Department of Classics & Archaeology



FRAGSUS Project (2013-2018)

Institutions: Queen's University Belfast, University of Cambridge, Departments of Classics & Archaeology, Biology and Built Heritage, University of Malta, Heritage Malta, Superintendence of Cultural Heritage.

Principal Investigator: Prof. Caroline Malone
Co-Investigator: Prof. Nicholas Vella


An FP7 European Research Council (ERC) project launched in May (2013) will shed new light on how the Maltese islands were transformed and exploited during the first few thousand years of human activity. The ERC has awarded an Advanced Grant of 2.46 million euros for the realisation of the five-year interdisciplinary project, named FRAGSUS – short for Fragility and Sustainability in Restricted Island Contexts - which brings together an international team from five institutions in three countries. Queen’s University Belfast is the Host Institution leading the project (Professor Caroline Malone principal investigator), together with the University of Cambridge, the University of Malta, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage (Malta) and Heritage Malta. The project will also create the opportunity for younger researchers to work alongside more established scholars. 

The University of Malta’s participation in the project spans the Department of Classics of Archaeology in the Faculty of Arts (Dr Gianmarco Alberti, Professor Anthony Bonanno, Dr Katrin Fenech, Professor Nicholas Vella), the Department of Biology in the Faculty of Science (Professor Patrick J. Schembri), and the Department of the Built Heritage in the Faculty for the Built Environment (Dr Reuben Grima). The University of Malta team is led by Professor Nicholas Vella.

Different specialists on the international team will be examining the environmental record of the Maltese islands more intensively than ever before, in order to reconstruct past environments through indicators such as snails, sediments, pollen, and other plant remains. Ancient human skeletal remains will be studied for complementary evidence on diet and disease. A parallel focus of study will be the rapid modification of the landscape following the arrival of the first settlers, and their strategies to exploit the islands’ meagre resources through settlement, deforestation and agriculture, which form the backdrop for the extraordinary but still poorly understood saga of the rise and fall of the Temple Culture.

Visit the project website.