Thursday, 2 February 2012

Malta remains of Atlantis

Foreword


Back in 1974, I remember discussing with my friend, today late Louis Borg Bonaci, how to get away from the daily tiresome routine and enjoy some free time in the countryside. After a few months of experiencing the fresh air and beautiful views of the countryside we realized that there was a lot of places that we hardly knew even existed on our islands. But the most tantalizing walks were those that took us to the Maltese archaeological sites where we had time to admire the unexplainable abilities of our prehistoric ancestors.
            I can still recall the day back in 1977 when we visited the sister island of Gozo and spent a whole day at the temple of Ggantija. Gradually we noticed the unfathomable inheritance left by these highly skilled builders. Being accustomed to carry pen and paper wherever I go, it became a habit to take notes and discuss my feelings with my friend while keeping a sort of diary. All this encouraged me to engage in further reading about the subject.
            Being in the habit of purchasing non-fiction and occult books, I was well acquainted with the abilities of old and lost civilizations such as the Egyptians, Mayas, Incas, Greeks, Mycenaean and Etruscans of the Mediterranean. Together with two friends, I used to go book-hunting and must have visited almost every bookshop in the major villages of Malta, carrying loads of books back home. After reading about the antiquities of these ancient kingdoms, the obvious question was why the Maltese Islands were not treated the same when the advanced civilization of the temple period  made such an impact around 7,000 years ago! Why did Stonehenge become so popular while more ancient and colossal temples such as Ggantija, Hagar Qim and Mnajdra were not given the same treatment? Many authors like Erich Von Daniken, Charles Berlitz, Andrew Thomas, Robert Charroux and others were then in the limelight, but they barely mentioned Malta.
            My suspicion was that there was some misunderstanding. Most of the writings were in foreign languages and most of the authors left the Maltese Islands out of the Mediterranean scene. It was a relief to find booklets such as the one by A. J. Agius published in 1970 describing the prehistoric cave of Ghar Dalam (Cave of Darkness). Amongst the best publications those by D. H. Trump and J. D. Evans were most helpful. Their books, together with two booklets one about Malta and the other about Gozo compiled by Harrison Lewis served my intentions to pursue those walks. Lewis’ book, Ancient Malta (1977) really affected me. Every visit to Ghar Dalam raised more questions than answers and, instead of writing I spent most of the time thinking and observing, as if the coldness, the humidity and solitude worked on my brains in an unusual way. I had to re-visit this cave again and again to reassure myself regarding the past and the size of the Maltese Islands!
            My next step was the National Library in Valletta. Authors, book titles, hours of sifting and questioning which led me to a certain Arthur Issel one of the first to give his impressions about Ghar Dalam cave. Issel made things worse for me when he disagreed with George Grognet de Vassè regarding Malta being the remains of Atlantis. Since I was born at Mosta, I was under the impression that this architect spent most of his life working and trying to convince the villagers that the Dome for Mosta church would stand without reinforcement and columns. All this reminded me about what Harrison Lewis wrote in page 47 of his book:
            "Malta is not known to have been inundated by the sea since the ice age, it is not in the Atlantic beyond the Gates of Hercules, nor did it rule Lybia and Egypt, but it could have been all that was said of the Lost Atlantis from the viewpoint of its achievements."
            While reading Grognet’s researched works I learned not only that the subject of archaeology was a vast ocean to navigate, but above everything that every find shrouded with mysteries takes years to analyse and understand. I worked intensely on the theme of the Maltese Islands and their position in the centre of the Mediterranean. Referring to my notes, I expanded the ideas that came to my mind, giving full attention to the supposition that Malta was part of the land-bridge that joined Europe with North Africa.
            I never had any specific idea if and when to publish my findings, but my friends used to insist and encourage me to work harder to see this research in book form. The problem was that I had collected notes and references that would result in a clumsy volume of about five hundred pages. But, with the idea to enhance public awareness and instill further appreciation towards the crafts and trades of our ancestors who built the temples, I decided on publishing this book with the main data and substantiated research available, first in the Maltese language titled Malta fdal Atlantis in 2002. I also decided on a Maltese version because I always desired to make the Maltese people more conscious and aware of the priceless archaeological remains on these small islands. Although I carried out the research on my own I had quite a lot of unfinished information which I was forced to leave out of the Maltese version. So, this publication is not only a translation but a revised edition. Since the Malta-Atlantis theme was very much discussed during those years, it was my duty to present this historical research right away.
