National Museum of Archaeology

Top choice in Valletta

Sleeping lady statue, Museum of Archaeology, Valletta, Malta.

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The National Museum of Archaeology is housed in the impressive Auberge de Provence. Exhibits include delicate stone tools dating from 5200 BC, Phoenician amulets and an amazing temple model from Ta' Haġrat – a prehistoric architectural maquette. More impressive still are the beautifully modelled prehistoric figurines that were found locally. Best is the Sleeping Lady, found at the Hypogeum, which is around 5000 years old. It shows a recumbent woman with her head propped on one arm, apparently deep in slumber.

The 'fat ladies' sculptures, found at Ħaġar Qim, have massive rounded thighs and arms, but tiny, doll-like hands and feet. They wear pleated skirts and sit with their legs tucked neatly to one side. The so-called Venus de Malta, also from Ħaġar Qim, is about 10cm tall and displays remarkably realistic modelling. There are also beautiful stone friezes from the Tarxien Temples.

Upstairs displays showcase the coarser pottery from the Bronze Age, animal figurines and jewellery, as well as information on the island's mysterious cart ruts.