Sirius – The Star of the Maltese Temples
by Lenie Reedijk
Sirius – The Star of the Maltese Temples (Maletbooks 2018) embodies more than ten years of research into the purpose and the antiquity of the Maltese Stone Age temples. Largely unknown to most people outside Malta, this is one of the most enigmatic and beautiful prehistoric cultures in Europe, if not in the whole world.
The core of my book is the astronomy of the Maltese temples. It solves two important questions. First, why were so many temples built? More than 60 of them have been recorded, twenty of which are still extant. And second, who have no two of the temples exactly the same orientations?
The first archaeoastronomers in Malta, thirty years ago, were Georg Agius and Frank Ventura, who did a great job in establishing these orientations. They also concluded that the orientations were not random, but that some principle must be behind them.
The discovery of this principle is the centre of my book. It is called Precession, which is the very slow movement of the rising and setting points of the stars along the horizon, caused by a wobble in the earth’s axis. This movement has a cycle of 26,000 years, and it means that if a temple was built to a given star, after two centuries or so, the star will have moved out of the line of sight of this temple, which creates the need for a new temple with a slightly different orientation.
But what star could this be?
With the help of a computer sky programme and the guidance of academic astronomers I discovered that only one star came into view of all these temples. It was Sirius, by far the brightest of all the stars. It first became visible in the Maltese sky in around 9,400 BC, and very soon afterwards it became the focus of the first temple builders.
It is possible to date the Maltese temples quite accurately according to the rising and setting points of Sirius as the centuries and millennia progressed.
The dates resulting from the precession of Sirius are most interesting. The oldest, the small temple of Hagar Qim North, was directed to the setting position of Sirius in around 9,150 BC. The youngest and largest temple, Ggantija South, was erected in around 4,500 BC. These are very ancient dates.
In Part One of the book I collected evidence of a continued attempt in the past to suppress the dates of Malta’s temple culture in favour of the priority given to Crete as the so-called cradle of civilisation. When it was proved to be untenable by the radiocarbon dates of material found in the temples that they were much older, the next move was to proclaim the temples of Malta to be an isolated affair, outside the mainstream of the history of our human culture. The reader will discover in my book a mass if evidence to the contrary. It is a real goldmine in this respect. It also reveals attempts that tended to minimise the importance pf Malta in human cultural history. But my book shows that in Malta lie the beginnings of civilisation, long before agriculture was invented.