The Marzamemi Maritime Heritage Project is a collaborative excavation, survey, and heritage management initiative focusing on the maritime landscape and seaborne communication off the southeast coast of Sicily. Among the dozens of ancient shipwrecks that foundered off these shores, a large vessel of the 6th century stands out: the so-called “Church Wreck”, which carried prefabricated architectural elements for the construction of a late antique church alongside other cargo from the northern Aegean. Through this site, the Marzamemi project explores issues of mixed commercial and non-commercial exchange, imperial and local patronage in monumental architecture, and Mediterranean connectivity during a period of increasing fragmentation between east and west. At the same time, the project provides a broad horizon of opportunity to preserve and interpret the physical manifestations—archaeological, environmental, ethnographic, etc.—of this fishing town’s historical relationship to the sea through the creation of a new museum, dive trails, and other public outreach activities that embrace both natural and cultural heritage.
Prof. Justin Leidwanger’s research and fieldwork focus primarily on the role of maritime networks in structuring Roman socioeconomic life. In 2012, he initiated the Marzamemi Maritime Heritage Project, which combines survey and excavation with maritime heritage education and museum and tourism development at the site of several ancient shipwrecks off southeast Sicily, a focal point of which has been recent excavation of the famous late antique Marzamemi “church wreck”.