Archaeological practices and knowledge work in the digital environment

Posted on August 23, 2019


Another old EAA session we filmed for you to enjoy on your weekend:

Session Abstract:

Author: Huvila, Isto (Sweden) – Uppsala University
Co-Author(s): Dallas, Costis (Canada) – University of TorontoLaužikas, Rimvydas (Lithuania) – University of Vilnius
Keywords: practices, knowledge, use, research, digital

The last ten years saw significant growth in the use of digital methods and tools in archaeological work. However, a systematic, comprehensive account of how digital information, tools and infrastructures are actually used by archaeologists and other users and producers of archaeological information is missing. Both archaeologists, and researchers in other fields from museum studies to ethnology, information studies and science and technology studies, have conducted research on the topic, but so far the efforts have tended to be fragmented, at times anecdotal, and failing to address the complexity and range of contemporary archaeological practices in the digital environment. This is striking, as better understanding of archaeological practices and knowledge work has been identified already for a decade ago as a major precondition in order to realise the potential of infrastructural and tools-related development in archaeology.
The session brings together researchers and research projects studying archaeological practices, knowledge production and use, social impact and industrial potential of archaeological knowledge. It aims to present and highlight the ongoing work on the topic around Europe, spanning diverse contexts from archaeological fieldwork and collections-based research and stewardship of archaeological data to scholarship, and archaeological practices involving local knowledge and global communities. The speakers include participants of the COST Action “Archaeological practices and knowledge work in the digital environment” ( Beyond the current work in this network, this session invites contributions from all researchers conducting theoretical and empirical research on archaeological work, knowledge production and use in archaeology and other relevant disciplines.

Reports are easy, data is difficult

Author: Prof. Huvila, Isto – Uppsala University (Presenting author)
Keywords: reports, data, work

Even if it is generally acknowledged that archaeological primary data is important to preserve and holds a major potential for future research and use for diverse purposes and field reports are often blamed of missing important details, the latter are conspicuously resilient as the principal informational outcomes of archaeological fieldwork. Based on an empirical interview and observation studies of Swedish archaeologists and archaeological information managers, the presetation discusses why reports are favoured in archaeological knowledge work and what makes the management and use of primary research data surprisingly difficult. Besides shedding light to the specific issue of the choice of information artefacts, a closer scrutiny of the paradox of reports and data helps to understand better the fundamental premises and perimeters of archaeological knowledge work and work practices both in field and beyond.

Conceptual mapping of heterogeneous datasets: cidoc-crm and the complexity of archaeo-historical concepts
Author: Mr. Palsson, Gisli – Umea University (Presenting author)
Keywords: CIDOC-CRM, Iceland, archaeoinformatics

The integration of legacy datasets has become a major issue in archaeoinformatics, evidenced, for instance, by recent Europe-wide projects such as Ariadne and Parthenos. Part of the integration process is the ontological mapping of datasets using tools such as CIDOC-CRM to provide semantic legibility between datasets. While this is relatively straightforward when linking definitions of artefact types across national systems, how effective is CIDOC-CRM when dealing with complex social phenomena? This presentation offers a case study from Iceland, where complex concepts such as ecclesiastical power, farmstead and social obligation are conceptualized and linked to archaeological and historical datasets using CIDOC-CRM.

On the borders of archaeology knowledge

Author: Laužikas, Rimvydas – Vilnius University Faculty of Communication (Presenting author)
Keywords: archaeology, knowledge, communities

The word “archaeology” could be mentioned in the lot of different contemporary contexts: “community”, “museum”, “Egyptian” and etc. The main question there is: why people interests in the archaeological heritage objects, artefacts, information or knowledge? This question could be investigated on the basis of theoretical considerations on Yuri Lotman semiosphere theory and knowledge management cycle models. Yuri Lotman semiosphere theory help to describes the connections between relative centre and the peripheries (as sign structures) of scholar archaeology. The centre may be defined by [“canonical”] scientific paradigms prevailing within a given time moment in scholar archaeology.
Periphery, in this case is the creolization space in which (usually through interactions with other culturally more distant sign structures) appear various archaeology-interested communities. Knowledge management cycle models there help us to describe the interests of “outside archaeology” communities to archaeology via concept of “knowledge needs” and to investigate the process of using / re-using of archaeological knowledge via another stages / concepts of cycle model. On these considerations we can pattern and research the set of creolised areas of reality, where archaeological data, information, knowledge and heritage are used and reused in creation of new objects of reality (in meanings of CIDOC-CRM as “Thing”). This modelling pattern will presented at conference paper.

