The energetics of lost cargoes: A new perspective on the late antique Marzamemi 2 wreck

Ben Russell, Justin Leidwanger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This paper takes an energetics-based approach in re-examining the cargo of the famous Marzamemi 2 shipwreck as evidence for the maritime transport of architectural stone and the logistics of religious building projects during Late Antiquity. Drawing on recent discoveries at the site alongside re-assessment of previous finds, it aims to reconstruct the labor investment represented by the partial pre-fabrication of individual components and cargo as a whole, and to contextualize this within a broad understanding of the later ancient stone trade. First, a new inventory of architectural elements and liturgical furnishings from the site is provided. The traces of carving on these elements are then assessed in order to calculate the labor involved in their production. Comparison of this investment to labor costs visible in earlier Roman and contemporary shipwreck cargos reveals the Marzamemi assemblage as particularly large and ornate—representing perhaps more than 50,000 person-hours—but otherwise typical for the staging of building shipments during the period. These results highlight the significance of the Marzamemi 2 shipwreck within studies of sixth-century CE architectural patronage and trade in decorative stone, while also demonstrating a new application of architectural energetics methodologies to the logistics of complex building programs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-260
JournalMemoirs of the American Academy in Rome
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2021


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