Vol 9 No 1 (2017)

Mnajdra: Cosmology of the Sky

Irene Friesen Wolfstone
Athabasca University
Published December 24, 2016


Did the astronomical knowledge embedded in Mnajdra originate in North Africa? This question guides my exploration of the cosmology that informed the design of Malta’s neolithic temples at Mnajdra. I begin by describing the archaeoastronomical features of Mnajdra, using recent research by John Cox and Tore Lomsdalen. I consider the matricentric design and artefacts that characterize Mnajdra. Secondly, I explore the astronomical and matricultural knowledge of North Africa, and discover that they are intertwined in its cosmology of primordial mother who is also Ruler of the Skies. Wendorf and Malville’s study of Nabta Playa confirms that the astronomical knowledge of North Africa dates to the neolithic. Mythological studies focus my lens on Tanit, North Africa’s earliest deity, whose veneration is both historic and contemporary in Tamazight (Berber) culture. The architecture of Mnajdra, with its intersection of astronomical and matricentric elements, reflects many aspects of North African cosmology, leading to my hypothesis that it is possible that North African astronomical knowledge informed the astronomical design of Mnajdra.