Malta – the three-island archipelago in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea -- has been ruled by many groups since it was first inhabited around 5200 BCE, including Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and Sicilians. However, long before these cultures, it was inhabited by a mysterious prehistoric group that built the world’s only known prehistoric subterranean temple -- Hal Saflieni Hypogeum – which was used as a necropolis and where archeologists found a number of elongated skulls … skulls whose origin has never been determined, leaving them open to speculation that their owners were extraterrestrials. Now, for the first time, those elongated skulls will be subjected to intense scientific study with the intention of determining their true origin.
“From an examination of the skeletons of the polished-stone age, it appears that the early inhabitants of Malta were a race of long-skulled people of lower medium height, akin to the early people of Egypt, who spread westward along the north coast of Africa, whence some went to Malta and Sicily and others to Sardinia and Spain.”
-- NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE January to June, 1920 VOLUME XXXVII
Malta Today announced that the project – called The Sentinels of Ħal Saflieni, Malta: Science Facts versus Science Fiction -- will be carried out by Heritage Malta, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and Macquarie University of Sydney, Australia. The Hal Saflieni Hypogeum was accidentally discovered in 1902 by construction workers who initially attempted to hide it. Determined to have been used from about 4000 BCE to 2500 BCE, it was excavated by a number of archeologists, including Sir Themistocles "Temi" Zammit, a noted Maltese archeologist, who documented the discovery of around 7,000 skeletons, including many with skulls that were elongated and one that was mysteriously missing a Fossa median - the join that runs along the top of the skull. Unfortunately, the remains crumbled at the touch and only about 20 skulls survived intact.
That’s where the mystery and myth surrounding these remaining elongated skulls deepens. National Geographic was able to examine some and concluded that they were from an entire long-skulled culture. A number of them were put on display in the Archaeological Museum in Valletta, the capital of Malta. In 1985, they were removed from the display by Heritage Malta, the authority responsible for Malta’s prehistoric heritage, and have never been seen in public again. While some say they’ve disappeared, Heritage Malta insists they have been available for scientific research. However, only a handful of people have actually been granted permission. Two were Dr. Anton Mifsud and Dr. Charles Savona Ventura, who published books and articles detailing the skulls’ elongation, abnormally developed temporal partitions, and drilled and swollen occiputs (back of the skull). These are apparently the skulls that will be used in the new analysis.
A physical examination of the skulls will not necessarily resolve other mysteries about their discovery. For example, the papers of the man who first found the site – Emmanuel Magri – have never been published and appear to have disappeared. The original reports of the discovery said there were 33,000 skeletons, not 7,000 – and the latter number was eventually reduced to a mere 100. Of the 20 skulls said to have survived, only six are left. What happened to the others?
Then there are the stories of giant humanoids living in hidden caverns below the already-subterranean Hal Saflieni Hypogeum and the unconfirmed disappearance of 30 children and a teacher on a school tour of the catacombs – whose cries were said to have been heard all over the island.
Let’s hope the new study can solve the origin of the elongated skulls of Malta. As for the other mysteries? Malta obviously knows how to guard its secrets.