            From the conclusions reached during these long years of research I started to believe that it would have been far better if the islands of Malta and Gozo were not populated again after the disappearance of the temple people.
           
Beginning…

            To begin with the study of the prehistory of the Maltese islands we must make an effort to go back in time hoping to be able to recall those times and recreate those ancient cultures. It is crystal clear today, that most of what we possess and believe to have invented, could have been popular and in use somewhere and somehow in the past. The power of thinking is unique to humans. And more thoughts arise from the intermixture of people with various societies. Thoughts accumulate in the brains of individuals until such time when they are ripe enough to be transformed into material forms.
            On the other hand, if we really want to analize that which is still kept in the dark and has been very scantily written about, firstly we have to put aside all that we have been conditioned to believe. The history of man happened on a period of thousands of years during which many changes took place.  Apart from events of upheavels and turmoils that changed the face of the earth through past ages, some or parts of these changes were surely caused by man himself. So, when we are on the verge of discussing archaeological topics and the remains left by our forgotten ancestors, it would be wiser not to focus on the way that we live today. It also helps if we put aside other obstacles such as our present culture, religion, habits and other contemporary ways of thinking that did not exist or else were moulded in different forms and concepts.
            The development from the early Stone Age to the Stone Age in its highest level and that of the later Stone Age does not reflect the same progress in all parts of the world. There were those advanced societies that moved forward and also those societies who, in their environment or isolation could not keep pace with the rest. Other parts of the world remained uninhabited and had to wait for hundreds of years to be visited by man. A clear case in point is the events of civilization in Malta. Man started to build the temples at around 5,600 years ago while the first pyramid in Egypt was built 4,530 years ago and Stonehenge in Britain was built 4,000 years ago. Writing way back in 1781, Edward Gibbon declared that Stonehenge was transported by giants from Africa to Ireland, and later on moved again to Britain by the order of Ambrosius, and the art of Merlin.[1] Geoffrey Ashe agrees with Gibbon and comments that, “In the far-off times before the Trojans, when the giants came from Africa, they settled in Ireland as well as Albion’s isle. The finest monument of their whole race was the work of its Irish branch. These had brought with them a cargo of immense, long-shaped African stones, which they stood upright in a circle on a hill in County Kildare.”[2] The temples of the Maltese archipelago are the oldest, unique stone structures in the world. Further on we’ll read that giants also feature in Maltese legends, and the huge stones mentioned by Ashe can still be admired in the Maltese temples.
The international society is going through a similar process today when we consider what is happening around us compared with the slow progress in Third World countries where in certain areas, living is still almost similar to that of Neolithic societies. But while society is advancing, there are evil elements that seem to push it towards its own destruction. Good and evil move forward together at the same rhythm. In that way, a society may move closer to the edge of self-destruction. Progress is not a free process. Nothing happens on its own, but is due to the cause and effect of decisions, ambitions and advancements of generations after generations. This scenery is better understood if we look at the pains suffered by humanity during the last two world wars, and  understand that with the progress achieved during the past fifty years, another world war can easily eradicate humanity.
