Community Archaeology and Technology

Paper Abstracts

The session will be a half-day with 10 papers (20 minute long presentation).

N.B. This is not necessarily the order that the papers will appear in the programme.

The Phoenix Project: Using Heurist to Resurrect the MARTA Archaeological Collection and Atlanta’s Past
Jeffrey Glover, Ian Johnson, Alexis Powers, Robert Bryant
During the 1970s Georgia State University (GSU) archaeologists conducted systematic excavations associated with the construction of the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) rail lines. This project recovered the material remains of Atlanta’s past, and these materials represent the single most comprehensive archaeological collection of Atlanta’s history. In addition, the excavations themselves are among the pioneering projects of urban archaeology in the then nascent field of CRM (Cultural Resource Management). Thus, just the excavation archive, which is part of the collection, is invaluable for the history of archaeology in the US, especially the burgeoning new field of urban archaeology. The entire collection (469 medium-sized “banker” boxes housing over 100,000 artifacts and all the accompanying documentation and excavation archive) has recently been returned to GSU. Showcasing significant “moments” in the life of the city, including several Civil War sites associated with the Battle of Atlanta, the majority of the collection corresponds to the late 19th and early 20th century, the time of Atlanta’s rebirth as a major metropolitan area.
The greatest effort associated with this project is the digitization of the collection. The digitization includes data entry, scanning of field notes, reports, and maps, as well as the transformation of those data into an accessible dataset via the web. An archaeological project is only as good as its notes and records. This is particularly true when working with legacy data. The people working on the project today are not the ones who did the excavation, which can make the interpretation of the materials challenging. For that reason creating easily accessible and interpretable digitized field notes to accompany the other digital data is critical and is the reason GSU has joined forces with the Heurist team at the University of Sydney.
Arts eResearch at the University of Sydney has been developing a flexible web-based database – Heurist – for Humanities data for the past 6 years. This database has been used in numerous research and public outreach projects. Heurist is unique in integrating and linking a wide variety of data, from quantitative data on artifacts and trenches through notes and photographs to mapping data and annotation of resources. Apart from providing a multi-user, web-based interface with different levels of security for different users, Heurist provides facilities for republishing the data for both professional and public access using a variety of output formats, from lists, maps and timelines to data feeds for input to other software or consolidator sites. The Heurist software went Open Source in 2013, and the database is being made publicly accessible. This paper discusses how Heurist has allowed this long-forgotten collection to finally shed light on the development of the Southeast’s largest city and to engage the public about the benefits of archaeology in ways that were not even dreamed of when this project began in the 1970s.

Tablets and Tides: Excavation, data-sharing and community involvement on the Northwest Coast of British Columbia, Canada.
Sarah Kessick
An extensive archaeological data recovery project involving Millennia Research Limited and two Coast Tsimshian communities, Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams, took place in 2012-2013 in Prince Rupert Harbour, BC, located on the northern Northwest Coast of North America. First Nations individuals participated in the excavation as both professionals and as ‘junior archaeological assistants’ who had no formal training in archaeology. Through the use of advanced data recording methods and real-time data sharing between Millennia Research and the remote (boat access) First Nation communities, the expedient dissemination of significant finds, such as human remains and formed artifacts, was achievable. This real-time data sharing greatly contributed to transparency of archaeological findings, and community awareness of the excavation.
The eight month excavation, primarily accomplished during the cold, wet and windy winter months typical of the northern Northwest Coast, challenged the technology designed to expediently record data. Tablet computers functioned despite being damp and dirty while cold fingers managed to operate them much easier than writing in soaking wet notebooks. Barcode scanners, used to link total station spatial data to attribute information recorded on tablet computers, saved time and reduced errors. Most First Nation ‘junior archaeologists’, with their knowledge of popular technology were able to make immediate contributions to data gathering and transmittal.
Throughout the project, the evolving interest and understanding of the junior archaeologists regarding the purpose of extensive and accurate data gathering became apparent. The ‘juniors’ watched demonstrations showing the progression of total station points into shaping 3D representations and on first viewing this, several exclaimed “this is just like I imagined it would look”. The junior archaeologists assisted with setting up and maintaining the WiFi systems that linked tablet computers to cloud computers. One junior archaeologist with aptitude became expert in laser scanning of artifacts and in microscopic imagery; this allowed new ways to share imagery of artifacts and incorporation of artifact scans into GIS.
The advancements in technology and the participation and support from First Nation communities in archaeological data recovery projects is considered crucial to the proper management of archaeological resources as trade-related development accelerates on the Northwest Coast of Canada.

