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Prehistoric Malta

The Subterranean Hypogeum

Ancient Shaman Civilization of Malta

In 1940, on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean, a group of elementary school children entered a hallowed prehistoric underground shaman temple called the Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni with their teacher. Entering the lowest levels of the temple, the class passed a "burial" chamber on part of the lowest 3rd level never before explored, entering a vast maze like complex. Suddenly part of the passage collapsed, trapping the children and teacher in the underground city below.

Search parties were unable to search for the class due to the cave in. The parents of the children later claimed that they could hear the cries and pleas of their children under the ground in several places around the island for weeks until finally...they ended. After the terrible incident, the government of Malta officially closed off the underground passages permanently thereafter; all entrances into the mysterious underworld below Malta were barred with iron gates.

Locals affirm that the passages and maze of corridors beneath the island is so large and complex, that it is said, that in the recent past it was possible for one person to walk from one end of the island to the other without being above ground.

Evidently, a British Embassy worker, Miss Lois Jessup had explored the same burial chamber that the children had visited. She had squeezed past it into the underground city beyond only a few weeks earlier than the tragic event.

An Unusual Story in the Hypogeum of Malta

The Hypogeum hall

Jessup recounted that after leaving her three companions in the burial sepulcher close by, she entered into a large chamber, where a steep chasm dropped off into unending darkness below. Jessup held her candle higher up to peer down into the pit. Across that deep chasm, far below, she claims to have seen "twenty figures of giant stature emerging from an opening walking single file along a narrow path. They walked slowly in long strides, then stopped and seemed to gesture up to Jessup to leave the complex." A gust of wind blew out her candle when a draft blew through the narrow passage behind her, prompting one of friends to pull her back into the burial chamber.

Spiritual "Vibrations" in the Hypogeum

A number of other theories have propped up around the mysterious Hypogeum over the years with the help of such tales, some even believing that the cave realm acts as a special gateway to parallel dimensions.

More serious studies done in recent times are no less intriguing. Several scientists have studied characteristic acoustic resonance patterns that reverberate throughout the underground complex. Researchers found that frequencies residing in the range of 110 to 111 hertz echo around the entire temple complex. "It sounds as if you're in a big bell," visitors have often stated.

This particular frequency zone it turns out registers in a special part of the brain, deactivating the language center and activating key areas of the prefrontal cortex dealing with mood, empathy, and social communion. That an ancient culture knew of its special potency to induce trance like states over 6000 years, is definitely surprising.

Temple monuments thought contemporaneous to the Hypogeums constructions dot the island landscape on the surface above, all of which are aligned in numerous astronomical sight lines, including summer and winter solstices, perceived through small windows cut into the stone walls.

Long before the Romans conquered the Mediterranean, there was a thriving ancient civilization that built temples throughout the island, just off the eastern coast of Tunisia, and south of Sicily. Sometimes called the "Serpent People" the diviners of this unusual ancient temple cult worshiped snake figures and mother goddesses. Over 7000 skeletons of this peculiar culture was found in the Hypogeum cave system in 1910 by archaeologist Themistocles Zammit, the "godfather of Maltese archaeology", Curator of the Valletta Museum. All the remains were tangled up and mashed together, leaving not one complete skeleton body. The chamber was jam packed with earth, and broken pottery. For many years it was thought that the site was part of some strange burial custom, although now it seems that the remains simply had been washed into the underground structure by a large inland flood from a surface cemetery.

Strange Case of the Hypogeum Skulls

What is so bizarre about the skeletons is that virtually all the remains have somehow mysteriously disappeared over the years, so that by 1971 only 11 skulls were left. And by 2001, only six of the original 7000.

Of the skulls that do remain, the heads contain a unique deformed profile often seen in ancient cultures that prized an elongated skull achieved through binding infants heads with boards and padding. The deformed dolichocephalous skull type, an enlarged cranium, was seen as a sign of greater status in many ancient cultures, not just in Malta, but in South America and Meso America. It appears the ancient Egyptians performed the binding of the skull in its earliest prehistory as well.

Later in life, such deformation must have caused nausea and migraines, and difficulties with voluntary motor functions. However, it may have "enhanced" their capacities to receive visions the natives thought vital and important to the daily lives of the people of the island.

Snake Column

With such a long skull, the features of the face would surely have been pulled further back over the scalp, causing the temple priests and elite shamans to appear as possessing the face of a viper. Perhaps this was viewed as the main reason for the binding effect, as the ancient Malta temple cults that flourished on the island from 5000BC to 2800BC, venerated the serpent and a fertility goddess, a religious figure that reoccurs throughout the ancient Mediterranean, from the Minoans to the Phoenicians.

