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Fragility and sustainability in restricted island environments: adaptation, cultural change and collapse in prehistory

Final Report Summary - FRAGSUS (Fragility and sustainability in restricted island environments: adaptation, cultural change and collapse in prehistory)

The Fragsus project set out to explore the relationship between human settlement on small islands and the impact on the environment through resource exploitation, management strategies and climate change over millennia. The project used various standardized and cutting edge methods to integrate many data – human remains, archaeological sites, environmental cores for building an environmental history and landscape study of soil development and erosion. The application of various cutting edge new methods were brought together in an interdisciplinary manner and linked by an extensive new chronology (nearly 400 dates of humans, pollen, sites) which has identified important processes that formed the island culture of early Malta between 6000 and 1000 BC. Important breaks in the evidence for the human sequence of occupation suggest major changes and fluctuations never before identified, coupled with drought episodes that impacted on the natural environment. The Maltese megalithic Temple Culture emerged and lasted 1500 years and finally collapsed around the 4.2 millennium event that affected other cultures in Europe. Moreover, an earlier episode of colonization is now recognized (5800-4800BC) that is separated by a millennium of little evident human activity on the Maltese islands from a resurgence of evident activity (3800-2350BC) culminating the construction of the temple monuments. The population on the islands successively colonized Malta from different areas of the Mediterranean, and new osteological study identifies sub-Saharan African individuals amongst the population around 2500BC. The project ranged across many disciplines from anthropology, archaeology, history, landscape-environmental reconstruction, chronology, molluscan analysis and palynology, and represents a unique approach that changes dramatically the history of the central Mediterranean in prehistory. The work impacts on future conservation management of the fragile island ecology and archaeology, bringing to notice the vulnerable and important past.