Conducted as a partnership between Stanford University and the Soprintendenza del Mare – Regione Siciliana, the Marzamemi Maritime Heritage Project combines excavation, survey, and heritage management of the maritime landscape and seaborne communication off southeast Sicily. The concentration of accessible sites 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).
Beginning in 2013 and continuing through the 2014 season, efforts have focused on survey and excavation of the famous Marzamemi II “church wreck”, a site discovered and initially investigated primarily through the pioneering efforts of Gerhard Kapitän in the 1960s. This vessel sank while carrying prefabricated architectural elements most likely for the construction or renovation of an early Byzantine church during the 6th c. AD. Beyond its marble, the ship’s additional cargo, personal items, and hull remains can offer unique insight into the mechanisms behind such ambitious ventures, including the roles of high commerce, mundane exchange, local patronage, and even imperial ideology in tying together the Mediterranean during this final twilight of ancient maritime connectivity. Equally important to this excavation, the project revisits earlier unpublished work and situates maritime archaeology within a broader dialog on responsible collaborative natural and cultural heritage practices.