Ancient architectural wonders: The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni

Picturing prehistoric people as barbaric tribes without access to the technology we enjoy today is easy. Yet every now and then, particular archeological finds challenge this very notion, proving that prehistoric humans may have had access to knowledge that remains a mystery even now. Take the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum for example.

The Hypogeum is an underground megalithic structure composed of chambers connected by corridors. Carved out of solid rock, some of its structures reach up to three storeys. Located in Malta, it was brought to modern light in the early 20th century.

The Hypogeum is an architectural wonder for several reasons. For one, no one knows exactly when it was built, but many believe that it is prehistoric in origin. This means that it may have been constructed using primitive stone tools. Additionally, it is equipped with features that are baffling even to today’s scientists.

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It contains an aperture that allows the sun to fully illuminate its interiors only during the Winter Solstice, or the shortest day of the year. That in itself connotes precise astronomical knowledge.

Even more fascinating is the Hypogeum’s acoustics.

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It contains a “speaking chamber,” a small room which was designed to reverberate the human voice and cause it to be heard across the entire structure. Apparently, this effect is limited to sounds between the 95 to 120 Hz range, which means that it worked mostly for male voices. Additionally, it was observed that the reverberations could stimulate the creative center of the brain, leading many to believe that the Hypogeum may have been originally built for religious purposes.

There is much to be discussed about the Hypogeum, but one thing is readily apparent. The whole structure was designed using knowledge that was too advanced for its time. Who designed the Hypogeum and how he or she designed it, we can only guess.

The world is full of marvels, some of which I’ll cover in this Steve N. Heyer blog post. Follow me on Twitter to get updated when I post more discussions on architecture.


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