I just stumbled across an article in the New York Times:

Anthropologists have been thrown into turmoil about the nature and future of their profession after a decision by the American Anthropological Association at its recent annual meeting to strip the word “science” from a statement of its long-range plan. The decision has reopened a long-simmering tension between researchers in science-based anthropological disciplines — including archaeologists, physical anthropologists and some cultural anthropologists — and members of the profession who study race, ethnicity and gender and see themselves as advocates for native peoples or human rights.

As an archaeologist who’s never really seen himself as an anthropologist but, truth be told, more as related to historians (I was originally trained in Belgium), I must admit that I wasn’t too much aware of this issue. So I went over to the Savage Minds group blog, my usual source for what goes on in anthropology. Two posts seemed most relevant: “Why anthropology is ‘true’ even if it is not ‘science’” and “Ethnography as a solution to #AAAfail.”

… we don’t have to go that far afield to recognize forms of knowledge that are rehabilitated when anthropology jettisons its label as ‘science’: history, epigraphy, historical linguistics, and the humanities in general. The opposite of ‘science’ is not ‘nihilitic postmodernism’ it’s ‘an enormously huge range of forms of scholarship, many of which are completely and totally committed to accuracy and impartiality in the knowledge claims they make, thank you very much’.

At times I feel like the real distinction here is between thoughtful people who are aware of the complexities of knowledge production, and those who are for psychological reasons strongly committed to identifying themselves as scientists and everyone else as blasphemers. This approach is, of course, not very scientific and verges on being the close-minded inversion of the fundamentalist Christianity that thinkers of this ilk so love to oppose.

What do most anthropologists think anthropology does? What do the terms they use to evaluate it mean to them? To the best of my knowledge, we simply have no answer to this question beyond our impressions that ‘cultural anthropologists are taking over’.

The Neuroanthropology blog has collected a lot of  the online discussions. Hmm… How would I normally characterize what I do to the general public? Luckily, archaeology is sufficiently popular that I can just use that term and leave it at that. Only occasionally does someone engage me on whether it’s a science or not. I guess I associate “science” with empiricism, in other words, can my explanation be tested, measured, replicated? Obviously, archaeology which destroys much of what it studies in the act of excavation is not fully empirical though we do use a lot of empirical methods to describe what we excavate. To me, it seems that the context for the question “Are you a scientist?” determines my answer. Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not an empiricist. I’m not even going to venture into the issues surrounding the formulation of theories which then are tested in a targeted excavation. Food for thought for sure.

By the way, this latest AAA meeting saw an uptick in the use of social media. Finally, Savage Minds posted some thoughts on what I guess one could call “anthroblogging”  :-)  (see my SBL post).

The recent Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) Annual Meeting in Atlanta had a new Blogger and Online Publication session (November 22, 2010). It was actually one of the best attended sessions! The academic biblical blogosphere and online world, even though they are more the domain of linguists and historians than archaeologists, provide interesting comparative material and ideas. Here are the titles, web links, and audio (on the Targuman blog):

This session has been and continues to be discussed, reviewed and expounded upon, often very thoroughly and insightfully, in a range of blogs:

Last but not least, a few more fun contributions:

It sure seems that “bibliobloggers” are a very active and numerous (see Jeremy Thompson above) group, full of ideas. Is it just me or are they more so than “archaeobloggers“? It could have something to do with the former’s field’s history of popularization and sermonizing which lends itself easily to blogging. They are maybe a little less locked up in their ivory towers? Of course, there are so many more of them compared with us (dwindling?) archaeologists… There were even organized blogger lunches and dinners at the meeting (pics on Targuman). By the way, the SBL meeting is nowadays no longer organized together with the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR; archaeological association with a focus on Israel/Palestine and region). They are still organized in the same city but subsequently rather than concurrently. One ironic fact: the hotel where the meeting took place didn’t have decent wi-fi thus prohibiting prompt blogging of the meeting (the wi-fi that was available although not necessarily usable was charged by the day and by device!).

