Revisiting the Origins of Prehistoric Malta

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Revisiting the Origins of Prehistoric Malta

October 14 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm



Revisiting the Origins of Prehistoric Malta: Temples, landscapes and change: the work of the ERC Fragsus Project 2013-18.

by Professor Caroline Malone FSA

with assistance from Dr Simon Stoddart FSA, Prof Anthony Bonanno FSA, Dr Reuben Grima FSA, Prof Nicholas Vella FSA, Professor Charles French, Dr Rowan McLaughlin FSA, Prof Paula Reimer FSA, Prof Christopher Hunt, Dr Finbar McCormick FSA, Dr Anthony Pace, Dr Ronika Power FSA, and the “FRAGSUS” research team.

In 1966, the Society of Antiquaries published the monograph “Skorba” by David Trump FSA revealing new insight into the early occupation of the Maltese islands and the emergence of the astonishing Temple Culture. The radiocarbon dates opened the debate on megaliths, dating, placing the prevailing traditional views of Mycenae and Stonehenge firmly in context for the first time (Renfrew 1973).

More than fifty years later, new work, examining the first human occupation of the archipelago and the impact people had on the fragile landscape of Malta, has been the focus of a major ERC funded project, FRAGSUS, that engaged a large interdisciplinary international team of scholars. The novel and important collaboration between environmental scientists, dating specialists, biological anthropologists and archaeologists has focused on a number of key questions to explore issues of climate change and the adaptation and resilience of an early island civilization.  Four prehistoric temples were re-examined (Santa Verna (last excavated by Thomas Ashby FSA in 1911), Ggantija (last examined by John Evans FSA in the 1950s), Kordin III (excavated by Ashby and T.E. Peet FSA in 1908-9) and Skorba (excavated by Trump 1962-64)), two for the first time in a century, together with a Temple Period settlement (Tac Cawla) and a Bronze Age site (In-Nuffara). These revealed a mass of new economic and environmental samples and rich material culture, which were systematically subjected to chronological analysis through AMS dates. The excavations were supported by an extensive landscape study of environmental sediment cores, pollen and mollusc studies to reconstruct the changing environment of vegetation and soil development and erosion. The cores were systematically dated, and in total some 400 new AMS dates and a suite of OSL dates provide an important insight into the progressive devastation wrought by humans over centuries in Malta. A further interdisciplinary angle is the re-examination of a very large assemblage of Temple Period burials from the Xaghra Brochtorff Circle (excavated 1987-95 and generously supported by the Society of Antiquaries through small grants). A suite of new analysis including dietary, climate and strontium isotope work, aDNA, pathology, activity and taphonomic studies build on the major study previously undertaken (Malone et al. 2009).

The project has made immense progress on understanding when the Maltese islands were first colonized, how the Neolithic societies managed in the small and restricted environments to sustain a remarkable level of sophisticated life, and why perhaps, a long-lived culture finally failed. The impact of the project has been significant in Malta where a major exhibition was presented in the National Museum of Archaeology in 2018, as well as many specialist conference presentations, publications, papers and monographs. Additionally, Smithsonian Films also decided that the new interpretations emerging from the project should be the subject of a full-length documentary film in 2018. Furthermore, a great number of younger scholars have been involved through fieldwork, dissertations and career development. We now want to share this work with people in Britain, and celebrate the many early British scholars (all FSA!) who contributed over the last century to understanding early Malta.

Please note that due to COVID 19 restrictions this event may be online only. If we can hold this event at Burlington House tickets to attend in person will be released closer to the date of the event.  

Attendance by Live Stream:

  • Registration is essential.
  • Open to anyone to join, Fellows and Non-Fellows.
  • Once you have registered we will be in touch regarding how you can join via Zoom video-calling.
  • The event will also be live-streamed to YouTube here, so you can watch along if you prefer
  • Places through zoom will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • The event will begin at 17.00 BST.
  • You will receive an email with the link to join the day before the lecture.
  • Attendees’ cameras and microphones will be off throughout

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October 14
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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United Kingdom