            The Maltese islands are made up of Malta, Gozo and Commino which are inhabited, while Comminotto, Filfla and the island of Selmunett or Saint Paul’s are barren. There are various interpretations of how the islands of this archipelago got their names, and it is appropriate to see beyond the explanations given. The name Malta was often written Melit, Melite, Melitae, while Diodorus Siculus calls it Melita. In his writing, Siculus praised the Maltese artisans as highly skilled craftsmen in various trades. Apart from the Semitic grassroots it is believed that this name came from the Near East. Early last century, Father Emanuel Magri collected information from aged people in Maltese villages who used to pronounce the word, Môlta in the vernacular, derived from the word Malet, that means jimlat (provides shelter). This name or nickname may indicate that the island was a rocky and barren place becoming greener with cultivation; or may also mean a haven (stkenn), since from the beginning navigators used to find refuge in our ports.[3] (Add A.A.Caruana) Later on after further research, Father Magri found that around 150 years before present (b.p.) or 2,150 years ago those people had the Phoenician’s alphabet (Feneh or Fenici) and the letters ANN,[4] meaning ship and, insisted that:
            "The first one is alef, that can be read as an A, or in Maltese as an H; but in the word you have to add the vowels, because our forefathers never used vowels. So you either get ’ANIN, or HANIN, or ’ANAN, choose whatever you want and you will find a word, that after thousands of years during which that name was never mentioned, it is not strange that it became ONINU, to make it similar to the word Ta or with T-oninu. Anan is a name which used to be given by the Jews, and so did our forefathers.
            Now what can be the meaning of Anan or Anin used on the coins of our capital city, since it is not its name? In those days when these coins were in circulation, man used to reproduce the face and name of the city builders on their coins…and on our coins one finds a bearded man who might have been T-Aninu’s father.
            I still cannot say the last word about all this.
            The wise men of the world argue quite a lot about the three letters ANN."[5]
            Regarding Gozo’s name, De Soldanis wrote that it came from the word Gaulos, when he said that in the olden days this small island was called Caula, Cauda and Caudex. Strabo called it Gaudos while Diadorus Siculus called it Gaulo. Although he mentioned the legend of Ulysses written by Homer and the link of the island of Gozo with that of Ogygia, the historian preferred not to comment on Homer’s poetic legend.[6]
The Maltese Islands together total to around 320 square kilometers. Their position almost in the centre of the Mediterranean puts them 96 kilometers to the south of Sicily and 290 kilometers to the north of Libya. Most of the land is low with small fields sheltered within low rubble walls, with a lot of barren land, deep dry valleys and cliffs towards the south west. But still, the islands have many bays and useful ports that over the past millennia attracted many powerful empires.[7] The climate is mostly warm and becomes colder between December and February when the islands enjoy most of the annual rainfall of about 600 millimeters. The air is humid. All these ingredients together with the geographical position give an identity to the Maltese islands that distinguishes them from other islands in the Mediterranean and also from the lands whose shores are in the Mediterranean sea.
            In order to sum up the results from various ideas and investigations in an effort to recreate the situation of Malta in the Mediterranean context of 12,000 years ago, it seems not only fair to consider that Malta, Gozo and Commino were part of a larger piece of land, but also that that land was Atlantis. So one must note that:
1.       The Maltese soil was not imported to the islands, and in spite of their size, throughout the ages it was not swept towards the sea;
2.       The formation of the wide and deep valleys that move towards the north east;
3.       The faults, mainly the grand fault traversing from Fomm ir-Rih to Madliena;
4.       The sharp falls of the cliffs looking towards Filfla similar to those in Gozo;
5.       The mysterious network of the cart-ruts some of which continue under sea-level or towards the edge of cliffs;
6.       The number of sholes out at sea around the islands;
7.       The vast quantity of elephant and hippopotamus bones found at Ghar Dalam and other caves.
            When investigating prehistory, the easiest solution is to believe that those bygone societies lived in isolated dark caves. The way history is taught in our schools reflects the type of rational analysis in the eighteenth century when man managed to break certain frontiers, especially in the fields of science when he measured the circumference of the earth. In fact it was the Greek scholar Eratosthenses (276-194 b.p.) who determined the circumference of the Earth to be 252,000 stadia, and also measured with accuracy the tilt of the earth’s axis and its distance from the sun and moon.
Recent and still on going research showed that there were societies who we never believed that they could have survived. Some societies had the ability to measure the days to form the calendar, draft maps for navigation, and things we thought were only invented during the last three hundred years. Archaeological finds brought to light societies that reflected a cultural origin and a history woven with technological advancements still to be observed in the pottery for their daily needs to the construction of tools and colossal temples built with huge stones. Gradually most of what was considered to be myth or legend, such as Troy, the story of Homer and Virgil, the legend of King Arthur and others proved to be part of our history. So we would not be day-dreaming if we persist in researching about a world advanced civilization or a civilization concentrated in one locality which later on spread to other countries by trading with the rest of the world.
