Wednesday, October 5, 2016, 7:00 PM: Dr. Justin Leidwanger, Stanford University

Between East and West at the End of Antiquity: the Marzamemi Shipwreck

Abstract

Situated at the crossroads of Mediterranean shipping, the southeast corner of Sicily witnessed its share of maritime disasters over the millennia. Among the dozens of ancient shipwrecks that foundered off these shores, the large vessel that sank near Marzamemi in the 6th century AD stands out. Since 2012, investigations by a team from Stanford University and the Soprintendenza del Mare have shed light on this monumental cargo of several hundred tons of partially prefabricated religious architectural elements, almost certainly en route from the northern Aegean region for decoration of some new, or newly renovated, early Christian church in the recently recaptured west. This peculiar site, the so-called Marzamemi “church wreck”, serves as vivid testimony to the struggle for integration—religious, economic, and political—among the disparate fragments of the once unified Roman world. Yet the wreck reflects far more than a prefabricated or “flat-pack” structure sent at imperial behest for rote provincial assembly. Together with emerging clues about the ship, crew, and cargo—from cooking pots, iron fasteners and tools, to transport amphora lids and mineral pigments—this assemblage raises critical questions about interrelated issues of private commercial and directed exchange, local and imperial patronage and propaganda, urban and provincial religious life, and maritime connectivity more generally. Through a more holistic approach that embraces the complexity of the site and situates it within its historical and archaeological context, we explore the social, political and other processes that fostered and sustained connectivity during the turbulent late antique world.

Bio

Justin Leidwanger is Assistant Professor with the Department of Classics, Stanford University; he holds his degrees from the University Pennsylvania (Ph.D.), Texas A&M University, and Loyola University. His research interests include the economic networks that shaped ancient maritime commerce during the Roman and Late Antique era. Professor Leidwanger is the Director of the Stanford University/Soprintendenza del Mare Marzamemi Maritime Heritage Project (Pachino, Siracusa, Sicily), and Co-Director of the Middle East Technical University/Brock University/Stanford University Burgaz Harbors Project (Burgaz, Datça, Muğla, Turkey). He is also the Principle Investigator for a number of projects on the Yassıada shipwreck, and an Eastern Mediterranean study of basket-handle amphoras. Professor Leidwanger is the AIA’s McCann/Taggart Lecturer for 2016/2017.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016, 7:00 PM: Dr. Justin Leidwanger, Stanford University

Between East and West at the End of Antiquity: the Marzamemi Shipwreck

Abstract

Situated at the crossroads of Mediterranean shipping, the southeast corner of Sicily witnessed its share of maritime disasters over the millennia. Among the dozens of ancient shipwrecks that foundered off these shores, the large vessel that sank near Marzamemi in the 6th century AD stands out. Since 2012, investigations by a team from Stanford University and the Soprintendenza del Mare have shed light on this monumental cargo of several hundred tons of partially prefabricated religious architectural elements, almost certainly en route from the northern Aegean region for decoration of some new, or newly renovated, early Christian church in the recently recaptured west. This peculiar site, the so-called Marzamemi “church wreck”, serves as vivid testimony to the struggle for integration—religious, economic, and political—among the disparate fragments of the once unified Roman world. Yet the wreck reflects far more than a prefabricated or “flat-pack” structure sent at imperial behest for rote provincial assembly. Together with emerging clues about the ship, crew, and cargo—from cooking pots, iron fasteners and tools, to transport amphora lids and mineral pigments—this assemblage raises critical questions about interrelated issues of private commercial and directed exchange, local and imperial patronage and propaganda, urban and provincial religious life, and maritime connectivity more generally. Through a more holistic approach that embraces the complexity of the site and situates it within its historical and archaeological context, we explore the social, political and other processes that fostered and sustained connectivity during the turbulent late antique world.

Bio

Justin Leidwanger is Assistant Professor with the Department of Classics, Stanford University; he holds his degrees from the University Pennsylvania (Ph.D.), Texas A&M University, and Loyola University. His research interests include the economic networks that shaped ancient maritime commerce during the Roman and Late Antique era. Professor Leidwanger is the Director of the Stanford University/Soprintendenza del Mare Marzamemi Maritime Heritage Project (Pachino, Siracusa, Sicily), and Co-Director of the Middle East Technical University/Brock University/Stanford University Burgaz Harbors Project (Burgaz, Datça, Muğla, Turkey). He is also the Principle Investigator for a number of projects on the Yassıada shipwreck, and an Eastern Mediterranean study of basket-handle amphoras. Professor Leidwanger is the AIA’s McCann/Taggart Lecturer for 2016/2017.

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