Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future: An interesting opportunity to broaden the discussion




I stumbled upon this two-day conferencefrom February 27-28th 2015 at the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston Massachusetts, which was designed to bring together experts in archaeology and computing to discuss the use, creation and implementation of mobile digital technologies to advance archaeology.

The sessions and workshops that were provided during this conference were designed to open the dialogue between archaeologists while learning, discussing and designing ways in which digital technologies may be implemented across archaeological projects. The overarching aim of the conference is to “ synthesize current practices and establish a blueprint for creating best practices and moving forward… in archaeology”. This theme has been ubiquitous throughout our class over the course of the semester.

Even though this conference has passed, it is a representation of ‘how to do’ digital archaeology in the field, a concept that has been brought up several times in class discussions. Taking into account various economic and temporal and spatial constraints that are often a burden when conducting archaeological field world, this technology is being presenting to archaeologists as a viable option for conducting emerging practices in their research.

From the conference program available online, it can be seen that there was a wide range of speakers, talks and workshops that were available at the conference, from “Digital Imaging and Spatial Analysis in Archaeology” to  “Pedagogy, Data Curation and Reflection”. Investigating topics such as accessibility, the broader significance of digital archaeology and how technologies are changing the field of archaeology highlight a few of workshops that were available during this conference.


I thought that this was a particularly interesting opportunity to highlight as it demonstrates that the topics being explored in our class are moving beyond the classroom walls and engaging in broader dialogues throughout the archaeological community.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Fresh Ink: Mummified Iceman Has New Tattoo

I want to bring everyone back in time to January of this year, when I meant to post a blog about this and then swiftly forgot to. Everyone knows who Ötzi, the heavily tattooed Ice Man, is and back in January researchers at the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman at the European Research Academy in Italy uncovered a new tattoo on Ötzi’s body.  The new tally for the number of tattoos is now 61.



Researchers did as many in archaeological fields do and borrowed technology from a different discipline. This time researchers borrowed from the art world. The camera used to analyze Ötzi’s mummy was designed to non-invasively search for other paintings beneath valuable works of art. The camera works by capturing various wavelengths of light that go beyond the visible spectrum, from ultraviolet to infrared. This technique allowed researchers to observe the new tattoo, which was black like all of Ötzi’s other tattoos, on skin that has darkened over time. Ötzi’s tattoos were created by making an incision in the skin and adding charcoal mixed with herbs.  The tattoos are all designs made with grouped lines. At this time researchers can only speculate if the tattoos have any kind of therapeutic or religious significance. Some do speculate that the placement of the tattoos may indicate that they were linked to treatments for pain based on the location of the tattoos, which are generally near Ötzi’s joints, or on his back. It is believed that Ötzi had during his lifetime maladies associated with his back and various joints.

The newly discovered tattoo is located on Ötzi’s ribcage and there are several interpretations as to why. Dr. Albert Zink, the head of the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman, proposes that the tattoo may indicate that Ötzi suffered from chest pain associated with conditions such as atherosclerosis, which causes plaque buildup in the chest.


Geggel, L. (2015, January 28). Fresh Ink: Mummified Iceman Has New Tattoo. Retrieved March 31, 2015, from http://www.livescience.com/49611-otzi-iceman-mummy-tattoos.html 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

March 30th readings

Sorry for the lateness!

I have found 2 articles for next class.  You should be able to find them through the library.

Crowd-sourced Archaeological Research: The MicroPasts Project
Chiara Bonacchi, Andrew Bevan, Daniel Pett, Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert, Rachael Sparks, Jennifer Wexler, Neil Wilkin



The advent of digital technologies and the idea of community
March 2010, Volume 25 (Issue 1) Page p.5 - 11


Friday, 20 March 2015

Mobile Archaeology

As I was researching for mobile apps that are being used by archaeologists in the field, I happened to come across this Pompeii project. While not exactly what I was searching for, this post discusses a number of interesting abilities that mobile devices can bring to archaeology.



The project is run by Dr. Steven Ellis at the University of Cincinnati and essentially what they are doing is using off-the-shelf data collection apps that make things more readily and easily shared. The author of the post discusses how the information that is collected out in the field, uploaded directly to a website and then is shown in the classroom. From here, the students can go through the latest photos and maps, discuss finds and follow the project.

