Session ‘Relationships of Archaeology and Spatial Humanities’ at CAA conference in Atlanta (USA) in March 2017

Computer Applications in Archaeology – CAA conference 2017, session: Exploring the Symbiotic Relationships of Archaeology and Spatial Humanities

Co-organizers: Heather Richards-Rissetto, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Armin Volkmann, Heidelberg University

Some institutions place the discipline of archaeology within the Social Sciences, others in the Humanities. On-the-ground reality is that archaeology is inherently interdisciplinary cross-cutting also the natural and computer sciences. The rapid growth of Digital Humanities (DH)-intersection of computing and humanities-in the past decade has led to a two-way relationship between archaeology and digital humanities. Given that archaeology is inherently spatial and temporal, archaeology is particularly contributing to the spatial humanities-a sub-field of digital humanities turning to space and time as a means to (re)contextualize old questions and formulate new ones. However, this relationship is not one-way! In this session, participants explore the impact of archaeology on Digital Humanities and vice versa, the impact of digital humanities on archaeology remembering that the two are not mutually-exclusive.

As for the digital, archaeologists were early adopters of computing technologies with the first CAA conference in 1973. In the 1980s, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) became an archaeological mainstay, and for the past ten years GIS has infused momentum into the spatial humanities, taking center stage as the spatio-temporal tool to create new methods and interpretations. Recently, 3D technologies and 3D content seem to be explicitly bridging archaeology and spatial humanities with an intertwined emphasis on digital cultural heritage.

In this session, participants explore methodological, technical, and theoretical issues related to space and time that cross-cut archaeology and digital humanities with particular emphasis on the impacts of:

  • computing technologies on exchange and development of cross-disciplinary methods
  • affordances of web-based and desktop technologies for research
  • linked data and digital narratives, e.g., network analysis or digital editions of excavations reports
  • open spatial data challenges
  • technology on theoretical paradigms

Access to digital collections enriches investigations in the field of cultural heritage by opening boundaries to enable big data analysis and foster cross-disciplinary collaboration. To exemplify the roles these impacts and persistent challenges have on potential revolutionary change across archaeology and digital humanities, participants present use studies and archaeological information systems. Archaeologists have been using GIS for several decades, and digital humanists, substantially influenced by archaeology, have recently begun to experiment with the potential of GIS.

As the hallmark of digital humanities, and yet not typically used in archaeology, text-annotation, semi-automated named-entity recognition (NER), and other text-encoding techniques can be used to map place-information out of large corpora or databases to enrich archaeological studies. Archaeological travelogues exemplify the intersection of archaeology and digital humanities-spatial information can be visualized and analysed in geo-browser or web-GIS creating digital narratives, and if these narratives are linked to archaeological data that could be parsed and data mined, they would augment existing archaeological methods. Use cases will clarify the state of the art based on heterogeneous datasets with spatial context such as text, images, maps, etc.

Both archaeology and digital humanities have key competencies that have often overlooked by each other; however, recently, as the participants in this session illustrate, scholars are becoming explicitly aware that the symbiotic relationships between the two is opening innovative research avenues for both.

CAA-2017 conference at Georgia State University in Atlanta (USA); program, registration, and information etc.: