A topic I’m interested in examining is Digital Archaeology. I’m not sure if there are any archaeologists besides me in attendance (a shame if it’s the case, considering how much amazing archaeology there is in the Chesapeake), but I think there is a fantastic discussion to be had about what is being done and what can be done in digital archaeology. At this point, digital archaeology has emerged in three areas: Field Technology/Methodology, Research Databases, and Public Engagement.
Field Technology has always been a field that has adopted technologies from other fields and applied them to archaeological methods. GIS and advanced survey equipment have been the major technological adaptions, but the recent use of the iPad in Pompeii opens the door for (finally) people to conduct paperless excavations.
A number of digital research databases have emerged, including the Comparative Archaeological Study of Colonial Chesapeake Culture and the Digital Archaeological Archives of Comparative Slavery (DAACS), housed at Monticello. These databases allow researchers to easily access numerous reports and data sets about archaeological sites, making comparative analysis that would have otherwise been expensive and time consuming a much more affordable venture.
Public Engagement has been the most evident use of the digital environment. Archaeology has a long tradition of “public archaeology”, and new technology provides us with a number of alternatives to how we conduct our operations. Most popular are the digital reconstructions of towns and buildings such as at Colonial Williamsburg, where they are in the process of recreating the entire colonial city as it was in 1776. Such a venture is heavily reliant on archaeological research conducted at the museum. At Monticello, there is a fantastic digital representation of the entire plantation, highlighting the archaeological projects conducted throughout. Also, my work with the MSU Campus Archaeology Program has used digital social media as a means of engaging the public in learning about the process of archaeology, and to make discoveries along with us in the field. You can read a bit more about my work here (The use of digital media and digital technologies to engage community in the process of our work is a separate topic. I can write more if there’s interest. Post a comment below!).
So, my questions are this: What are some of the challenges faced by archaeologists with these emerging technologies? How do we train students to use and engage with these technologies? How do we present them as useful things worth investing in to our colleagues/advisors/administrators? How do these technologies change the way we operate when collecting data? Do we need to change the way we think about collecting data so that it is more appropriately geared towards new technologies? What types of data would be useful for non-archaeologists, such as museum professionals, to be able to use in the public engagement portion of our discipline? What are some other new technologies that could fit into these categories, or what are some other categories of archaeology that could be added to the picture?
These are some of the things I’m thinking about…feel free to add on below!