It has been estimated that the shamanic snake cults at Malta may be additionally linked to an earlier shamanic civilization that ruled the Middle East as early as 12,000 BC and eventually found refuge on the isolated Maltese islands around 5000 BC (incidentally the name Malta stems from the Phoenician "Malat" meaning refuge. The Shamans of an earlier culture were notoriously remembered in myths as "The Watchers", the "Nephilim Fallen Angels" and perhaps the "Neteru" animal spirits of primordial Egypt (Shamans have always been known as the spiritual mediators of animal spirits), which according to ancient Egyptian texts such as the Turin Papyrus, governed Egypt many millennium before Egypt's first Pharaohs ruled the Nile in a mystical time called Zep Tepi.

The oldest stone temple in the world at Gobekli Tepe may be an ancient predecessor of the vast stone temples at Malta, as snakes often also feature on the stone pillars carved at the site in Turkey. Artifacts found at the site suggest that the Gobekli Tepe Shamanic Elite also practiced skull deformation just as the priests did in Malta.

When Malta was originally settled is still very unclear to archaeologists. Only twenty seven samples of datable C14 have been retrieved from the entire island from secure stratigraphic layers at three temple sites. Eight come from Skorba, and fourteen from Xaghra Circle and five from Mgarr, dating from around 3600BC. Whether the materials date to restoration phases much later, rather than the original construction, no one can say.

Tracks of an Ancient Civilization on Malta

Throughout the island, a series of cart ruts, or tracks carved through the solid limestone bedrock remain undatable by scientists. While some believe that a later Sicilian Bronze age culture or the even later Phoenicians dug the tracks, others suggest that the temple culture of the island used the ruts as a transportation system for easily moving the megalithic stones to the different temple sites around the island. What is interesting about the cart ruts, is that others like them even deeper and wider, lie under the sea right off the southern coast of the island, between Malta and the tiny islet of Filfla and additionally in the Sliema bay at the northern part of the island.

This may or may not suggest a contemporary age within the late glacial period, c.12,000BC. Further research on tectonic movements in the recent past may invalidate such claims. Evidence for a major tectonic fault line is being studied by geologists which may have caused parts of the Maltese land mass to sink into the sea c.2800BC, including parts of the area stretching between Malta and Filfla. Some scientists, including Anthony Mifsud, believes the event simultaneously caused the abrupt end of the temple culture on Malta.

When did the island become first inhabited though?

The earliest samples found on the island are seen at the Ghar Dalam cave, amongst older prehistoric and pleistocene stratigraphy, including extinct dwarf hippos and pygmy elephants. Excavated from the layers, taurodont human teeth were found, a common dental profile of Neanderthals, along with Ice Age red deer bones, suggesting that the island had been inhabited far back into the prehistoric era. Carbon dates still have not been retrieved from the samples, leaving the prehistoric question of Malta at the present, in limbo.

It is known that a land bridge connected the mainland of Europe via the boot of Italy with Sicily and Malta up until about 12,000 BCE.

At the time, Malta resided at the furthest extent of the European mainland, even further south than some parts of Africa, lying in desirable mid latitude sanctuary zones in the Mediterranean. During the pleistocene, Europe was in the coldest grips of the Ice Age. Malta, on the other hand, was a veritable haven, providing gentler climes to migrants escaping the harsh environs to the north.

Huddled in small zones, hunter gatherers met for mutual advantage, pooling resources together in the most desirable locations in the world. Civilization thus possibly sprang out of some of the darkest parts of the Ice Age, as we see at such sites as Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, far earlier than the fertile crescent of Mesapotamia, which flourished over 7000 years later.

Large swathes of Malta's coastal shelf lay above the surface of the ocean during this remote time period, many explorers theorize that much earlier temples of the culture that thrived on Malta lie still yet undiscovered beneath the sea.

Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization In one of Graham Hancock's latest additions to the study of ancient civilizations and origins, the author once again makes a close study, at times academic, of the earliest beginnings of man in remote prehistory. Here he does an extensive analysis of several geological models drawn by Robert Shaw and Kurt Lambeck which maps the climatic events of the end of the last Glacial Period, when sudden rises in sea level from great Ice dam lakes spilled into the ocean and swallowed millions of sqaure kilometers of dry costal shelf land. Hancock makes a convincing argument that the remains of the lost civilizations that inhabited the era lie on the coastal shelves, an environment that at that time enjoyed the most "agriculturally" suitable plots to develop a complex advanced level of society and culture.