Justin Leidwanger's work focuses on Mediterranean mobilities, maritime communities, and systems of exchange. Shipwrecks and port sites, especially in southeast Sicily and southwest Turkey, are central to exploring these themes in the field, providing evidence for connections and the long-term dynamics of communities situated amid the economically, socially, and politically changing worlds from the rise of Rome through late antiquity.
Between 2013 and 2019, he led investigations of the 6th-century “church wreck” at Marzamemi (Sicily), which sank while carrying nearly 100 tons of marble architectural elements. Work continues through underwater survey, 3D analysis, and publication as well as immersive heritage initiatives in the local Museum of the Sea and associated pop-up exhibits and dive trails. Project 'U Mari extends this collaborative field research in southeast Sicily, interrogating the heritage of diverse but co-dependent interactions with and across the sea that have long defined the central Mediterranean and offer a resource for deeper engagement with the past and sustainable future development.
Building on survey since 2017, the project’s newest work examines socioeconomic dynamics spanning 2500 years of tuna fishing through maritime landscape archaeology and documentation of fading material culture and traditional knowledge of the mattanza. Our efforts simultaneously foreground heritage activism through community-based archaeology of the spaces, materialities, and memories of contemporary journeys of forced and undocumented migration across the central Mediterranean.
Justin teaches courses and advises students on topics in Hellenistic, Roman, and late antique archaeology, economies and interaction, port networks, ceramic production and exchange, and Greco-Roman architecture and engineering. The Maritime Archaeology & Digital Heritage Lab (MEDLab) at the Archaeology Center serves as a fieldwork base and resource for digital modeling (structured light scanning, laser scanning, photogrammetry, GIS, network analysis) and pottery analysis (petrography, pXRF, computational morphological analysis).
Author of Roman Seas: A Maritime Archaeology of Eastern Mediterranean Economies (Oxford), and editor or co-editor of four more volumes, including Regional Economies in Action (Vienna) and Maritime Networks in the Ancient Mediterranean World (Cambridge), his current project is titled Fluid Technologies: Innovation on the Ancient Mediterranean. This newest work arises from research with students in the field, lab, and museum, analyzing transport amphoras, port infrastructure, and other clues to ancient technologies of distribution.