Taking the Treasure Act into the classroom
Daniel Pett, Kate Kelland, Shelley Mannion, David Hogan
In January 2014, the British Museum’s departments of Learning, Volunteers and Audiences, in collaboration with the Portable Antiquities Scheme ( will be delivering an innovative video conferencing activity into several primary schools in the United Kingdom from the bowels of the British Museum’s Samsung Digital Discovery Centre (SDDC). This activity will be aimed at teaching Key Stage 2 children a variety of life and ethical skills based around the amazing discovery of the Frome Hoard of 52503 Roman coins and the dispensation of the Treasure Act. At the heart of this activity, is the underlying principle that anyone could find an archaeological object, and through participation in this, they will learn what to do, who to contact and what ethical issues need to be considered.
Within this activity, children are given specific tasks based around the discovery process; for example choosing the excavation team, delivering a security strategy, organising a press release to disseminate news of the exciting discovery and discussing whether the items are covered by the Treasure Act.
This paper will discuss how this activity was developed over the previous year with specific reference to teaching methods, equipment selection (in conjunction with the SDDC’s commercial ties), archaeological practise and the legal aspects of the Treasure Act. It will show how some intrinsically complex situations are broken down for the younger audience, how some practical choices had to made to enable the activity to be executed. It will also discuss whether this initiative could be seen as a success, whether it can easily be adapted to other significant public discoveries, whether it could be replicated in other museums or archaeological facilities, whether it could be delivered to a different audience (such as community archaeology groups or university students) and how much staff time was expended on development.

Public Archaeology
Lorna Richardson
The growth of social media brings with it the ability for archaeological news to be shared and re-shared, re-shaped, reformed, and reinterpreted, within seconds. Sensationalist archaeological headlines makes great entertainment, and the nature of the Web means these stories do not go away. The information landscape of the Internet, especially when explored via search engines, privileges popularity over the ‘low-circulation-high-quality’ information that heritage professionals provide. Discrimination between ‘authentic’ credible archaeological information, and populist, inaccurate and misleading archaeological sensationalism, or even pseudo-archaeology, requires an ability to apply critical thought to information retrieved online. How do we, as professionals, promote our expertise, authenticity and authority to the Internet-using public?
This paper will look at case studies of inaccurate archaeological information pitched as ‘tabloid titillation’ and entertainment online and will ask if new landscapes of participatory digital media can fundamentally threaten the authority of archaeological organisations and knowledge? Can the use of the Internet as a form of entertainment misrepresent of archaeological knowledge in the public realm, and should we fear of the use of the Internet for the presentation of alternative archaeologies?