Finally, there was also a related seminar organized by our good friend Chuck Jones (NYU), entitled E-Publish or Perish. I’m sorry but I didn’t track down all the relevant blog posts… I’ll just give you one:

The Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) is currently holding its Spring Meeting in Baltimore. As usual, several of the speakers are of interest to us. When I was going through the schedule, these jumped out at me:

  • M. Page (Emory University), “Mapping the Sanctuary of the Great Gods”: about an important Hellenic and pre-Hellenic religious sanctuary on the island of Samothrace; “It is through an amalgamation of hypermedia, computer-aided design (CAD), geographic information systems (GIS), 3D modeling, and cartographic representation techniques that the project seeks to analyze, document, and communicate the convergent research of both recent and past expeditions …”
  • M. Hoogerwerf (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) and R. Brandsma (University of Amsterdam), “Scientific Data and Electronic Publishing: Examining Two Projects – Publishing Enhanced Publications Using Repository Infrastructure”: “The SURFshare program, comprising all Dutch universities, has created a common repository infrastructure that facilitates researchers’ ability to share and access scientific and scholarly information.” “… creation of a publishing and archiving infrastructure for enhanced publications for the new open access e-Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries (JALC).”


Crossposted from the Heritage Bytes blog

Thursday April 15 is apparently THE DAY for DDIG members at the 75th annual SAA meeting in St. Louis. The Digital Data Interest Group meeting will take place on Thursday at 5pm. This meeting is open to all SAA conference attendees, regardless of DDIG membership (which is free, by the way!). Come share news about your digital project, discuss best practices for data dissemination, and meet others in the DDIG community. We hope to see you there!

In addition to the DDIG meeting, a number of technology-related sessions are offered throughout the day. Please mark these on your calendar!

Sessions of interest to DDIGers, Thursday April 15:

(12) 8-10:30am: Fourm: Establishig tDAR: The Digital Archaeological Record

(24) 10:45am-12:45pm: Electronic Symposium: Practical Methods of Data Production, Dissemination and Preservation

(76) 3-4pm: Key Issues in Digital Curation

(MEETING) 5-6pm: Digital Data Interest Group Meeting

(93) 6:15-9pm: Forum: Digging Up the Future of Publishig: The Archaeology of the Americas Digital Monograph Initiative

Other presentations of interest:

In addition to the above, there are many individual papers and posters that address the use of technologies and digital data in archaeological investigations. However, please review the full program to find others, as this list is not exhaustive.

(21) Thurs, 8:45am: Heather Smith, Thomas DeWitt and Ted Goebel—Digital Shape Analysis of Clovis Projectile Points

(26e, Poster) Thurs, 9am: Patrick Livingood—Digital Image Analysis of Shell Temper from the Moon Site (3Po488), Arkansas

(147) Fri, 1:30: Neil Hauser, Wayne Wilson and Robert Wunderlich—Web-Based Lithic Source Database

(160) Fri, 2:30: Ronald Blom, Douglas Comer, Scott Hensley and Andrew Yatsko—Remote Sensing Data and Archaeolog: Ingredients for Success

(160) Fri, 2:45: James Tilton, Douglas Comer, Kevin May and Winston Hurst—Towards Automated Detection of Archaeological Sites utilizing Remotely Sensed Imagery

(163f, Poster) Fri, 3pm: Ruth Trocolli and Shagun Raina—GIS and Archaeological Data Management in the Nation’s Capitol

(164f, Poster) Fri, 3pm: Michael Heilen and Jeffrey Altschul—Analyzing Archaeological Data Quality: Recent Results from Military Installations in the United States

(183a, Poster) Sat 9am: David Massey, Ayse Gürsan-Salzmann and Anne Bomalaski—Managing the Legacy Data from the University of Pennsylvania’s Survey and Excavation at Tepe Hissar in North Eastern Iran (1931-2, 1976) through GIS

(189) Sat, 10am: Fabrizio Galeazzi and Paola Di Giuseppantonio Di Franco—The Western Han Dynasty Museum: from the 3D data collection to the 3D spatial analysis

