The Marzamemi Maritime Heritage Project, led by Stanford's Justin Leidwanger, is a collaborative excavation, survey, and heritage management initiative focusing on the maritime landscape and seaborne communication off the southeast coast of Sicily (Italy). The concentration of accessible sites here and their location at the intersection of the eastern and western Mediterranean facilitates inquiry into long-term structures of regional and interregional maritime exchange from the early Roman era (3rd/2nd c. BC) through Late Antiquity (6th/7th c. AD).
The first field seasons (2013-2014) have prioritized exploration and management of the famous Marzamemi “church wreck”, which sank while carrying prefabricated architectural elements for the construction of a late antique church—possibly alongside other cargo—from the northern Aegean region during the 6th century. This fieldwork has focused on documentation and conservation of materials previously raised from the wreck, complete three-dimensional recording of the dispersed site and individual finds, and excavation in several of the more promising sandy areas. Together, the vessel and its cargo offer insight into the character and patterns of maritime connectivity between the divergent east and west Mediterranean worlds, and the possible complementary roles of imperial agency and local patronage in the ambitious programs of (re-)construction in 6th-century Italy.
Equally important to this research, however, is the development of heritage management and outreach strategies, including a new museum, designed to engage the public and promote responsible cultural tourism in the area.