Developing ‘Crowd and Community-fuelled Archaeological Research’: methodological, technical and ethical challenges
Chiara Bonacchi, Daniel Pett, Andrew Bevan
This paper will reflect on crowd-sourcing and crowd-funding as methods for engaging already established communities of interest in archaeology alongside a wider network of contributors, not only to co-produce archaeological data, but also to co-design original new research agendas and micro-finance them. We will introduce and critically discuss any inter-related methodological, technical and ethical challenges encountered in the set-up phase of an AHRC funded project conducted as a collaboration between the UCL Institute of Archaeology and the British Museum. As part of the project, we are testing the use of crowd-sourcing to enable different kinds of archaeological enthusiasts to co-create archaeological data and knowledge, and to attract funding through individually small but collectively significant donations. The paper will address the issues arising from the initial stages of the research on two main fronts. Firstly, we will examine the technological methods employed to build the crowd-sourcing platform in order to support a wholly participatory, rather than merely contributory, model of community engagement with archaeology. The project will be using completely open source tools and software solutions such as WordPress, CrowdCrafting (Pybossa) and Discourse. Data generated through this project will also be released under a Creative Commons licence (CC0) and will be amalgamated with relevant resources and repositories (for example the Portable Antiquities Scheme database). Secondly, we will illustrate the ethical and methodological challenges of developing a framework for the evaluation of our co-production efforts. For example, we will show how the tension between the need of allowing contributors to remain anonymous and that of gathering data for the study of participant motivations, attitudes and behaviour has been dealt with. We will also present the ethical considerations that have informed the choice of what methods to use for collecting, storing and analysing personal information about our contributors. Conclusions will offer insights useful to support researchers and practitioners with the desire of using crowd-sourcing to foster collaborative kinds of community archaeology.
For more information about the project, please check the project description or the project platform

Making community-driven, open source investment work in archaeology
Benjamin Ducke
Modern archaeology invariably involves software, and in most cases also Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). Apart from the critical importance of source code availability for fully transparent and reproducible data processing, there are also obvious economic incentives for using free software. However, while archaeologists benefit from an ever-growing FOSS repository, investment into the same remains minimal, especially compared to what is routinely paid for proprietary, closed-source licensing fees. This is regrettable, as FOSS offers a superior platform for technological collaboration and an alternative, non-redundant investment model that is more sustainable in the long term. Comparatively small individual contributions, pooled together, allow a community of investors to develop a rich library of free software, tailor-made and without usage restrictions. In theory, these are ideal preconditions for the diffusion of modern technology among communities of professionals, academics and hobbyists alike. In practice, however, there still seems to be widespread doubt about the quality, cost and feasibility of FOSS development.
Collaborative software development, from initial idea to usable program, remains a difficult task, not only in terms of mastering technological challenges, but also in terms of managing organisational complexities and social dynamics. Some FOSS projects fail because their initial design was too ambitious, others fail because they do not manage to attract a loyal base of supporters and simply run out of ressources. However, there is now more than sufficient evidence that a community the size of the archaeological one is well capable, in principle, of building its own “software commons” based on FOSS.
This paper looks at the economics of open source software, with special consideration to the structure of the archaeological software market. Insights into the aspects of planning, developing and sustaining customised software development under open source licenses will be provided. Some important lessons learned from a decade of contributing to open source software projects will be shared, and typical pitfalls will be discussed. Supporting the arguments made in favour of FOSS investment, two successful projects of relevance to this session, the surveying tool “survey2gis” and the full-featured FOSS GIS “gvSIG CE”, will be showcased. This paper will provide the audience with some real-world facts on developing costs, time frames and socio-technological complexities that are hard to come by in the academic literature.

