For most people, Stonehenge stands as a symbol for the most ancient of civilizations, the work of humans who had barely emerged from their hunter-gatherer origins. Those people might well be surprised to know just how many mysterious buildings survive, in one form or another, from much earlier epochs—and in places few would even dare to look.
10. Tarxien Temples
The Tarxien Temples are set amid the built-up neighborhood of Paola, just half an hour from Valletta, the capital of Malta. Less well-known than the Ggantija Temples and nearby underground Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni, these aboveground buildings are the most complex of all the ancient temple sites in Malta.
There are three temples at Tarxien, all different ages, with the oldest dating to 3250 BC. The mystery lies in the beliefs of the people who constructed them. Were they simply artistic structures, suggested by the intricate and beautiful animal carvings that can be seen there, or did they serve a Sun god? Perhaps they were a homage to an obese fertility goddess, whose corpulent figure crops up so often at the site.
The Tarxien temples were discovered accidentally by a farmer in 1913 and have since been carefully restored, though they are still open to the elements. A tent and flood protection have been proposed for the temples, but for the moment, they remain within view of the azure sky and the ever-staring Sun.