During the General Assembly of November 2019 of the Union Académique Internationale in Paris, the Kwang-Soo Lim Prize was awarded to Ronika Power (Macquarie University, Australia) for her project "The Sentinels of Ħal Saflieni, Malta: Science Facts versus Science Fiction".
Project : The UNESCO World Heritage site of the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is the jewel in the crown of Maltese archaeology and is considered to be one of the most significant and valuable sites of human prehistory. It is an elaborate, three-level, multi-roomed, interconnected, labyrinthine Neolithic (~4,000–2,500 BC) mortuary complex, extending almost 11 metres below the surface and estimated to have once held the remains of approximately 7,000 people. The site also contains the oldest and only prehistoric paintings preserved on the Maltese islands, in the form of intricate red ochre spirals and honeycomb cells, as well as carefully-executed geometric patterns resembling black-and-white chequered squares. Despite the lauding of Ħal Saflieni’s innovations in technology, art and architecture, an enormous component of the site’s story is shrouded in silence, mystery and mythology. At its heart, Ħal Saflieni a monument of its people, yet the people of Ħal Saflieni are absent from archaeological narratives. We know almost nothing about the few surviving human remains from Ħal Saflieni: a small assemblage of crania and other skeletal elements, representing less than 20 individuals out of the original thousands of interments. This project will work in close collaboration with local Maltese heritage agencies – namely, Heritage Malta and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage – to carry out the first-ever interdisciplinary analyses of the remains and afford these globally significant individuals the detailed attention they deserve. By combining traditional archaeological, historical and archival research with cutting-edge scientific analyses, this project will investigate all aspects of the lived experiences of these silent sentinels of Ħal Saflieni, including their health, disease, lifestyle, diet and ancestry profiles. Finally, the world will be introduced to the inhabitants of the prehistoric island of Malta, and through them, the people that created this globally unique monument.