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The Hypogeum at Hal-Saflieni (Paola) was originally an underground chamber used by Neolithic people to bury their dead.

The site originated some 6000 years ago, when a natural cave was adapted for burial. Later on, excavations were made downwards to a depth of 11 metres.

The site was discovered in 1902. It is made up of three superimposed levels of curvilinear form. The upper level consists of the original cavities, which resemble the earlier rockcut tombs, existing elsewhere on the island.

The middle level was hewn out during the temple period (3800 - 2500 BC ).It is made up of several compartments of which one has the semblance of a megalithic temple sculpted in the rock.

An anti-chamber was used both for burial and as a lobby, or meeting place. Another compartment served as Holy of Holies -the sacred chamber of the place. Its carved facade is formed of four uprights supporting a curved lintel, over a small door leading to an inner recess.The delicate workmanship, and the concept of a sculpted temple, render this part of the Hypogeum a unique gem of prehistoric archaeology.

The lower level is a maze of covert chambers, septal walls and rock - tombs. No use seems to have been made of this section, as the whole neolithic community was somehow exterminated at about 2500 BC when this crypt was still under construction.

The large quantity of human bone deposits found on this site indicate that over 7000 persons have been buried here.

Many statuettes, amulets, figurines, vases and other objects have been recovered. Much of this material is now in the showcases of the Valletta Archaeological Museum.

At the time of publication, the monument is closed to the public due to restoration works.

Text courtesy of the National Tourism Organisation - Malta.