The Marzamemi Maritime Heritage Project: from the seabed to the museum and beyond
Greene, Elizabeth S.
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The Marzamemi Maritime Heritage Project is a collaborative excavation, survey and heritage management initiative along south-east Sicily focusing on long-term structures of human interaction from prehistory through classical antiquity and up to the present. Situated between west and east, south and north, this corner of the island provides a vantage point for varied material manifestations of connectivity across millennia. Between 2013 and 2019, the project launched new investigations of the 6th-century AD Marzamemi 2 wreck (also known as the ‘church wreck’), which was originally explored by Gerhard Kapitän in the 1960s. The vessel sank while carrying perhaps 100 tonnes of prefabricated architectural elements – column shafts, capitals, bases and other decorative furnishings – in part intended to decorate a church. The project simultaneously aims to re-embed this and other local maritime heritage within the broader context of countless journeys along this shore. Through survey of historic maritime material culture alongside innovative museum development and immersive exhibits, we juxtapose ancient ships with still older and more recent heritage at the heart of this ‘Middle Sea’. In doing so, we aim to broaden 21st-century maritime archaeology in a way that leverages the past for new and challenging engagement with contemporary mobility and human connectivity.