Fostering synthesis in archaeology

Author: Dr Altschul, Jeff – Statistical Research, Inc./SRI Foundation (Presenting author)
Co-Author: Dr Kintigh, Keith – Arizona State University
Keywords: Synthesis, grand challenges

Archaeologists now have access to more data than ever before thanks in large part to laws and regulations mandating archaeological investigations as part of land and resource development. While the data collected by these efforts have allowed us to infer much about the past, they have not led to deeper understandings about the ways in which humans behave that are needed to address society’s compelling problems. Achieving that goal requires archaeologists to do more than analyze and interpret project data; they also must synthesize the resulting information into knowledge of complex human behavior that can be objectively evaluated and shared with the public. While this type of research is not entirely new, it goes well beyond the capabilities of any single archaeologist or team of archaeologists because it transcends traditional archaeological skills and reaches into the fields of computer science, statistical analysis, geographic information systems (GIS), visualization, mathematical modeling, and environmental science. Yet, if we could access the incredible dataset of publically funded archaeology and garner the requisite expertise, there is no telling what we could learn about the myriad problems that confront us. How can humans successfully adapt to long-term environmental change? What social structures best relieve structural inequality in market economies? How can migrants be integrated into complex societies? These, and other grand challenges can now be answered. Borrowing from models in the ecological sciences, we propose the creation of the Coalition of Archaeological Synthesis. In this paper, we describe our concept of a coalition and how we intend to bring it to life.

Archaeological interactions between objects, amateurs and professionals on facebook: a meta-analysis and conceptual framework

Author: Prof. Dallas, Costis – Faculty of Information, University of Toronto; Digital Curation Unit, IMIS – Athena Research Centre (Presenting author)
Co-Author: Ms Kelpšienė, Ingrida – Faculty of Communication, Vilnius University
Keywords: social network sites, Facebook, public archaeology

Social network platforms such as Facebook emerged recently as a major environment where members of amateur, local and source communities engage with each other, with professional and academic archaeologists, and with objects related to archaeology. While social network sites engaging with archaeology on Facebook are increasingly common, they differ significantly with regard to their users, their motivations and objectives, and in how they constitute collective practices of memory and material engagement, give rise to communities of interest and practice, enact professional and cultural identities, and shape the production of archaeological knowledge as well as the interpretation, appropriation and governance of archaeological heritage.
We take stock of our respective research on archaeological communities on Facebook from Northern and Southern Europe, as well as a meta-analysis of recent studies on archaeological Facebook groups and pages, to establish a framework for evidence-based examination and analysis. Examining Facebook sites involving professional archaeological networking, amateur archaeology, as well as promotion, public communication and interpretation of archaeological heritage, we identify diverse kinds of amateur and professional actors, information objects and communication genres connecting them with aspects of archaeological heritage, and interaction patterns connecting them in structures of identity and memory. We assess theoretical concepts relevant to the analysis of archaeological Facebook sites, such as the dramaturgical theory of the self, the afilliative power of objects, communities of practice, social capital, tacit knowledge, participatory heritage, and institutional isomorphism. On this basis, we examine critically how they may become sites for civic participation, creativity and empowerment. We investigate the agency of objects related to archaeology in triggering affect, cognition and interaction between diverse archaeological actors. And, finally, we elaborate a conceptual framework suitable for capturing, representation and analysis of archaeological Facebook pages and groups across Europe.

Shoring fragments against our ruins: excavation and interdisciplinary research during the extension of the metropolitan railway to Piraeus, Greece

Author: Mr Peppas, Georgios – Ephorate Of Antiquities of West Attika Piraeus and the Islands/Greek Ministry Of Culture and Sports (Presenting author)
Keywords: Piraeus, interdisciplinary, digital

