What is Archaeoinformatics?

So, why did I decide to write a blog about Archaeoinformatics, and what is it? In this article I will try to give a very basic definition of the subject and why I decided to write about it.

First of all, Archaeoinformatics is a reletively new field in Archaeology, although the use of computers in the Humanities dates way back. It basically all started with the quantification of Archaeology, a process started in the early 60ies by Lewis Binford and David Clarke and labelled as the “New Archaeology” and later as “Processual Archaeology”.  The new paradigm demanded not only quantification, but also the scientific testing of the accumulated data .

© Sebastian Hageneuer

Poseidon Temple – © Sebastian Hageneuer

In 1973, J.D. Wilcock imagined the use of computers in the field of archaeology as follows: 1. Databases, 2. Statistical analysis, 3. Recording of fieldwork, 4. production of diagrams and 5. Computer Reconstructions. The only thing he failed to predict was the use of Geoinformation Systems . In the following decades, the developments in processing power, memory capacity and prices for personal computers allowed the widespread use of soft- and hardware throughout archaeology.

Today, the use of databases, GIS or statistical analysis is as common for archaeology as taking photographs. The increasing possibilities of technology and software demand more and more the development of new methodologies and tools for archaeology. This is where Archaeoinformatics comes into play. Archaeoinformatics provides the means to transform archaeology and develop methods and tools to make the archaeological process easier and better.

At the moment, Archaeoinformatics develops as a sub-discipline of Archaeology in Germany. In the UK, the field is called Digital or Computational Archaeology. There, the subdiscipline has been a part of Archaeology for 20 years (University College London, University of Southampton, University of York). There is also Digital Archaeology at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. The term Archaeoinformatics has been developed since 2005, where the first lecturing position was ascribed to Archaeoinformatics at the Prehistory department of the University of Kiel. In 2010, there was a assistant professor position in Archaeoinformatics at the Freie Universität of Berlin (Department for Classical Archaeology). Since 2016, there is the first german full professorship in Archaeoinformatics at the Archaeological Institute of the University of Cologne. Starting in 2017, there will be also the second full professorship based again in Kiel.

As you can see, the field is pretty new, at least in Germany. We try to develop this field even further and find solutions to archaeological problems. This is also the reason for this blog. I wanted to create something where I can keep track of my progress, my projects and my knowledge in Archaeoinformatics. I am not sure if this blog will develop, or if I even can keep up writing here, but I want to try at least.

[h3title title=”Bibliography” style=”quad”]

Wilcock, J.D. 1973. “A General Survey of Computer Applications in Archaeology.” In Computer Applications in Archaeology 1, edited by J.D. Wilcock, 17–21. Science and Archaeology 9. Stafford: George Street Press. http://proceedings.caaconference.org/files/1973/02_Wilcock_CAA_1973.pdf.
Frischer, B. 2008. “Introduction. Form Digital Illustration to Digital Heuristics.” In Beyond Illustration: 2D and 3D Digital Technologies as Tools for Discovery in Archaeology, edited by B. Frischer and A. Dakouri-Hild, v–xxiv. BAR International Series 1805. Oxford: Archaeopress. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/heb.90045.
Renfrew, Colin, and Paul Bahn. 2008. Archaeology - Theories, Methods and Practice. 5th ed. London: Thames and Hudson.

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