Archaeological Research on Sicilian Maritime Heritage

Note: The Stanford Archaeology Center plans to offer the Project 'U Mari Field School in Summer 2025 so check back for updates.

About Project 'U Mari:

Project 'U Mari (“the sea” in the local Sicilian dialect) explores the maritime heritage of southeast Sicily, examining millennia of maritime life and connections across the Mediterranean from a key vantage point between west and east, south and north. Participants will work on one or more of the broad project’s key initiatives: conservation and analysis of artifacts from shipwrecks in the area, archaeological investigations at the ancient fishing town of Vendicari, survey and excavation of a shipwreck in Vendicari’s port, 3D scanning and archival documentation of the material culture and traditions of 2500 years of tuna fishing, among others. These efforts serve not only to promote new research into historical livelihoods along the sea, but guide our consideration of how best to preserve and present a diverse maritime past through exhibits and other forms of public engagement.

Undergraduate Field School

The focus of Project ‘U Mari for field school students is:

  • Archaeological survey and excavation on land
  • Underwater archaeological investigations
  • Study of archaeological finds
  • 3-D documentation of heritage
  • Public engagement and preservation of the past

Prospective Project ‘U Mari field school participants will have the option to specify in their application if they wish to be considered for a diving or a non-diving role.

Pre-Departure Training and Coursework

Project ‘U Mari has a pre-field training requirement that takes place over the course of the spring. Accepted students are expected to undertake this training and preparation within the framework of the spring quarter course, ARCHLGY 140: Sicily and the Sea

  • Note that the timing of this course may change.


Field training for students is divided into several major components, of which each student may participate in several: training as archaeological divers and underwater work on site, methods of survey and excavation on land, finds and conservation work in the lab, and 3D and other methods of heritage documentation and museum work.

Field training for diving students will initially focus on the development of skills for archaeology underwater; this training will allow participation in the survey and excavation of shipwreck sites and artifact assemblages in tandem with the methodologies of conservation and recording of waterlogged objects. Field training for students wishing to work on land will focus on practical methodological skills for both survey and excavation, allowing them to participate in the new investigations of an ancient port settlement and the processing and analysis of finds.

Students will generally spend part of their training in the field, on land or underwater, and part on heritage documentation or museum development. Students will also play a major role in the work we do with objects back in the museum and lab: not only conservation, 3D documentation, and study of finds, but leveraging these materials to help implement new research, exhibit, and heritage management strategies. Students will also have opportunities to play a role in smaller-team fieldwork that focuses on more recent heritage associated with traditional fishing and contemporary refugee journeys.

All students should expect to work Monday-Saturday for the entire six-week field school, participating each day in fieldwork, artifact documentation, research, and conservation in the lab. To broaden and deepen student engagement with this material culture, the project organizes discussions, talks, and demonstrations by staff and visiting scholars. Students are encouraged to hone and develop their research interests through their work in Sicily, and students in the past have used the field school as the first step toward pursuing a research program and specialty in consultation with Stanford faculty, graduate students, and professional archaeologists from around the world.

Requirements for Participation

  • CPR/first aid certification from an approved agency (to be arranged on campus for students in ARCHLGY 140)
  • Medical exam, which can be completed at Vaden Health Center (for diving students, this will be a diving-specific exam, and you will receive a form to complete)
  • Applicants will need an updated passport by the time of acceptance
  • By applying you agree to your application being reviewed by the Project 'U Mari Mentors 
  • The Archaeology Center requires that all field students participate in SURPS (Symposia for Undergraduate Research and Public Service). Students from each field experience are expected to work together to complete an application, prepare a poster, and present at the SURPS event on the Friday of the reunion homecoming weekend.
  • Each of our field experiences is part of an ongoing research project led by a Stanford faculty member. While working remotely, undergraduates are expected to contribute to the team effort of the archaeological project at the faculty member's direction. Fieldwork can take the form of a number of different activities. Each day's activities can look different, and may change depending on the evolving direction of the research. Students participating in a field experience should be prepared to be flexible and responsive to the instructions of the faculty member or other senior project staff.

Funding Information:

  • Students will receive stipends from VPUE. Stipend amounts will be determined by VPUE and will be communicated to students when they are accepted to the field project.
  • Students who plan to participate in an archaeology field experience cannot receive a major grant or a Chappell-Lougee scholarship within the same academic year as their field experience.


Professor Justin Leidwanger

Email: jleidwa [at] (jleidwa[at]stanford[dot]edu)

Learn more about Project ‘U Mari and its predecessor, the Marzamemi Maritime Heritage Project.

Learn more about general field experience opportunities with the Stanford Archaeology Center.

Applications for 2025 will open in January 2025 and will close on March 3, 2025. Read more about the opportunity and Apply Here!

Our days in Sicily were long, but well-paced and extremely fulfilling. The boat ride was my favorite part of the day: the salty Sicilian breeze in the morning, views of the gorgeous beach, and many laughs. Some days we would survey new areas and other days we would work on an excavation. This project was difficult some days but really changed my relationship with human rights work. We documented items and added them to a catalog for further research. I had a great time in Sicily and made long-lasting connections and friendships!
Emma Charity
Class of 2025