Studying old maps such as those by Piri Re’is, Lehudi Ibn Ben Zara of Alexandria, those by Hipparchus and Claudius Ptolemy and others show that they might have worked on old lost maps that served as guidelines. Turkish Admiral Piri Re’is map dating early in 1500 shows different geographical details including the shores of Antarctica when it was not covered with ice. This indicates that Piri Re’is consulted maps drawn by a lost civilization with knowledge about Antarctica and these maps suffered the same destiny of many ancient libraries. Amongst these we find the library of Alexandria erected in 300 b.p. and was burnt three times. The destruction and vandalism occurred during the reign of Julius Caesar, later on by Catholic fanatics and finally the library was totally annihilated in the seventh century when the Arabs conquered Egypt. The Roman Empire had its share in the destruction of the library in Carthage in 146 b.p. and so another gold mine of information and evidence about early Mediterranean civilizations was lost. But it seems that from the few samples of written knowledge that survived, there is ample evidence that the people of this civilization were so advanced to be able to produce their own maps. This means that they had boats for navigation, and also shows that their culture was a developed one.[8]
            It is part of the traditional Maltese culture as a small island to either overestimate the performance and individual abilities, or else lose confidence and prefer foreign to local services and products. This research will demand a balanced view. We need to be self critical, above all, able to select and sift right from wrong. As a starting point on this voyage where we are about to tread and search for the lost old events before the islands of Malta took their present form, it will be best to quote one of the conclusions reached by Professor John Borg. This great Maltese botanist and scholar who made a name for himself and his country, in one of his essays written early in the twentieth century, stated that:
            "Finally the tradition of the submerged Atlantis to which many ancient writers refer, and which when deprived of its legendary character will be found to apply to the submerged land between Malta and Africa. This submersion must have happened in the quaternary period, and at an epoch when the land was already inhabited by a civilized prehistoric people of which the Kabyli and Berbers of North Africa are possibly the survivors. It is the duty of local archaeologists to try to unravel this legend and to separate the real from the unreal; and I am confident that the solution of this mystery will throw much light on the significance of the prehistoric monuments in Malta and the other countries bordering the Mediterranean."[9]
            In the narration of Saint Paul’s shipwreck, described by Saint Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, translater P.P.Saydon added a note that the Greek word Barbaroi referred to people that spoke any foreign language that was not Greek. From various inscriptions it is believed that in those days the Maltese used to speak a Punic tongue derived from the Phoenician language.
            Many conclude that with the passage of time it is more difficult to get answers for various questions. It might be more difficult if the subject under observation apart from falling victim to natural elements such as earthquakes, has been handled and tackled many times by some who expressed different opinions. But in the case of Malta, the geologists, archaeologists and researchers have no excuses. They still have the islands and the surrounding shores and shallow seas to investigate. In this context we are going to investigate the forgotten dark corners where we hope to find the key that opens the gateway on ancient events.
            What would have been the size of the Maltese islands if they did not suffer the strong tremours along the south westerly coast? What was the meaning and purpose of the cart-ruts before most of them where buried or destroyed while others sank due to the changes in sea levels? What remains unrevealed in the solitude of the temples and from what point of view should we observe them to understand the capabilities of their builders? What explanations exist for the depth and directional slope of the valleys that empty their waters towards the north east? What solutions are missing to decipher the meaning of the spirals, the small statues and figurines, the stone from Tal-Qâdi and the stone from Hagar Qim sculptured on four sides with the tree of life? What should we look for at Ghar Dalam to recreate the scenario of 12,000 years ago? What upheavels occurred in the Mediterranean and what are the remains on the Maltese shores that may indicate the events suffered by our forefathers? What strength and methods were used by the temple builders to plan, quarry, dress, carry and handle the huge stones that form the dolmens and the temple walls? Who and how were established the legends about giants, the golden calf and the Maltese boat?
