Catacombs & Hypogeum
The Hal Saflieni Prehistoric Hypogeum is a Unesco World Heritage Site and the oldest example of a prehistoric hypogeum. It used to be an underground cemetery with chambers and halls, covering an area of 500 square meters (25 by 35 meters) and three levels deep. The discovery of the Hypogeum itself was unique, but many possessions of the deceased were found. In particular, the pottery that was found was important. Other objects found were amulets and other jewellery, and especially a clay image that has been called "the sleeping lady” which may have been a fertility goddess. This image is now on display at the Archaeological Museum in Valletta. The most popular area must be the Holy of Holies which shows the ability of men of that time to carve concentric ceiling circles, lintels and posts plus stairs from solid rock with primitive tools. The vaults are well protected and preserved and the conditions within the vaults are continuously monitored. One of the greatest mysteries in the Hypogeum is The Oracle room. If a person is within the Oracle room, their voice is echoed around all the complex. It is believed this was used to communicate with ancient Gods. The entrance to the underground cellars is glass enclosed so that the basements are not affected by the conditions that prevail outside. Booking is necessary to visit the hypogeum which is performed by a guided tour and up to a maximum of 10 people, to protect the site. The tour lasts one hour. Book Hypogeum tickets.
Did you know that in Malta there is evidence of several animals that used on live on the island but became extinct? Ghar Dalam is a dead end cave situated in the Village of Birzebbuga, south of Malta, and has a collection of fossil bone remains of various animals including those of dwarf elephants, hippopotamuses, deer, bears and birds all coming from different periods from The Pleistocene Epoch to the last glacial period. Only the first 55 metres of the cave is open to the public while the remaining 90 metres is inaccessible. The cave also has a section that has evidence of the first humans on Malta, a period which goes back to about 7,400 years! Don’t miss the museum which is situated next to the cave which extends the huge collection found in the cave. Close Ghar Dalam, is Borg in-Nadur, where a Bronza Age site and some of the best examples of early fortifications can be seen.
St. Paul’s Catacombs, once part of a big cemetery, are evidence of the religious diversity of Malta during the Roman period. They were used by the various religious communities in Malta. In total, the site consists of 24 catacombs, of which only two are open to the public and are pretty much intact. They represent the earliest archaeological evidence of Christianity in the Maltese islands. An entrance hall leads to various tomb galleries. The bigger of the two tombs contains 16 free standing baldacchino tombs together with reliefs, remains of marble slabs, illustrations in red paint and paintings with evidence on Malta until the 4th century AD. The rich and varied architecture of the tombs will leave the visitor impressed. The agape tables are shaped in an omega form which symbolised the Last Supper or the end of life. A few metres further up, one can also admire the St. Agatha's Catacombs and its beautiful frescoes.