Chair: Benjamin DUCKE, Germany

Archaeologists, always under pressure to make their work more cost and time efficient, have been using databases, CAD and GIS to document excavations digitally, almost since the inception of these technologies. While databases and CAD (in this context) might be considered more or less direct digital replacements for traditional pen and paper tools, GIS have been praised for bringing new analytical capabilities to the field.
However, none of the mainstream information systems, their user interfaces or data models, have been designed with archaeological excavations in mind. Frequently, the physical reality of the site and prevalent working conditions allow only suboptimal use of technological capabilities. Indeed, the overhead required to accomodate digital technology on site, including software and hardware repair and maintenance, data conversion and archival, must have had a sobering effect on many field archaeologists who previously worked under the illusion that computers and software existed to make their lifes easier.
It is thus perhaps mostly in the post-excavation phase that we can expect to find our “Digital Dividend”, and the added effort will pay off in the form of better data, a better understanding of site structure and more powerful ways of data analysis. But in how far has this potential really come to fruition in current practice and how much of it remains unrealized?

This session invites contributions that explore these and related issues, such as (but not limited to):

  • Have the buzz words of the 1990s, such as “3D/4D GIS” and “Archaeological Information Systems”, materialized in the form of broadly available and applied software?
  • How do recent innovations, e.g. image-based reconstruction, integrate with mainstream information systems, such as desktop GIS?
  • Can handheld computers (“smartphones”, “tablets”, etc.) and other ultra-mobile technology be a complete replacement for pen and paper in the field?
  • How do information systems, through their highly standardized data models, user interfaces and formats, shape our perception of the excavation? Is software accomodating our work, or are we accomodating digital workflows?