The ACCORD project: Archaeology Community Co-Production of Research Data
Stuart Jeffrey
This paper introduces the AHRC funded ACCORD project, a partnership between the Digital Design Studio at the Glasgow School of Art, Archaeology Scotland, the University of Manchester and the Royal Commision on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. The ACCORD project examines the opportunities and implications of digital visualisation technologies for community engagement and research through the co-creation of three-dimensional (3D) models of historic monuments and places.
Despite their increasing accessibility, techniques such as laser scanning, 3D modelling and 3D printing have remained firmly in the domain of heritage specialists. Expert forms of knowledge and/or professional priorities frame the use of digital visualisation technologies, and forms of community-based social value are rarely addressed. Consequently, the resulting digital objects fail to engage communities as a means of researching and representing their heritage, despite the now widespread recognition of the importance of community engagement and social value in the heritage sector. The ACCORD project addresses this gap through the co-design and co-production of an integrated research asset that encompasses social value and engages communities with transformative digital technologies.
ACCORD is creating a permanently archived open-access dataset of community co-produced 3D digital models of archaeological sites and monuments, integrated with expressions of social value and contextual documentation. The project actively engages community groups that have ongoing relationships to heritage places in the process of creating 3D records and models of those places. With the support of visualisation technologists, community engagement practitioners, and experts in social value, each community group will design, direct and produce their own 3D objects. The use of digital technologies to enhance and generate forms of social significance will be an important outcome, adding distinctive value to existing heritage assets and our understandings of them.
Evaluation will include a review of the transformative aspects of the process, investigating changes in attitudes to 3D recording technologies during the life of the project, as well as the forms of significance, authenticity and value acquired by the resulting 3D objects. Ultimately, through the co-production of an open-access dataset, and the creation of a ‘community of communities’ engaged in sharing skills and experiences, ACCORD seeks to broaden capacity for the creation and reuse of digital visualisation technologies in community heritage activities and research.

Create Once, Consume Anywhere: Curating Accessible Archaeological Content for Mobile Apps
Michael Charno, Ed Zukowski, Stuart Jeffrey
The Archaeology Data Service (ADS), founded in 1996, is a national repository for digital data from the UK historic environment sector. The ADS has a mandate to provide a digital repository for outputs from research funded by national funding bodies within the UK, which has led to a considerable archive of data and metadata related to the archaeology of the UK. While preservation is one pillar of responsibilities at the ADS, dissemination also plays a key role in the ADS’s activities. The ADS supports a number of methods for disseminating data, most obviously via its website [], but also via OAI-PMH targets, SOAP web services, Linked Open Data, and even the humble CD-in-the-post. Mobile apps were recently investigated to compliment the existing methods of dissemination for ADS data. Mobile apps in particular were seen as a more accessible way to engage with the general public, a group which the ADS usually does not specifically target.
The development of the app, “Archaeology Britain” was a collaboration between the British Library and the ADS to create a general audience app with unique and interesting content from both organisations. Archaeology Britain contained curated content to try and portray rarely seen perspectives of British archaeological sites. The content within the app was a combination of open data from the ADS and “closed” data from the British Library and other heritage institutions. Disseminating this kind of mixed content is a function the mobile app as a platform is well suited. Until an open data utopia is realised, it will be argued that mobile apps can provide greater access to “closed” data, counter intuitively due to the propeitary nature of their distribution. Providing easy access to “closed” data is an important aspect of engaging with the community and telling them the archaeological story.
Before developing Archaeology Britain, the ADS supported a mobile app based on the England’s Rock Art archive, which comprised of outputs from a volunteer project. This experience was a precursor to the development of Archaeology Britain and lessons from that project will be explored. This paper will then go on to discuss the process of producing an archaeological mobile app for a general audience, from the planning and inception to the release and promotion. Many challenges were presented while trying to curate an app targeted at the general user instead of the more academic user the ADS usually targets. Practical lessons of taking this often complex ADS content and curating it for a general audience will be discussed. A more controversial topic, platform choice, will be visited as well as the fallout, which ranges from user exclusion to fanboy rage. Many of these lessons aren’t specific to mobile apps, but rather apply to a broader objective of disseminating archaeological knowledge and information to the public.

