Stanford University

Archaeological Research on Sicilian Maritime Heritage

Note: The Stanford Archaeology Center plans to offer the Project 'U Mari Field School in Summer 2022, either in person or remotely. Based on potential Stanford travel restrictions, the Archaeology Center will be making a determination about whether our field schools will be conducted remotely or in person by early Spring quarter 2022. 

Summer 2022 fieldwork for Project 'U Mari

Field school dates: June 12 - July 23, 2022.

About Project 'U Mari

Project 'U Mari (“the sea” in 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 into 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

In 2022, prospective Project ‘U Mari field school participants will have an 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).

On site

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.

A day in the life of archaeology in southeast Sicily

Robin Willscheidt (‘19), a 2018 field school participant in the Marzamemi shipwreck excavation, part of the broader Project ‘U Mari, writes about her experience conducting archaeological work in southeast Sicily:

Our site at Marzamemi, lying up to 8 meters underwater, is dense. The number of objects we discover on a daily basis is far greater than what is generally found on terrestrial excavations. Because of the maritime nature of the site, we need to take different precautions and strategies when recording, excavating, and preserving artifacts. This provides both a whole new archaeological perspective and the opportunity to engage in scientific scuba diving.

Typically, our day starts at 6/6:30 AM. We eat breakfast as a team and have daily announcements, including our area of excavation, dive/excavation buddy, and morning dive shift. If you have first shift, you head to the dive shop and prepare your dive bucket (your kit), prepare/check your equipment, and load up the boat. After a 5 min. boat ride to site, we begin excavation. Students (working with a more experienced dive buddy) spend time underwater sketching, dredging up sediment, and flagging and collecting artifacts. We usually have two dives each shift, with a tank change in the middle. Whichever team isn't diving the first shift spends the morning at the Rudini museum, our primary land-based workspace, registering objects from their previous dives. After registration, activities include cataloging (measuring and describing) artifacts, preservation activities, and data entry.  Each team gets both underwater and Rudini time before lunch. After lunch and a nap break (don’t forget to fill out your dive logs), we return to Rudini.

We have dinner together as a team, with our daily debrief, and go to bed around 9:30/10:00 PM. Weekends and some afternoons, we have brief presentations/practical learning opportunities with grad students or visiting experts. Last year, these ranged from concretion casting to ceramics identification, site recording, and 3D modeling.


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)
  • The Archaeology Center requires that all field school students participate in SURPS (Symposia for Undergraduate Research and Public Service). Students from each field school are expected to work together to complete an application, prepare a poster, and present at the SURPS event the Friday of reunion-homecoming weekend.
  • Each of our field schools 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. Field work 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 school 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 school cannot receive a major grant or a Chappell-Lougee scholarship within the same academic year as their field school.
  • Note for 2021-2022: To be eligible, undergraduate students must have completed two full-time enrolled quarters this academic year by the time their full-time grant funded project begins, and they must use their Flex Term during the full-time project opportunity. 

Contact: Professor Justin Leidwanger

Email: jleidwa [at]

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

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

Applications for 2022 will open in January and will close on March 4, 2022. Read more about the opportunity and Apply Here!