands. Thus a specifically Maltese cult developed, expressing and enacting their ideas and religious beliefs. Though there is evidence for a degree of specialisation unusual in neolithic communities (masons, sculptors, and especially architects and priesthood), I do not find any material evidence for chiefdoms - a Chalcolithic feature. Instead I find that the burial evidence points to a continuing neolithic egalitarianism, without the specialists forming a true elite. I find religious features of a matristic kind, with the worship of a chthonic goddess associated with cereals. Finally I find evidence indicating a reason for the abandonment of Malta c. 2500 B.C.: demographic pressures combined with drier conditions and drought.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The temple builders of prehistoric Malta
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10116532
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