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins” T.S.Eliot in the final lines of his Waste Land describes his attempt to collect and pile together in a sort of testimony broken pieces from a glorious, high-cultured past that are scattered across a deserted “land”. Could we borrow Eliot’s allegory to depict archaeological research in contemporary Piraeus? It is evident today that historical landscapes act as memory banks, both storing and losing features through time. In occasions such as the construction project of the Metropolitan Railway to Piraeus, fieldwork and documentation are conducted in the center of a modern city where collecting fragmented data and at the same time unveiling and reviewing fragments of evidence scattered across archives and bibliographic references is a complex task.
As this paper will show, a variety of digital tools were applied for features of particular research or presentation value to be sorted and analyzed, on a quick turn-around, in order to provide immediate feedback to the excavators, answer specific questions and share information. Thus, a collective interdisciplinary approach was not just an option, but a primary scope: our team invited architects, civil engineers, hydrologists, geologists, urbanists, historians, paleoanthropologists and digital experts not just to assist and provide advice but to work and talk in the field, draw and take measures together, articulate dialogues, stoke debates, generate hypotheses and borrow from each other’s toolbox. Modern studies are introducing the term adoption. Whichever the term, we discovered that as certainties about the boundaries of different disciplines were lost over time, some of the pieces we collected together started to join.

Terra mosana: a crossborder identity newly explained.

Author: Drs Wetzels, Eric – Municipality of Maastricht (Presenting author)
Keywords: crossborder, digital narratives

Project Terra Mosana is a collaboration between municipalities, heritage sites, museums, universities and citizens within the Euregio Meuse-Rhine (EMR), in order to reinforce this Euregio, by explaining its shared identity. TM will do this through digital exploitation of its cultural heritage and by constructing new storylines about this shared history. The project exists of an newly developed method, and of new products, such as experiences in 3D-modelling, 3D-reconstructions, in augmented and virtual reality. This project is meant to be evolving and sustainable. The system will be open and welcomes new partners. The project also needs the development of a technical platform, and a
legal and ethical framework.
In the long term, the involved network aims to develop and to establish an integrated digital platform for all existing cultural heritage. For the construction of new storylines, the Historical 3D Matrix-model is developed; this model uses as little information as possible, instead of the usual way in which as much information as possible is mounted. Instead it is focused on explaining relationships and interdependence. Important are the specific and disctinctive features of each cities’ history in the Euregio, which show and explain the historical connections between the cities within the Euregio. For instance: in this model the role of Roman Maastricht is reduced to the functioning as a harbor-city for Tongeren and Heerlen/Aachen. Also the presence of a Roman bridge is distinctive. Aachen is known for its sulfur watersources, Heerlen has pottery-kilns, Liege was just a large Villa Rustica on the boards of the river and Tongeren was the centre of administration. This model and the focus on distinctiveness makes it possible (and forces archaeologists!) to think about and to reconstruct a different view on history and makes it possible to tell new storylines/ new narratives.

Big data in archaeology: archaeological seshat and beyond

Author: Filipowicz, Patrycja – Adam Mickiewicz University (Presenting author)
Co-Author: Krueger, Marta – Adam Mickiewicz University; Prof. Marciniak, Arkadiusz – Adam Mickiewicz University
Keywords: Big Data, database

The paper aims to discuss the relevance and potential of Big Data in archaeology. In particular, it will present the foundations and character of Archaeological Seshat, an innovative tool for collecting, storing and manipulating a large body of archaeological data. It was created within the framework of Seshat Global History Databank, which is an international initiative of social science scholars to build an open repository of expert-curated historical time-series data. Its main goal is to record geo-temporal datasets describing how hundreds of variables describing social complexity changed with time and space. Seshat is one of the use case of the international ALIGNED project, funded by Horizon 2020. ALIGNED develops models and tools to convert Big Data sources into structured knowledge, using the Linked Data approach. The paper will present preliminary results of applying Archaeological Seshat for explaining different trajectories of development of prehistoric communities in the period stretching from the Early Neolithic until Late Chalcolithic in the area from the Near East to Central Europe. It will further demonstrate a potential of Archaeological Seshat for testing various hypotheses related to the developments of human groups in SW Asia and Europe.