(222) Sat, 2:30: Benjamin Carter—Wonking the Data: Broad Scale Patterns Derived from 50,000 Data Points on Tiny Shell Beads from Ecuador

(216) Sat, 3:15: Sarah Whitcher Kansa and Eric Kansa—Of Glass Houses and Ground Stone: Open Data and Ground Stone Analyses

(249) Sun, 9:45: Rory Becker—Lasers on the Landscape: Using LiDAR Data in Cultural Resource Management

(252) Sun, 8am: Kevin Pape—The Millennium Pipeline Project – A Model for Interdisciplinary Partnerships and Integrated Archaeological Data Management

The Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) holds its Fall 2009 Membership Meeting this coming December 14-15, in Washington, DC. As usual, the papers presented are worth checking out and will be available eventually online in some form. J. Shulman et al.’s “ARTstor Shared Shelf Initiative” looks promising: “The project intends to make it practical for institutions, large and small, to combine images created by individuals, those held by the institution, and those in ARTstor’s database—and to do so without the need for local on-site infrastructure.” C. Mitchell will present “Let’s Stop Talking About Repositories: Reinventing UC’s eScholarship Repository as an Open Access Publisher.” The keynote speaker will be B. Frischer who will talk about “Beyond Illustration: New Dimensions of 3D Modeling of Cultural Heritage Sites and Monuments.” HisVirtual World Heritage Laboratory has several projects going. I’m particularly interested in SAVE. Serving and Archiving Virtual Environments: it “will be the world’s first on-line, peer-reviewed journal in which scholars can publish 3D digital models of the world’s cultural heritage (CH) sites and monuments.”


Update: Videos of the presentations are online, e.g., B. Frischer.

“Sharing data is good. But sharing your own data? That can get complicated. As tworesearch communities who held meetings in May on the issue report their proposals to promote data sharing in biology, a special issue of Nature examines the cultural and technical hurdles that can get in the way of good intentions.” Though the case study pertains more specifically to biology, this is still illustrative for archaeology too. This September 9 special is freely available online—as it should be of course.

  • Editorial – Data’s shameful neglect: Research cannot flourish if data are not preserved and made accessible. All concerned must act accordingly.
  • Data sharing: Empty archives: Most researchers agree that open access to data is the scientific ideal, so what is stopping it happening? Bryn Nelson investigates why many researchers choose not to share.
  • Opinion - Prepublication data sharing: Rapid release of prepublication data has served the field of genomics well. Attendees at a workshop in Toronto recommend extending the practice to other biological data sets.
  • Opinion - Post-publication sharing of data and tools: Despite existing guidelines on access to data and bioresources, good practice is not widespread. A meeting of mouse researchers in Rome proposes ways to promote a culture of sharing.
  • Nature Opinion forum – Prepublication data sharing: Should the practice be extended to areas of biology other than genomics?
  • Nature Opinion forum – Postpublication data sharing: What mechanisms are needed to promote sharing of data and resources?

DDIG Meeting, Friday April 24:

A final reminder— Please mark your calendars for the Digital Data Interest Group meeting, taking place next Friday, April 24th, from 6:30 – 7:30pm (Atlanta Marriott, Room L504/505). Non-DDIG members are also welcome to attend.

Web Tools Survey and Free Drinks:

Fill out a short survey about web tools and receive a free drink at the DDIG meeting! There are still a few drink coupons left, so hurry on over! The survey will close on Tuesday, April 21st. You can access it by clicking here or following this link:

Even if you’re not attending the upcoming SAA meeting, your thoughts and insights are valuable to us and we encourage you to take the survey anyway. An overview of the survey results will be posted on this blog in May.

