Archaeological evidence has unearthed dwellings and artifacts dated at 35,000 years ago.
The original population of Pantelleria did not come from Sicily, and was of Iberian or Ibero-Ligurian stock. After a considerable interval, during which the island probably remained uninhabited, the Carthaginians took possession of it (no doubt owing to its importance as a station on the way to Sicily) probably about the beginning of the 7th century BC, occupying as their acropolis the twin hill of San Marco and Santa Teresa, 2 km (1.2 mi) south of the town of Pantelleria. The town possesses considerable remains of walls made of rectangular blocks of masonry, and also of a number of cisterns. Punic tombs have also been discovered, and the votive terra-cottas of a small sanctuary of the Punic period were found near the north coast.
The Romans occupied the island as the Fasti Triumphales record in 255 BC, lost it again the next year, and recovered it in 217 BC. Under the Empire it served as a place of banishment for prominent persons and members of the imperial family. The town enjoyed municipal rights.
In 700 the island was conquered by the Arabs, from whose language the island's name is taken: Bent El Riah بنت الرياح "the daughter of the winds", which represents the strong winds that arise off the north coast of Africa. In 1123 Roger of Sicily took the island, and in 1311 an Aragonese fleet, under the command of Lluís de Requesens, won a considerable victory here, and his family became princes of Pantelleria until 1553, when the town was sacked by the Turks.
A Siculo-Arabic dialect similar to Maltese was the vernacular of the island until the late 18th century, when it was superseded by Romance Sicilian. However, the modern Sicilian dialect of Pantelleria contains many Arabic loanwords and most of the island's place names are of Semitic origin.
Pantelleria's capture was regarded as crucial to the Allied success in invading Sicily in