A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Some 60 megaliths at Mnajdra, a 5,000-year-old Neolithic temple complex on Malta, were toppled by vandals this past April. Chief suspects are bird hunters, whose access to the area has been challenged by Malta's museums department in recent years. The Maltese islands, between Africa and Europe, are frequented by migratory birds that hunters have long trapped from small stone shelters that dot the landscape around the temples. The practice has come under increasing criticism by environmentalists as well as the museums department, which views the shelters as incompatible with the archaeological park intended for Mnajdra and Hagar Qim, a nearby temple complex.
The attack came after years of political wrangling about the need for greater protection of Malta's Neolithic monuments, which are collectively listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The vandals cut through a fence to gain access to the site, which is in a rural area of Malta; a lone night guard was at Hagar Qim at the time of the attack. Security has been stepped up at Mnajdra, with construction of a guard house and the installation of lights and a new fence. Assessment of how to restore the temple complex is now underway.