Heritage Malta is organising guided tours of Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra on June 21 starting at around 5.30 a.m. to mark the summer solstice.

Only 50 people will be allowed in the two temples: 40 at Mnajdra and 10 at Ħagar Qim.

Heritage Malta said that sunrise on the first day of each season underlines the relationship between the temples and celestial bodies. Although it is not known for certain whether these orientations were intentional, they are so systematic that this is most probable.

In prehistoric agricultural societies, observation of the motion of the stars, the moon and sun could have been related to the changing seasons and times of planting and harvesting of crops.

On June 21, the first rays of the sun light up the edge of a megalith found to the left of the central doorway connecting the first pair of chambers to the inner chamber of the lower Mnajdra temple.

At the same time, at Ħaġar Qim, sunlight passes through a hole known as the oracle hole which opens onto a chamber on the northeast side of the structure. Here the sun's rays project a disk of light onto a stone slab at the entrance to the apse. As the minutes pass, the disc becomes a crescent, then elongates into an ellipse, elongates still further and finally sinks out of sight as if into the ground.

Tickets selling for €11.65 (Lm5) for the public and €5.83 (Lm2.50) for Heritage Malta members are available strictly on a first come first served basis from Heritage Malta sites including the head office, Old University Buildings, Merchants Street, Valletta by June 13. For inquiries call 2295 4000.

http://www.heritagemalta.org

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