            Professor Themistocles Zammit, a pioneer of Maltese archaeology and first curator at the Museum of Archaeology, always insisted that the Maltese islands were a commercial hub in the Mediterranean. Apart from their stategic position, Zammit took into consideration the great number of temples on such small islands, the availability of their ports and above all the tremendous amount of remains found at Ghar Dalam. He wrote:
            "…it is well to give a summary description of the prehistoric monuments which still exist in order to show how thickly populated these islands were in early days, and how advanced were the primitive inhabitants in the art of building and in that of making pottery. Of a Paleolithic civilization we have not yet any convincing proofs, although potsherds and, presumably, worked stones have been found in connection with exuviae of locally extinct animals, such as the elephant and the hippopotamus."[10]
            Around 3,500 years ago and maybe a little earlier as well, the Phoenicians, a highly cultured civilization based on commerce and navigation, visited the Maltese islands. Father Magri never believed in the name Phoenicians which was given to them by the Greeks but was of the opinion that their real name was Feneh. He also came to the conclusion that a branch of these people came to the Maltese islands at around 1,700 b.p. when the islands were not inhabited. Magri goes on to recall that our forefathers were called Saracens (Saracini from the word Xarakijun, that means from the East). In the same manner the wind blowing from Syria known as the south east was baptised Xlokk from the word Sirocc.[11] In 822 b.p. the mighty Phoenicians began to lose power and the Maltese islands fell in the hands of the Carthagenians while some time later emerged the Roman Empire. Because of the greediness for power and supremacy in the Mediterranean, in a stretch of one hundred years between 264 to 146 b.p. three Punic wars were fought in which Carthage was destroyed and the Maltese islands were conquered by the Roman Empire at around 216 b.p.
            It so happened that towards the end of the Punic wars, Rome had already been influenced by the administrative model, costumes and lifestyle, of the Greeks. It is believed that Greek ideas had already reached the Maltese shores way back during the Phoenician period, and a cippus found at Marsaxlokk, Malta had inscriptions of both languages. Magri, who was well read, also wrote that the Greeks picked a lot from our forefather’s sayings and that some of the Maltese tales and narrative stories are far wiser than those of the Greeks. To submit further reference that the Maltese islands were in the centre of the happenings of past millennia, and that they influenced renowned cultures such as those of the Greeks and Egyptians, Magri continued to write that: "…the Maltese and the Maltese rulers used to dress our gods like those of the Egyptians, and this custom continued up to the time of the coming of Christ, as everyone can notice on the Maltese coins manufactured during the first years of the cruel Roman administration."[12]
            It is estimated that locally produced coins during the Roman period date after 212 b.p. The deity on these coins was attributed to Melkart, Eshmun and even Baal Hammon; but all scholars seem to agree on the Punic letters ANN stamped on them. The figure represented in the following issues were all female goddesses including Isis, Tanit and Juno.  So, in spite of the change in administration the Punic influence was still evident for most of the Roman occupation.[13]
It is obvious today that although quite a lot of research has been done and written about ancient Malta, this is not enough. Many new finds must be given credit, new sites explored and old ideas re-discussed. The cisterns found at Misqa, around 200 meters towards the north of the temple of Mnajdra stimulate the mind of any researcher. At this location, Dr. Louis Vella found a five meter graffiti of a hawk, the image of a man, a flower, another type of unknown animal and a snake.[14] Apart from the resemblance of these graffiti with those of the Egyptians mostly regarding the hawk and the snake, they also remind us of such drawings found in caves in the Mediterranean area - all of them reflecting the first symbolic expressions of early man who tried to communicate by means of these images! Other related links with these two civilizations is the Maltese dog also known locally as Kelb tal-Fenek (Rabbit hunting Dog). Incidentally, when bread elsewhere the name Rabbit Dog was unacceptable and so it was registered as Pharaoh Hound. The Greek writers Pliny and Strabo both mention the Maltese dog who was believed that it cured human ailments. Back in 1647, Maltese historian G. F. Abela wrote about this particular dog. Here it is interesting to note that this dog’s tail is curled similar to the Maltese spirals. Another point to investigate is the Maltese bull or ox.