I think that this is good start to putting technology to work for us in the field of archaeology. If we can more readily store and send information then perhaps the time spent cataloguing and storing artifacts can be cut down immensely. There is already the initiative to digitize archaeology at SA with the barcode system. The introduction of mobile devices could fast track this process by providing each artifact, level, test pit, site with their own barcodes as work is being done rather than in the main facility itself.

Do any of you see how mobile devices could benefit the field of archaeology? Or conversely, do any of you think that introducing mobile devices into the field could do more harm than good?

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Fakers beware: The use of nanoSEM in authenticating artifacts

Several of the blog posts and class discussions over the semester have pointed to the misuse of digital technologies in reprinting or ‘faking’ artifacts or cultural antiquities. Although a majority of the recreations are sold to tourists as knick-knacks and souvenirs, the surge is artifact replication represents a major hindrance on the procurement of authentic artifacts for academic research and museum curation.

Geologist Timothy Rose of the Smithsonian Intuition’s Analytical Laboratories is fighting fire with fire by using his lab’s nanoscale scanning electron microscope (nanoSEM) to determine the authenticity of ancient Mesoamerican artifacts.

In an ongoing study, Rose and his colleagues have analysed hundred of artifacts from ancient Olmec, Maya, Teotihuacan and Mezcala civilizations dating from 1500 B.C. to A.D. 600.  

As many of the artifacts under investigation could not be removed from their museums or sectioned to fit into the machine, silicone molds were made of the objects to study tool marks and tiny grains that were removed from deep within the artifacts cracks. This led to the discovered of single-celled algae with cell walls made of silica- a substance that would have been used to create a shiny finish on certain artifacts during the manufacturing process.



Artifacts confiscated by the federal government were analyzed using the nanoSEM to detect if flakes of modern gypsum plaster are present- essentially the objects are being examined for indicative signs that they are fakes. Rose notes that only a small percentage of the artifacts examined showed modern tool marks or evidence of recent origins.

Using this type of technology allows for researchers to examine the artifacts on a microscopic level and provides access to new ways of looking at how and what the artifacts were created with, you can even see micro fractures of tool markers…perhaps using this type of highly detailed technology could be of use when examining micro-fractures in heat-modified rocks (or FCRs as we have all come to know them)! 

Storing digital heritage on the Net



A recent article in the New Yorker brought my attention to the Internet Archive and its Wayback Machine (“The Cobweb”, Jan. 26). To me, the digital information has always suggested an ultimate ethereality, a sense that everything produced in digital format defined by its impermanence (the article suggests that the average Web site life-span is around 100 days). But, the Internet Archive is challenging this idea by building a library of Web pages that has, since 1996, saved over 455 billion of them (apparently a full 20 billion in the couple months since the article was written). 
Internet archive is made possible through the use of the Wayback Machine, a software robot that 'crawls' diligently around the Net copying and archiving pages. Aditionally, people are able to contribute by selecting internet content that they think should be preserved. This is an interesting new opportunity for the various fields of heritage preservation as it seems to provide a localized and robust place to store publicly accessible information.
The article also cites the interesting fact that Twitter has made a deal to have all of it's tweets archived at the Library of Congress. Having predicted its own continued cultural significance, Twitter is trying to preserve itself as resource for future research even as the record is being created. This Ozymandian effort raises a number of questions for me regarding the relationship between heritage material, it's production and its preservation..    

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Readings for March 23rd: Digital Archaeology and Communities: Engagement Beyond

Hi all,

For the March 23rd class on digital archaeology and community engagement, Neal has suggested that we replace the McDavid 2004 article on the Internet and public relations with a more recent article:

Richardson, L. 2013 A Digital Public Archaeology? Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 23: 1-12. (Available at: http://www.pia-journal.co.uk/article/view/pia.431/549)

Also, I would like to add 2 more readings:


Beale N. 2012. How Community Archaeology can make use of Open Data to Further its Objectives. World Archaeology Vol. 44: 612-633.

Karl, R. et al. 2014 Picture This! Community-led Production of Alternative Views of the Heritage of Gwynedd. Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage Vol 1: 23-36.

Both are available through Western Libraries online.  The Beale article is a review of ways in which open data have been and can be used in community archaeology and the issues with that.  The Karl et al. article is am interesting case study where the visitors to a site in Wales can upload their digital photos of the site to help build 3D models and track changes in the site over time.

Let me know if you have any questions about the readings and I am looking forward to our discussion in 2 weeks.
-Jenn