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Title: Water, geomythology and cosmology in late Neolithic Malta
Authors: Grima, Reuben
Keywords: Malta -- Antiquities
Antiquities, Prehistoric -- Malta
Megalithic temples -- Malta
Architecture, Ancient -- Malta
Megalithic monuments -- Malta
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: UCL Institute of Archaeology
Citation: Grima, R. (2016). Water, geomythology and cosmology in late Neolithic Malta. Accordia Research Papers, 14, 27-48.
Abstract: Water is one of the most widely encountered elements in the environment. Indispensable for most forms of life, its significance for humans is primordial and universal. Yet because it is so fluid and evanescent, it is sometimes under-represented in our readings of the material record of past behaviour. The present paper revisits one such example, where the use of water and its influence on human behaviour have until recently received little attention in the interpretation of the evidence (Bonanno 2009). The example comes from the prehistory of the Maltese archipelago. It promises to be an interesting case. Notwithstanding the considerable changes that the island environment has undergone since prehistory, one may still make reasoned inferences on where fresh water was more available. Furthermore, the remoteness of the example in time, together with the complete absence of written or oral evidence, make it an interesting case to explore some possibilities and limitations in the reconstruction of past attitudes to water from the material record alone. The present paper sets out to explore the question of attitudes to water among the Neolithic inhabitants of the Maltese archipelago, best known for the series of remarkable megalithic monuments they created during the 4th millennium BC and the first half of the 3rd millennium BC, usually referred to as ‘temples’ in the literature. The landscape setting of these monuments is considered below, followed by the hydrology of the archipelago, and some of the associated beliefs and toponyms that are documented from more recent periods. The prehistoric evidence for the use of water in different contexts is then examined against this background.
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