Archaeology, Archaeoastronomy
Malta, Mnajdra, Temples, Prehistoric Culture

Sky and Purpose in Prehistoric Malta

Sun, Moon, and Stars at the Temples of Mnajdra

by Tore Lomsdalen

ISBN: 978-1-907767-41-8
1 Aug 2014
£11.10 – £19.03
Paperback; 260 pages

The megalithic temples of Malta, one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, have been a continued attraction for exploring unanswered questions about prehistoric culture. In this book, Tore Lomsdalen situates the temples in their archaeological context and reviews the archaeoastronomical surveys on them. He then turns to the question of intentionality in the alignment of the Mnajdra South temple. Lomsdalen presents the results of years of fieldwork conducted at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and introduces new evidence and insights into the quixotic temple architecture and its relationships with the sky.


Table of Contents

List of Figures

Chapter 1 Introduction

  • 1.1 AIM
  • 1.2 Malta’s ‘Best Kept Secret’
  • 1.3 Cosmology and Astronomy in Malta

Chapter 2 Maltese Prehistory: A Literature Review

  • 2.1 The Neolithic Diffusion in a European Context
  • 2.2 The Colonisation of Malta and the Early Neolithic
  • 2.3 The Temple Period
  • 2.4 The Mnajdra Temple Complex
    • 2.4.1 History of Site Research
    • 2.4.2 Landscape
    • 2.4.3 Description of the Temples
    • 2.4.4 Building Sequence

Chapter 3 Maltese Cosmology and Astronomy: A Literature Review

  • 3.1 Cosmology and Landscape
  • 3.2 Temple Period Astronomy
  • Mnajdra and the Cosmos

Chapter 4 Methodology

  • 4.1 Site Visits
  • 4.2 Surveying
  • 4.3 Astronomical Observation and Photography
  • 4.4 Experimental Achaeology
  • 4.5 Phenomenology

Chapter 5 Results

  • 5.1 Archaeoastronomical Survey of Mnajdra East and Middle Temples
    • 5.1.1 Mnajdra East
    • 5.1.2 Mnajdra Middle
  • 5.2 Archaeoastronomical Survey of Mnajdra South Temple
    • 5.2.1 Main Entrance
    • 5.2.2 Horizon Postholes
    • 5.2.3 Cross-Quarter and Eighth Days
    • 5.2.4 Oracle Holes
    • 5.2.5 Other Possible Alignments

Chapter 6 Discussion

  • 6.1 Maltese Archaeoastronomy
  • 6.2 Intentionality Behind Mnajdra
    • 6.2.1 Offset Illumination and the Light/Dark Dichotomy
    • 6.2.2 An Astronomical Intention Behind the Oracle Holes in Mnajdra South
    • 6.2.3 The Solstitial Postholes
    • 6.2.4 The Construction Sequence of Mnajdra

Chapter 7 Conclusion

  • Appendix I
    Appendix II
    Appendix III
    Appendix IV: Glossary


‘Through careful and persistent studies, Tore Lomsdalen has transformed the temple of Mnajdra into a living demonstration of the enduring power of the ancient sun.’
~ Dr Kim Malville, Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, University of Colorado

‘A highly provocative reconsideration of the archaeoastronomy of the megalithic temples of Malta, which has charted out and explored a new research agenda for the subject.’
~ Dr Reuben Grima, Department of the Built Heritage, University of Malta

‘This book raises the standard of archaeoastronomical studies of prehistoric Europe. A must-read for anyone interested in this emerging topic.’
~ Dr Fabio Silva, Institute of Archaeology, University College London


Tore Lomsdalen began the Cultural Astronomy and Astrology MA programme in 2008 and graduated in 2013. His MA dissertation, Sky and Purpose in Prehistoric Malta: the Sun, Moon and the Stars the Temples of Mnajdra, was recently published by the Sophia Centre Press. Since then Heritage Malta have bought 300 copies which are now for sale at bookshops at all their archaeological sites. Tore also lectures on archaeoastronomy and cosmology at conferences and universities, and has recently been accepted to start a PhD in ‘Cosmologies of Prehistoric Malta’ at the University of Malta.

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