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Stanford Report Features Prof. Justin Leidwanger's Underwater Archaeology Research

Mar 17 2014

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Excerpted from full story by Tom Winterbottom: 

Leidwanger and his team use technological tools to map the site and then set up a conservation lab to begin analysis.

"Underwater artifacts tend to soak up salt, so they need long-term treatment. Wood, pottery, stone and metal all need different treatment processes. At our colleagues' lab in Turkey, for example, they are still conserving and mending pottery that was excavated in the 1980s and 1990s."

After the artifacts are extracted and restored, they are often exhibited in museums and used to highlight heritage issues and establish marine preserves.

Leidwanger, who teaches a class on archeological ethics, is passionate about the process of sustainable archeology.

"Legal jurisdictions, particularly underwater, aren't always well defined, and heritage and preservation therefore become key issues. The sovereignty over sites and excavated materials can be unclear and there are some opportunists around."

Leidwanger makes an effort to situate his research within a broader dialogue on natural and cultural heritage practices. In Sicily, for example, he said he is "helping to implement state-of-the-art site management alongside local initiatives for environmentally sustainable tourism and economic development."

For Leidwanger, archeology is more than just looking at artifacts and excavation sites:

"For me, it is about establishing and maintaining cultural heritage so that we can better understand history. It is about social networks and human relationships with objects and places, relationships that are as important today as they were in the past."