SAA 2009 DDIG-Related Events:

Below I have identified (in order of occurrence) some of the workshops, sessions, individual papers and posters related to DDIG subject areas (please note- I have tried to be inclusive, but be sure to peruse the entire program for other presentations of interest):

  • [1A] WORKSHOP: New Developments in the Preservation of Digital Data for Archaeology (Wed. April 22, 1 – 4:30 pm; Room: L404)
  • [2B] WORKSHOP: Using High Precision Laser Scanning to Create Digital 3D Versions of Archaeological Materials for Analysis and Public Interpretation (Thurs. April 23, 8:30 am – 12:00pm; Room: L404)
  • [37] PAPER: Keith Kintigh and Jeffrey Altschul—Sustaining the Digital Archaeological Record (Thurs. April 23, 2pm; Room M202)
  • [40] GENERAL SESSION: Tracing Trails and Modeling Movement: Understanding Past Cultural Landscapes and Social Networks Through Least-Cost Analysis (Thurs. April 23, 1 – 3:45 pm; Room: M302)
  • [43] PAPER: Ivan Davis, Andy Bean and John Hall—The Statistical Research, Inc., Database (SRID): Flexible Integration of Large Diverse Datasets (Thurs., April 23, 1pm; Room M304)
  • [53] POSTER: Tamara Whitley and Elyssa Gutbrod—A GIS Analysis of Spatial Data From the Carrizo Plain National Monument (Thurs., April 23, 4 – 6pm; Room: Marquis Lobby)
  • [88] POSTER: David Anderson, D. Shane Miller, Derek T. Anderson, Stephen J. Yerka and Ashley Smallwood—Paleoindians in North America: Evidence from PIDBA (Paleoindian Paleoindian Database of the Americas) (Fri., April 24, 9 – 11am; Room: Marquis Lobby)
  • [88] POSTER: R. Kyle Bocinsky—Understanding and modeling turkey domestication in the American Southwest: A preliminary simulation module for Repast (Fri. April 24, 9 – 11am; Room: Marquis Lobby)
  • [88] POSTER: Amy Wood and Christopher McDaid—17th Century Predicitve Modeling in the Chesapeake (Fri. April 24, 9 – 11am; Room: Marquis Lobby)
  • [99] POSTER: Susan Gillespie, Joshua Toney and Michael Volk—Mapping La Venta Complex A: Archival archaeology in the Digital age (Fri. April 24, 12 – 2pm; Room: Marquis Lobby)
  • [130] POSTER: Lucy Burgchardt, William T. Whitehead, Jonathan Palacek and Emily Stovel—A Database of South American Ceramics: Phase 2 (Fri., April 24, 3 – 5pm; Room: Marquis Lobby)
  • [134] GENERAL SESSION: Digital Data (Sat. April 25, 8 – 9:30am; Room: International A)
  • [147] POSTER: Britton Shepardson and Tim Jeffryes—Making GIS Data Accessible and Public: Data Community (Sat. April 25, 9 – 11am; Room: Marquis Lobby)
  • [157] PAPER: John Chamblee and Mark Williams—Almost There! CRM Data and Macroregional Analysis in Georgia (Sat., April 25, 11:15am; Room: M302)
  • [167] PAPER: Carlos Zeballos Velarde—Landscape 3d Modeling And Animation For Public Outreach And Education (Sat. April 25, 3:45pm; Room: M202)
  • [174] POSTER: Thomas Penders, Lori Collins and Travis Doering—High Definition Digital Documentation of the Beehive Blockhouses, Launch Complex 31/32, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Brevard County, Florida (Sat. April 25, 2 – 4pm; Room: Marquis Lobby)
  • [174] POSTER: Mark Woodson and Angela Keller—Virtual Data: Making Web-based Data Sharing Work for Archaeology (Sat. April 25, 2 – 4pm; Room: Marquis Lobby)
  • [180] PAPER: Philip Mink—Investigating Grand Canyon Cultural Landscapes AD 400 – AD 1250: Recent Geophysical and Geospatial Mapping and Modeling (Sat. April 25, 3:30pm; Room M103)
  • [180] PAPER: Glendee Ane Osborne—Using Spatial Data Modeler for Predictive Modeling: Application on the Shivwits Plateau, NW AZ (Sat. April 25, 4:00pm; Room M103)