Prehistoric aliens in Malta? Hypogeum’s trove of elongated skulls to get cutting-edge study

Fact v fiction: The elongated skulls found at the Ħal Saflieni hypogeum will be studied in an interdisciplinary collaboration between Malta and Australia

Skull from Hypogeum (Heritage Malta, Daniel Cilia)
Skull from Hypogeum (Heritage Malta, Daniel Cilia)

Elongated skulls discovered in 1926 by Temi Zammit at the Ħal Saflieni hypogeum have long been the source of multiple conspiracy theories.

Described by Zammit as being “of the long variety (dolichocephalic)”, the more extremist of these conspiracies suggests the skulls belong to aliens.

Debunked by researchers over the years, however, the alien myth continues to survive.

Yet others have suggested the skulls belonged to a people with a culture that deliberately modified and elongated skulls, similar to the bound Peruvian skulls.

Less than 20 skulls out of a prospective 7,000 people survive till this day and the first-ever interdisciplinary analysis of the remains aims to sift science fact from fiction.

The study will be carried out between Heritage Malta, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and Macquarie University of Sydney, Australia.

The project has received a grant of €6,000 from the Union Académique Internationale and is part of the celebration of the Union’s centenary this year. The grant was awarded to Associate Professor Ronika Power of Maquarie University.

The project entitled The Sentinels of Ħal Saflieni, Malta: Science Facts versus Science Fiction will finally give the deserved attention to these skulls and will set the record straight on their condition and origins.

The project will see the combination of traditional archaeological, historical and archival research with cutting-edge scientific analysis to investigate all the aspects of the lived experiences of the people of Ħal Saflieni, including their health, disease, lifestyle, diet and ancestry profiles.

The Ħal Saflieni hypogeum is a multi-level subterranean Neolithic burial ritual complex located in Paola. It dates back to around 4,000 to 2,500 BC and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Heritage Malta said in a statement on Monday that the hypogeum is “indisputably a place of global significance for understanding the evolution of intellect, creativity, technology and culture at the key stage when human groups across the region were making the critical transition to agricultural subsistence strategies”.