Predating the Pyramids at Giza in Egypt by about 1000 years and Britain’s Stonehenge by a similar period, the temple at Hagar Qim, along with its sister temples on the tiny island of Malta, is widely considered the oldest stone structure standing anywhere in the world. And like the Gizan Pyramids and Stonehenge, Hagar Qim is a place of almost unimaginable and incomprehensible early human craftsmanship and engineering prowess. Deliberately positioned on a hilltop vantage point overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, the main 5,500 year old megalithic temple dates back to between 3600 and 3200 BCE, although an earlier ruined temple to the north of the site is significantly older. Translating from the Maltese as ‘standing stones’ or ‘worshiping stones’, the structure also contains artistic treasures that have changed the way archaeologists look at this period of our shared history within its C-shaped rooms.A retaining wall of huge slabs of local limestone more than 10 feet high encloses the rooms, accessed through a paved entrance way of equally massive stones. So large are they, in fact, that a seventeenth-century investigation of the structure determined that it must have been built and inhabited by a population of giants. The facade contains the largest stone used in any of Malta’s megalithic temples, with an estimated weight of 57 tons, while a slender ‘menhir’ standing stone soars over the complex with a height of 17 feet.Large and beautifully carved spheres of stone, perhaps used as rollers, dot the site. Structural stones around altar spaces are decorated with crisp spiral designs and marked with regular drilled dots that give the impression of a leopard’s markings. The altars themselves suggest animal sacrifices due to their concave shape.Several finely-carved statues of the female figure (now housed in the National Museum of Archaeology in the capital just a few miles away) including one called the ‘Venus of Malta’ or the ‘Fat Lady’ also suggest a link to the cult of Venus that spread across Europe during the period.
Category - Culture
Streets are full of unnoticed letters most often hand-made or designed long ago. The Lettering da is a project which put together a collection of letters, numbers and street inscriptions, whose design and typography is then analyzed and redesigned. It started in 2012 by Silvia Virgillo and was born from her fascination with urban typographic elements visible in the public space. Its aim is to create a photographic archive of letters focusing on design that mirrors the historical period in which they originated. The project begun in Turin, birthplace of Silvia, and then spread to other Italian cities like Milan, Genoa, Mater, Venice, Rome, Faenza, Trieste, and Lecce. Each of these cities has its own curator, with a graphic education background and a passion for letter design. The curator’s task is to collect the material in the city, and then prepare it for the archives. It is later redesigned and made available in a web archive; the project is transparent and accessible to everyone. Every city has its Lettering da Facebook page that a particular curator regulates. The process of preparing material for the archive involves the digital transcription of letters, which are then compared with existing fonts. Then, their exact location as well as their origin and purpose are determined, documented and given a number. This project is just the starting point for what’s planned to be achieved in the future: designing completely new typographic letters inspired by city typography, hand-made or taken from a non-digitized alphabet.Lettering da is constantly growing because of the rich city typography of Italy, and many cities will join the project in the future. The desire of the curator is to bring the citizens closer to the treasures they pass on a daily basis, so that the typography of the cities will receive their deserved attention and respect. In addition to archiving and designing, this team also organizes various events, exhibitions, workshops, bicycle tours, which support this basic idea of promoting city inscriptions.
Italians are known for their passion, their enthusiasm, their joie de vivre. This love of food, wine, art, romance and indulgence feels deeply ingrained in the modern Italian’s being, a genetic thread that runs through the country’s citizens. And where does this inherent hedonism come from? One can surely point to the ancient Italian city of Baia as one of the epicenters of Italian culture. Originally called Baiae and located on the Gulf of Naples, Baia served as an ancient Ibiza for the most elite and notable Romans during the Roman Empire. As a coastal town with a nearby volcano that created natural hot springs through the area, it was the perfect spot for emperors to unwind (and get into trouble). Roman engineers harnessed the hot springs’ healing effects for saunas and bath houses. The Romans built casinos and visitors hosted beachfront bacchanals that lasted all night long where the wine flowed and food was abundant. It was a party town in the purest sense, though it never attained legal municipal status.