A new look to our islands’ prehistoric stone circles
Our ‘sacred islands ’ possessed two separate Neolithic stone circles until 1830 and then 1954.
The major one, the Xagħra stone circle (sometimes known as Brochtorff ’s Circle, after D.H. Trump, 1960) was situated on top of the hill Tal-Qaċċa, at Ix-Xagħra l-Kbira, in Xagħra (Joseph Attard Tabone, 2006).
A second one, on a site known as It-Tumbata, rose above the top of Luqa village in Malta (John D. Evans, 1971).
Both stone circles were deliberately destroyed in the last 200 years, at an enormous moral cost to Malta’s prehistory – at Xagħra by the land’s private tenant and at Luqa by official state approval and action. This was a major loss to Maltese prehistory.
At Xagħra we still have a below-ground hypogeum and necropolis, with significant finds since 1994.
Nothing remains at Luqa because the land in question was expropriated for the building by the Government of an important water reservoir. All else is gone forever. And we Maltese will have to content ourselves with our 30-odd major and minor prehistoric temples of 3800-2500 BC.
Some would say incredibly, but the authorities can reverse this sorry situation by embarking on a serious evaluation of these two ancient sites. No one says it’s easy. But no one says it’s imposs-ible either!
For the Xagħra circle, a deep and thorough study of the paintings done and published by Jean Houel in 1787 and by Charles de Brochtorff in 1822 will reveal the layout and alignments of the rude circle of boulders strewn on the ground. It will also reveal the layout, alignments and dimensions of the two huge standing megaliths at the gateway to this prehistoric phenomenon.
With modern techniques, practically everything is possible.
Restored boulders and megaliths will be of a suitable material to withstand the weather and other causes of possible erosion and instability.
This site overlooks the Ġgantija temples and lies to their west.
Solar solstitial and equinoctial phenomena have been suggested for this site’s original gateway.
The land in question is both sown and has garigue. Modern techniques can, with due care, restore the ground level to its pristine state.
Then we shall again have and enjoy the Xagħra stone circle in its entirety.
Since the site at Luqa is occupied by a large government water reservoir, the handling of the Malta site at It-Tumbata is more problematic. Some foreign organisations would go so far as to remove the modern reservoir altogether and replace it with a restored circle, featuring a high gateway and other megaliths, as was described by Evans in his survey of 1971.
What has been achieved by the Italian firm Canobbio at the Ħaġar Qim main temple and at the three temples of Mnajdra, under the competent direction of Reuben Grima of the Museum of Archaeology, Valletta, in the shape of huge Teflon tents covering these two sites can be achieved in a completely new manner at Xagħra and at Luqa to restore these extremely important prehistoric sites to their pristine state.
When all this is done, Malta and Gozo’s prehistoric remains will acquire a greatly enhanced dimension.
Let us never forget that neighbouring Sicily has nothing to compare with Malta and Gozo’s lobed prehistoric temples.
Malta’s stone circles and temples are indeed unique.