Co-Production of alternative views of lost heritage: Crowd-sourced Photogrammetry in Heritage recording
Andrew Wilson, Jonathan Roberts, Raimund Karl, Bernard Tiddeman, Ben Edwards
Being able to examine objects, sites and buildings three-dimensionally is a crucial element in interpreting many, if not most, heritage assets. This is reflected in modern heritage survey and recording techniques like topographical surveying, ground-based and/or airborne laser scanning of objects, sites and buildings, or three-dimensional geophysical survey methods (e.g., GPR), which are increasingly being used in archaeological fieldwork.
There is a huge opportunity to put these metric-sensing devices into the hands of the public to enable more crowd-sourced data. Crowd-sourcing in this way, has vast potential for heritage. It could enable a comprehensive coverage of metric scanning that would be impossible to be achieved by one or two research groups. It also encourages the wider public to become excited over our heritage, and ‘get involved’ in our historical environment.
On the one hand, while the cost of (say) laser scanners are decreasing rapidly they are still viewed as a research tool, or maybe a keen hobbyist, and are out-of-reach of the general public. On the other hand, the digital camera has become ubiquitous (everyone now has a camera); with smart-phones demonstrating mega-pixel counts on their cameras there is a huge opportunity to utilise cameras to perform metric survey.
Modern photogrammetric software solutions allow automated 3D rendering of objects from several 2D pictures taken of the object at random angles and distances. Using such solutions to create 3D renderings of excavation trenches and other objects has been successfully tested in the past few years (Roe 2010; Doneus et al. 2011; Verhoeven et al. 2012). This research has confirmed that the results are sufficiently accurate for archaeological recording interpretation. While such solutions have successfully been applied to current archaeological excavations and surveys, they have not yet been used by a wider audience, for crowed-sourcing of metric data. Naturally, not every suite of photos creates a good 3D model and therefore not every user’s data will provide good metric data. However, with an online tutorial and guidance of best-practice, we believe that it is possible for a wider public to achieve high quality results. In addition, with the Wikipedia model of peer reviewing we believe that the ‘management of quality’ would be self-regulating, and that the better versions of a particular asset would be kept. Wikipedian’s pride themselves on keeping quality and accurate articles, and likewise we propose the same pride and quality will occur here.
The Co-Production of alternative views of lost heritage project aims to use photographs taken by local community to create a comprehensive and accurate 2D, 3D and geo-location record of local heritage to provide a research-based asset of enduring value.

Community archaeology and geophysical survey: reflections on the Sensing the Iron Age and Roman Past project
Kris Lockyear, Ellen Shlasko and Andrew Bevan, UCL
Over the last three years the British Arts and Humanities Research Council has funded a series of projects under a cross-council funding scheme entitled Connected Communities. The aim of these grants were to enhance the connections between the academic sector and community heritage groups enabling, on the one hand, the universities to support these groups through training and other means, and on the other hand to undertake new joint research projects co-authored with members of those community groups. In archaeology “community heritage groups”, in the form of archaeological societies, have a long history often predating the development of academic and professional archaeology. With increasing specialisation within archaeology and the rising costs of excavation and post-excavation, these more traditional forms of research are increasingly difficult for local societies to undertake. The success of the budget TRCIA resistance meter has made geophysical survey an attractive addition to types of work local societies can undertake. Resistance survey is by nature, however, slow, dependant on weather/soil conditions, and usually undertaken at a low data density (e.g., 1 reading per square meter). In contrast, magnetometry is fast, can have a higher data density and is not seasonally dependent which has led it to be the technique of choice for commercial archaeology whenever possible. Access to the equipment remains a problem for community groups.
The Sensing project has enabled an alliance of archaeological societies from Hertfordshire to collaborate with UCL, local museum services and the Historic Environment Record to undertake a series of surveys, principally of the Roman town of Verulamium. The project purchased a Foerster four sensor cart system which will remain available to the collaborating community groups beyond the end of the project. This paper reviews the work of the project, including the people involved, the advantages and problems of the hardware and software involved and the planned online open access publication with direct links to the project’s data archive.



  • CAA2014 Website

  • CAA2014 Events

    « February 2023 »
    Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
        1 2 3 4 5
    6 7 8 9 10 11 12
    13 14 15 16 17 18 19
    20 21 22 23 24 25 26
    27 28