The project, led by academics from Queen's University, will span the history of the Mediterranean island from the first occupation of Neolithic farmers at around 5,500BC until medieval times, and will also be looking at how to ensure long-term conservation.New forensic technology is to be used as part of the €2.5m study.Dr Caroline Malone from Queen's School of Geography said: "The island provides us with a fascinating laboratory. By a combination of fieldwork and exciting new forensic technology, we expect to uncover a wealth of new information."This may tell us about how early people managed to live in an unstable environment and develop coping mechanisms that reveal extraordinary resilience to change."Malta is just 316 sq km in size - smaller than greater Belfast - yet in pre-historic times, it was relatively densely populated, probably to the tune of five to 10,000 people.The research team is hoping to shed light on what life was like there.Dr Malone added: "This society created megalithic temples when most of Europe was far less sophisticated. Yet this civilisation disappeared quite unexpectedly around 2,400BC."We hope to look at the unstable conditions - fluctuating rainfall, deforestation - to find out more about what happened and why even this remarkable island community had to change its cultural and economic world".The grant for the scheme was provided by a European research council.