Stanford University

Project 'U Mari

About Project 'U Mari

Project 'U Mari (“the sea” in local Sicilian dialect) explores the maritime heritage of southeast Sicily, examining millennia of connections across the Mediterranean from a key vantage point between west and east, south and north. Participants will study artifacts from shipwrecks in the area, conduct survey on the seabed of an ancient port at Vendicari, and document the material culture and traditions of 2500 years of tuna fishing. These efforts serve not only 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

scuba diving student taking measurements during underwater excavation
Student Elle Ota taking measurements during a dig

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

  • Archaeological survey
  • Underwater archaeology
  • Finds processing and analysis
  • 3-D documentation
  • Cultural heritage

In 2020, prospective Project ‘U Mari field school participants will have an option to either apply in a diving or non-diving role.

Pre-departure training

Project ‘U Mari has a pre-field training requirement that takes place during spring quarter prior to departure. Accepted students will be in communication with Professor Leidwanger and Archaeology Center staff about scheduling this training.

Requirements for students accepted to dive:

  • Basic open water scuba certification from an accredited agency

  • Emergency oxygen for diving injuries course (to be arranged on campus)

    Proof of this certification is required prior to departure, and will be reviewed by the Diving Safety Officers for Stanford and the project. Having this basic certification is not a requirement at the time of application to the field school, but is a requirement of participation for accepted field school students that must be completed prior to departure. Additional diving courses (advanced open water, rescue diver, scientific diver) beyond basic certification will form a component of summer field training in Sicily.

Requirements for all students:

  • CPR/first aid certification from an approved agency
  • A medical exam which can be completed at Vaden Health Center (for diving students, this will be a dive-specific exam, and you will receive a form to complete)
  • Upon their return to Stanford, 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 in the field, 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, from clearing undergrowth in preparation for excavation to laboratory analysis of archaeological samples. 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.
Underwater excavation at Marzamemi

On site

Field training for students is divided into several major components: training as archaeological divers and underwater work on site, finds and conservation work in the lab, and 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 documentation of shipwreck sites and artifact assemblages in tandem with the methodologies of conservation and recording of waterlogged objects. All students will spend one component of their training on heritage documentation or museum development. Non-diving students will play a major role in the work we do with objects: not only conservation, 3D documentation, and study of waterlogged finds, but leveraging these to help implement new research, exhibit, and heritage management strategies. Students may also have opportunities to play a role in work on more recent heritage associated with traditional fishing and contemporary refugee journeys.

All students should expect to work Monday-Saturday for the entire five-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 on Project 'U Mari, and students in the past have used the field school as the first step in pursuing a research program and specialty in consultation with Stanford faculty, graduate students, and professional archaeologists from around the world.

Marzamemi 2018

A day in the life at Marzamemi

2018 field school participant Robin Willscheidt (2019) writes about her experience at Marzamemi:

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.


Contact: Professor Justin Leidwanger


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 2020 open on November 15 and close on January 31, 2020. Apply here!