Malta has a very rich history, going back to pre-historic times. Many unique megalithic temples from the pre-historic age can still be found on the islands of Malta and Gozo.
During this time, Malta is seen as part of a land-bridge connecting Europe to Africa. The part of the land-bridge connection Malta to Africa was the first to disappear. The land-bridge connecting Malta to Europe disappeared later. This is based on fossils of animals dating back to 250,000 B.C. found in a cave known as "Ghar Dalam" (the cave of darkness.) It is assumed that these animals traveled south during the Ice Age and settled in Malta until they became extinct. Fossils of animals found in the cave include those of dwarf elephants, bears, wolves, hippopotamus and hyenas
The prehistory of Malta is divided into a number of phases named after the sites were archeological sites have been discovered.
Ghar Dalam Phase (3800 - 2600 B.C.)
It is thought that Neolithic people crossed to Malta from Sicily during this period. These people, who were very primitive farmers lived in caves and grottos found around the island although evidence shows that they also lived in open settlements. This period is known by the name of the cave where their remains have been found.
Skorba Phase (3600 - 3200 B.C.)
During this phase changes in the way the early inhabitants of Malta lived became evident. During this period inhabitants started living in huts in small villages. The type of pottery used by the Maltese of this period altered greatly.
Zebbug Phase (3200 - 3000 B.C.)
A fresh influx of people arrived prior to 3200 B.C. This phase belongs to the Copper Age. During this phase, use of flint for tools, obsidian and red ochre used for decorating temples was common.
Mgarr Phase (3000 - 2800 B.C.)
During this phase another change in the way the inhabitants of the islands lived became evident. This is defined by a special type of pottery in use during this period.
Ggantija Phase (2800 - 2400 B.C.)
This phase is named after the huge and elaborate temple found on the island of Gozo. This temple is named Ggantija because of the huge blocks of limestone (some as high as twenty feet) used to form the walls of the temple. Temples built during this era tended to be very large and architecturally elaborate. They were mostly constructed of huge slabs of limestone rocks brought to the sites from nearby quarries. The Ggantija temples predate Stoneheng by over 1,000 years and are amongst the oldest free standing buildings in the world. These temples were already in existence at the time when the great pyramids of Giza were being built.
Saflieni and Tarxien Phases (2400 - 1800 B.C.)
The Ggantija Phase evolved into the Saflieni Phase, named after the unique subterranean temple known as the Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni. This temple is completely hewn out of the soft limestone rock found in Malta. It is about 1,600 square feet in area and consists of three layers reaching a depth of around forty feet.
Tarxien Cemetery Phase (1800 - 1400 B.C.)
All traces of these temple builders was lost around 1800 B.C. Bronze Age people supplanted the previous inhabitants of the islands. The newcomer’s culture was more advanced since they used metal implements. This phased is named after the graves these people built on the site of the Tarxien temple.
Borg in-Nadur Phase (1400 - 800 B.C.)
This phase is named after the settlement were a new people arriving to the islands lived. There are eight known settlement from this period.
Phoenician Period (800 - 218 B.C.)
The history of Malta has been enriched by the various cultures brought to Malta by its occupiers throughout the centuries. The modern historical period of Malta starts with the Phoenicians. The Phoenicians are thought to have settled in Malta around 800 B.C. The Punic colony lasted until 218 B.C.
Roman Period (218 B.C. - A.D. 870)
During this period, Malta's value as a naval base was established by the Romans. The Romans considered the Maltese as their allies and granted the islands Roman municipality status. The most significant historical event of this period and one that changed the historical course of the islands, is the conversion of the Maltese people to Christianity after St. Paul and St. Luke were shipwrecked in Malta on their way to Rome.
Arab Period (A.D. 870 - 1090)
The Arabs conquered Malta around 870 A.D. The Arabs did not leave any monuments or any remains of significance behind them.
Medieval Period (A.D. 1090 - 1282)
Count Roger the Norman conquered Malta in 1090. Count Roger brought the Maltese back into the European fold. During this period, Malta became a fiefdom of a string of Sicilian kings. At one point, Malta was passed to Charles of Anjou, St. Louis' brother. The French continued to hold Malta until they were dislodged by Peter I of Aragon.
Spanish Period (A.D. 1282 - 1530)
During this period, the Maltese islands continued to be given in fief to absentee noblemen. During this time the population of Malta stood at around 9,000.