Our forefathers, who everyone thought that they had no language, surely had some means of communication developed by their tools and trades. Modern humans appeared some two hundred years ago while their development towards modern behaviour started not more than 50,000 years ago. Deacon writes: "In the two million years since the introduction of symbolic communication, alternative modes for expressing symbolic information have been in competition with one another, much in the way that alternative pronunciation of words compete for representation in future generations."[15]
            It will be very unrealistic to presume that the temple builders who, apart from building the temples studied and planned where, how and why to build the temples, simply with just some sort of sign language. So the civilization that inhabited the landmass which included the Maltese islands had a spoken language and the basic elements of written signs. After all that is why we classify it as prehistory, because history was not written. Then, as we shall see in the following chapters, most of this early civilization vanished together with most of the landmass. Then, the remaining few survivors on these small islands must have been visited by various peoples including those from Anatolia and Sicily with the greatest influence coming from Sidon and Tyrol, the principal Phoenician cities. So that old language which must have been used by the temple builders became gradually interwoven with the Phoenician language. Later on came the Punic, a Semitic offshoot of the Phoenician. All this shows that the Maltese language was a living language like all the other languages that have common characteristics, and which cannot be claimed to be Phoenician or Arabic. But there is a difference between race and language. So all this will never hint at who are or who were the Maltese. To carry on with this research it would be wiser to tackle the question of race and origin of the first inhabitants in another chapter.        
This leads us to cross-examine two paths that we have to take at the same time. First that we still are not sure about the first people that lived on the Maltese islands or a bigger land continent, before the arrival of the Phoenicians; and what happened to that population if the Phoenicians found the islands almost uninhabited. Secondly, that in the interval between the date when Solon visited Egypt and the time when Plato wrote Timaeus and Critias, the Mediterranean countries went through successive changes while Malta had already established itself above certain cultures which were considered far greater. So, the wars, manipulations and greed for power, strategic position and colonization were the sole priorities expressed in the major works of the authors who transmitted the historical events in their writings.





[1] Gibbon, Edward The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Vol.II (1994) p. 495.
[2] Ashe, Geoffrey Mythology of the British Isle (2001) p. 31.
[3] Magri, Emanuel S.J. X’jgħid il-Malti jew Ħrejjef Missirijietna - Mogħdija taż-Żmien, Nru. 29(1903) p.21.
[4] Jobes, Gertrude Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore and Symbols (1962) Vol. 1, p. 99 The author writes: "Feminine name from the Greek, meaning grace. Also derived from An (Sun) and from Ana, Chaldean for heaven, Sanskrit for mother and from Anu, Assyrian for All-Father. "
[5] Magri, E. X’jgħid il-Malti fuq Missirijietna u l-Iġganti M.Ż. No. 38-39, (1904) p.107-8.
[6] Agius, De Soldanis Gozo: Ancient and Modern Religious and Profane (written in 1746). See the English version of 1998, Vol.1 p.42.
[7] Apart from the civilization or civilizations of prehistory, the Maltese Islands were co-habited or ruled by the Phoenicians in 850 b.p.; Carthaginians 690 b.p.; Romans in 218 b.p.; Byzantines 395-870; Arabs 870-1090; Normans 1090-114; Hofenstaufen of Swabia 1194-1268; Angovines 1268-1284; Aragonese 1284-1412; Castellanians 1412-1530; Knights of St. John 1530-1798; French 1798-1799 and finally the British from 1800-1979.
[8] Hapgood, Charles H. Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings (1996) p.193.
[9] Borg, John Remains of the Prehistoric Flora of Malta (1910) p.43.
[10] Macmillan, Allister Malta and Gibraltar Illustrated (1915) p.186. Article written by Temi Zammit.
[11] Magri, M.Z. (1904) Nr. 38-39, p.9-10.
[12] Magri, M.Z. No. 38-39, pp.121-122.
[13] Sammut, Joseph C. Currency in Malta (2001), p.2.
[14] The Sunday Times, 22.10.2000, pp.56-7, Prehistoric petroglyphs found near Misqa 'tanks' on the Maghlaq plateau, written by Dr. Louis Vella.
[15] Deacon, Terrence, The Symbolic Species (1997) p. 353.

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