Trade, piracy, and naval warfare in the central Mediterranean: the maritime history and archaeology of Malta



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Texas A&M University


Located approximately in the middle of the central Mediterranean channel, the Maltese Archipelago was touched by the historical events that effected the political, economic and cultural environment of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. The islands were close to the major maritime routes throughout history and they were often on the border between clashing military, political, religious, and cultural entities. For these reasons, the islands were presumed to have been strategically and economically important, and, thus, frequented by ships. An underwater archaeological survey around the archipelago revealed the scarcity of submerged cultural remains, especially pertaining to shipping and navigation. Preliminary findings elucidate a story that contrasts with the picture presented by modern history and historiography. In this sense, a comparison of the underwater archaeological data with the information gathered through a detailed study of Maltese maritime history clearly shows that the islands were attributed an exaggerated importance in historical texts, due to political and religious trends that are rooted in the period during which the islands were under the control of the Order of Saint John. An objective investigation of the historical and archaeological material provides a more balanced picture, and places the islands in a Mediterranean-wide historical framework from the first colonization of the archipelago eight thousands years ago to the twentieth century.