Digital documentation practices on grave excavations – different methods and their use

Author: Lehto, Heli – Muuritutkimus Ky; University of Helsinki (Presenting author)
Co-Author: Helamaa, Maija – Muuritutkimus Ky; Uotila, Kari – Muuritutkimus Ky; University of Helsinki
Keywords: Practices, digital

During the field seasons of 2015 and 2016, Muuritutkimus excavated three 18th-19th century cemeteries in Southwest Finland. Different digital and non-digital documentation methods were used according to the preservation of the graves and the conditions at the sites.
Total station was the main tool used for overall mapping, but for documenting the graves, different methods were used. In 2016, a course which concentrated on laser scanning, was held at the University of Helsinki by Muuritutkimus. After it, a Riegl VZ-1000 laser scanner was adopted as a documentation method for the graves at one site. At the same time, another cemetery was being documented by drawing by hand. Photogrammetry will be used as a documentation method in 2017, as field work continues on one of the sites.
This paper concentrates on the experience of using laser scanning as a documentation method for graves, both during field work and afterwards when processing the data. It will also be compared with the process of making the handmade drawings into digital CAD-data.
At the moment in Finland, the main aim of developing digital documentation, is to make the field work more effective and as accurate as possible, not to produce material for researchers. This is the case because the collected digital data is rarely used for further archaeological research. In order to make the digital material more useful, new ways of research need to be developed as well. This would also enable further improving of the digital methods.


A bridge between landscapes and methodological approaches. The roman bridge of colonia iulia turris libisonis, porto torres, sardinia, italy

Author: Research fellow petruzzi, enrico – Università di Sassari (Presenting author)
Keywords: urban archeology

The Roman bridge of Porto Torres is a monumental symbol of the potential of the contradictions of contemporary archeology in now day Sardinia. The bridge keeps together the two shores of the main local river, very close from a geographical point of view, but still far from a landscape point of view as defined by the European Landscape Convention, namely as part of the territory as well as perceived by the people who inhabit it. On the west bank, the industrial sector almost completely into disuse and symbol of the failure of the industrial project, cause of the economic and social decay of the local community. On the east bank, the archaeological park, a wide area still largely to be investigated, epicenter of the ancient city, escaped from industrialization and speculation, where still remain monumental evidences.
The paper intends to explore, taking the Roman bridge as a node of the network of disciplines and interests involved, the multiplicity of investigations and projects developed in recent years in the historical city of Porto Torres. The analisys of data acquired in several investigations in the urban area represent the basis for an effective recomposition of the history of the city and the territory. The relationship with the land resources, the inclusion in the Mediterranean commercial network, the expansion and contraction processes, the infrastructure such as the bridge and the colony’s ports are some of the most studied aspects, fundamental elements not only from a purely historical and archaeological point of view but necessary basis of knowledge for planning any kind of urban transformation. Main goal is the construction of a bridge between the different branches of research, a tool for overcoming the disciplinary boundaries with the aim to acquire archeology between the real interests of the citizenship.

E-RIHS: Developing an integrated research infrastructure for heritage and archaeological science

Author: Ms Teehan, Mary – The Discovery Programme (Presenting author)
Co-Author: Mr Corns, Anthony – The Discovery Programme; Dr Monaghan, Evie – The Discovery Programme
Keywords: Digital, Infrastructure, Science

The European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science (E-RIHS) is developing a research infrastructure for the support of heritage interpretation, preservation, documentation and management. Once established, it will consist of a centralised E-RIHS coordination office, National Hubs and distributed facilities comprised of fixed, mobile, archival and digital labs of excellence. It will provide trans-national access to state-of-the-art technologies, scientific archives and the methods associated with them. Ultimately, it will support cross-disciplinary research communities and advance the understanding, and preservation of, global heritage. Is this a solution to synthesising the fragmented nature of multiple research projects?
EU collaborative projects and networks such as CARARE, DARIAH, ARIADNE, Europeana and IPERION CH have been addressing archaeological research in scientific and digital environments, including the development of high quality knowledge tools. Common to all of these was a finite life-cycle. Maintenance of access, updating research, ensuring methodology compatibility and building awareness of the knowledge create common challenges. Therefore, the resource and economic investment in research has often not reached its optimum value.
Longevity of research outputs and prolonging knowledge work is crucial for cultural heritage disciplines. Such disciplines have benefited from recurring European funding since 1999 through various funding frameworks, most recently Horizon 2020. In recognition, E-RIHS was included in the ESFRI Roadmap in 2016 and is currently preparing towards fully sustainable infrastructural operation by 2022. It is important to map out where gaps and innovations lie and what lessons can be learned from past projects to enable E-RIHS to build a model of excellence and be applicable on a global scale. Creating, synthesising and streamlining knowledge tools for heritage science researchers and potential end users will be the measure of its success. This paper will outline progress made and highlight obstacles to heritage science collaboration faced by E-RIHS, through an Irish case study.

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