), is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea.
It lies 80 km (50 mi) south of Italy, 284 km (176 mi) east of Tunisia, and 333 km (207 mi) north of Libya.
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Under the Malta Independence Act, passed by the British Parliament in 1964, Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom as an independent sovereign Commonwealth realm, officially known from 1964 to 1974 as the State of Malta, with Elizabeth II as its head of state. The extinction of the dwarf hippos and dwarf elephants has been linked to the earliest arrival of humans on Malta.
The country became a republic in 1974, and although no longer a Commonwealth realm, remains a current member state of the Commonwealth of Nations. The population on Malta grew cereals, raised livestock and, in common with other ancient Mediterranean cultures, worshiped a fertility figure represented in Maltese prehistoric artefacts exhibiting the proportions seen in similar statuettes, including the Venus of Willendorf.
Malta was admitted to the United Nations in 1964 and to the European Union in 2004; in 2008, it became part of the Eurozone. Pottery from the Għar Dalam phase is similar to pottery found in Agrigento, Sicily.
Malta has a long Christian legacy and its Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Malta is claimed to be an apostolic see because, according to the Acts of the Apostles, Malta is a popular tourist destination with its warm climate, numerous recreational areas, and architectural and historical monuments, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, in reference to Malta's many bays and coves. A culture of megalithis temple builders then either supplanted or arose from this early period.
Few other etymological mentions appear in classical literature, with the term Malta appearing in its present form in the Antonine Itinerary (Itin. Around the time of 3500 BC, these people built some of the oldest existing free-standing structures in the world in the form of the megalithic Ġgantija temples on Gozo; The temples have distinctive architecture, typically a complex trefoil design, and were used from 4000 to 2500 BCE.
Animal bones and a knife found behind a removable altar stone suggest that temple rituals included animal sacrifice.Tentative information suggests that the sacrifices were made to the goddess of fertility, whose statue is now in the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.The culture apparently disappeared from the Maltese Islands around 2500 BC.Archaeologists speculate that the temple builders fell victim to famine or disease, but this is not certain.Another interesting archaeological feature of the Maltese islands often attributed to these ancient builders, are equidistant uniform grooves dubbed "cart tracks" or "cart ruts" which can be found in several locations throughout the islands with the most prominent being those found in Misraħ Għar il-Kbir, which is informally known as "Clapham Junction".These may have been caused by wooden-wheeled carts eroding soft limestone.