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Stanford University students to examine shipwrecks in Europe

Monday, May 26, 2014
Some Standford University students will be experiencing quite the summer adventure. They will be traveling with a noted professor to examine shipwrecks on the coasts of Italy and Turkey.

Justin Leidwanger, PhD., is about to take another trip beneath the sea. He's a maritime archeologist who researches the history of the Roman empire through the artifacts discovered in shipwrecks.



"Once it was lost no one really saw it again for hundreds of centuries, if not milleniums in some cases. To be able to see it the first time and to be able to work on that and bring it back to life after its been out of view, ot of the conscienceness of the population today and since then is something I find remarkable," Leidwanger said.

Leidwanger has conducted thousands of dives. Student Marissa Ferrante was part of the team last summer, collecting data from shipwrecks and harbors. The recent projects are in Sicily and Turkey, where the professor says they sometimes experience what he calls moments of revelation.

"We found small bits of a very humble dish, a plate for a small bowl for eating that were smashed under the fall of a wall associated with being trapped there, almost certainly as a result of earthquake or some tectonic activity. These kind of things where you get a sense of real moments in time," Leidwanger said.

The underwater explorations also offer a glimpse into the life of those ancient sailors and their relationship with an unpredictable sea.

"It took some courage and some conviction to go out for weeks to months at a time, leaving your family and leaving your home and not necessarily knowing what you're going to find on the other end of the voyage," Leidwanger said.

What Leidwanger and his students have found is archeological evidence that is painstakingly restored.

"The material that's excavated belongs to the government of the country and where it does depends on where you are," Leidwanger said.

The material that comes from underwater will require years of conservation.
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