Computer Applications in Archaeology (CAA) 2019 Krakow, Poland (April 23-27)

S04: Session: Digital archaeology of modern conflict landscapes

Organizers Grzegorz Kiarszys (Szczecin University); Mikolaj Kostyrko

In this session we are looking to bring together case studies that apply digital archaeology to the research of modern post-conflict landscapes. Conflict archaeology of the recent past is a fast-growing field of knowledge. What 30 years ago would have been considered as new and quite peculiar kinds of archaeological studies have, in the last decade, become common. Today archaeologists study landscapes altered during recent conflicts (WWI, WWII, Cold War etc.) in the same way, as any other period. While doing so, they reach out to digital archaeology - computer aided or based techniques which provide them with a better insight into their study area. Tools that help them to explore (i.e. remote sensing), reveal and analyze (i.e. GIS analysis, modeling), share objects (i.e. online databases) of their interest with a wider audience. What kind of contribution to the study of post-conflict landscapes can digital archaeology provide? How can digital archaeological tools change our (and other’s) cognitive experience (enhance or cloud it?), and understanding of conflict sites? We are looking for qualitative and not quantitative case studies that will show the importance or irrelevance of digital archaeology methods in study of recent conflicts, both in its research, as well as in outreach and popularisation of archaeological study.


S08: Roundtable: Teaching Digital Archaeology

Organizers: Till Sonnemann; Grzegorz Kiarszys; Arianna Traviglia (University of Venice)

Courses teaching basic ‘digital’ methods, from equipment to software use, have surged in recent years, particularly in Europe, with the goal to provide students with a bit of extra knowledge in digital techniques to survive in the market. Supported often by university politics for its innovative character to help archaeology into modernity, in many curriculums the digital part is still fighting for a permanent position. While accepted by the ‘real’ archaeologist as a useful tool, digital topics however, often remain orchids in the vast field of archaeology. Particularly in traditional archaeology courses, students choose their career path for an often very specific, sometimes utopian reason, with one goal to become a field or dirt archaeologist.

Digital Archaeology offers the opportunity to include a great variation of courses and subjects, probably as vast as there are sessions at the CAA. At the same time the archaeology curriculum is narrow, and it has become more difficult to fit in special topics because of BA restrictions. And students may ask the question of the course’s necessity: is the method being taught fully acknowledged? There can only be so many applied computer courses or introductions to digital techniques, software and programming, that could provide a new view on archaeological topics.

What are the basics that all students should be acquainted to when leaving BA level? How far can a course reach at MA Level?? What courses have been particularly successful, which ones failed, and for what reason? Do students accept the challenge?

The session intends to bring together lecturers who are focused on teaching and developing courses, to contemplate and openly discuss the successes and problems in the field of teaching digital archaeology, with the goal to form collaborative networks, and to maybe also share methods and exercises. For this we would like to have participants to fill out a questionnaire to take part in the action. Presentations should be no longer than 10 min with focus on the questions provided.

The session is followed by another Roundtable: Thinking out of the classroom: developing a strategy for sharing knowledge and resources for education and training in digital archaeology.



Talk: The survivorship bias and intimate landscapes of conflict

Speakers: Mikołaj Kostyrko; Grzegorz Kiarszys

One of the main advantages of archaeology is the ability to interpret material remains of human activities. Based on this ‘evidence’, archaeologists weave stories about the past. Similar circumstances occur in case of cultural landscapes registered through remote sensing techniques. Digital methods can aid in creating persuasive narrations. They allow to register and present unimaginable quantities of details, making archaeological visions very aesthetic and plastic. There is however a price to be paid for this opportunity. Researches often focus on things that are easy reachable through simple analysis of digital records. This causes a lack of criticism towards applied methods and quality of digital data. It is much more difficult to realize gaps resulting from limitations of applied methods. In statistics such a situation is referred to as "the survivorship bias", and describes the situation when conclusions are defined based on a non-complete set of evidence. We will present three case studies from different conflict landscapes focusing on their intimate stories. These narratives of everyday lives that can be easily omitted, but which also could be brought back to light with a wider scope of integrated archaeological sources and methods: remote sensing data, spatial analysis, photos and testimonies. We will refer to case studies from different periods of 20 c. WWI and WWII POW camps, as well as a Cold War nuclear depot, which will serve as examples to discuss different problems and possibilities of approaching “the survivorship bias” within archaeological studies of modern conflict landscapes.


Talk: Teaching Digital Archaeology at European Universities



Authors: Till Sonnemann; Mikołaj Kostyrko

Having been implemented into the archaeological curriculum of many European universities, digital subjects have brought archaeology into the 21st century. Depending on the focus of the course work, or the lecturer, various subjects appear as compulsory or optional topics to choose from: GIS, statistics and networks, remote sensing, geophysics, 3D-scanning, visualization techniques, computer programming, data bases, to name a few, often in combination with different archaeological or heritage themes, or linking to the natural sciences, mathematics, informatics, geography or digital humanities. The courses are still mostly implemented in traditional archaeology or heritage careers as part of BA and MA studies, and seldom offered as a full course. Nevertheless new MA courses are being planned and implemented. The talk intents to present and discuss the outcome of a questionnaire filled out by lecturers from different European universities on their involvement in teaching digital methods.
Not claiming to be exhaustive, the introductory talk intents to give an overview of the various and different approaches on how digital archaeology is currently being taught at European universities and hopes to lead to an open discussion in this roundtable session.