Prehistory and Fascism. The case of Malta

A video of the study meeting is now made available to all:

Prehistory and Fascism. The case of Malta

A conversation between Andrea Pessina and Nicola C. Vella, moderated by Giuseppe Sassatelli, held at the Fondazione Luigi Rovati on May 24, 2023.


The conversation focused on the figure of Luigi Maria Ugolini and his studies on prehistoric temples in Malta. On the occasion, the series of volumes in the Malta Antica series was presented by Giulio Paolucci.


From 1924 to 1936, the year of his death, Italian archaeologist Luigi Maria Ugolini visited the Maltese archipelago to study prehistoric temples and other archaeological remains. In addition to his personal scientific interests, Ugolini was driven by a clear political intent: to prove Malta's Italian-ness on the basis of archaeological evidence.


This impressive documentation was to flow into a series of volumes-Malta Antica-in which he vowed to shed light on the origin of megalithic architecture and the prehistory of Malta, which he believed had been the place in the Mediterranean from which Neolithic civilization would spread throughout Europe.


The work remains largely unpublished due to his untimely death. The recent rediscovery of Luigi Ugolini's Maltese archive, preserved at the "Luigi Pigorini" Museum in Rome, initiated a research project that ended with the publication of the Malta Antica series of volumes, reassembled thanks to the work of A. Pessina and N. Vella. The study made it possible to investigate a topic still little explored by scholars: the use of Prehistory for political purposes. The documentation examined highlighted the close ties between academia and the Fascist Party, starting with the nationalist ideology that often inspired the positions of Italian scholars even in the field of prehistory. It was a delicate period at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, because throughout Europe territorial aspirations were frequently justified by recourse to archaeology, physical anthropology and linguistics.