May 2010


Archive ’10, the NSF Workshop on Archiving Experiments to Raise Scientific Standards, was just held on May 25-26 in Salt Lake City—sorry for not announcing this in advance, I just learnt about it myself via Clifford Lynch. The website states: “Archive ’10 will focus on the creation of archives of computer-based experiments: capturing and publishing entire experiments that are fully encapsulated, ready for immediate replay, and open to inspection. It will bring together a few areas of the scientific community that represent fairly advanced infrastructure for archiving experiments and data (physicists and biomedical researchers) with two areas of the computer systems community for which significant progress is still needed (networks and compilers). The workshop will also include experts in enabling technologies and publishing.”

The live video feed doesn’t seem to be working anymore. I hope it will be replaced with an archived version. A few of the position papers that stood out to me are:

This is not exactly archaeology of course but it still is a good idea to check on other disciplines for ideas and experiences.

Seeing Is Believing: New Technologies for Cultural Heritage, London (UK), June 9, 2010

“Much of the theory of knowledge organization, information retrieval and concept analysis was developed within a scientific context, and it is only more recently that similar questions have been addressed in the humanities. The organization of, and access to, cultural and humanistic resources presents particular problems because of the diversity of material and the uniqueness of many individual items. Issues of natural language and the semantic complexity of resources add to the mix and provide many challenges for those working in this field.

Despite this, there has been an upsurge in the cultural resources available on the web and many collections of this kind are becoming available. Today’s programme will provide an opportunity to hear about current work with texts, archives, objects and museum collections, from both a theoretical and an implementation standpoint, and to look at a variety of approaches to the material. There is also a focus on user contribution and the way in which Web 2.0 can offer solutions.”

15th Vienna Conference on Cultural Heritage and New Technologies, Vienna (Austria), November 15-17, 2010

This year’s theme is “In/Visible Towns - Archaeology and Cultural Heritage in Urban Areas.”

“Urban Archaeology is a relatively new sub-discipline within the archaeological sciences. Why has it been such a late developer? How do its scientific results amplify and influence our knowledge and thinking on the development of our towns and cities? How has the discipline developed in the last decades and what reasons were there for coining the specific term “Urban Archaeology”? How exactly do we define it? Is it archaeology of or archaeology in towns? How does the approach to and interpretation of Urban Archaeology differ across the world?

Whatever the viewpoint, the special challenge presented by archaeology in an urban environment has become a motor, an impulse-giver, for development and innovation – in project design, excavation philosophy and technology. Deeply stratified sites in town for example gave rise to new stratigraphic thinking, single context planning and of course the Harris Matrix. Latterly modern digital technologies have been used to great effect for 3D recording and reconstruction of lost townscapes – a development of which we are still only at the beginning. The often difficult and cramped conditions and the deep holes dug by archaeologists in city centres led to the adoption of civil engineering techniques never before seen in archaeological projects. The insight into the material culture of historical towns and cities provided by urban archaeology has augmented our understanding of their historical development across all social classes, in a way that written history alone cannot do, while lower layers of urban digs reveal unexpected prehistoric settlement-origins of which there is no historical record.”

The National Science Foundation sent out a press release on the new data management requirements for applicants (see earlier post). “[O]n or around October, 2010, NSF is planning to require that all proposals include a data management plan in the form of a two-page supplementary document.” “‘The change reflects a move to the Digital Age, where scientific breakthroughs will be powered by advanced computing techniques that help researchers explore and mine datasets,’ said Jeannette Wing, assistant director for NSF’s Computer & Information Science & Engineering directorate.  ’Digital data are both the products of research and the foundation for new scientific insights and discoveries that drive innovation.’”

PennDesign, the R. Lemaire International Centre for Conservation at the University of Leuven and theUniversity College St Lieven are pleased to announce an international symposium titled, Heritage Recording and Information Management in the Digital Age (SMARTdoc), … will be held on November 19-20, 2010 at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Supporting institutions include UNESCO World Heritage Centre, UNESCO Chair for Preventive Maintenance, Monitoring and Conservation, ICOMOS Scientific Committee on Heritage Documentation (CIPA) and the International Society on Virtual Systems and Multimedia.”

“Good decisions in heritage conservation are based on timely, relevant and accurate information about the conditions, materials and evolution of heritage buildings and landscapes. Therefore, documenting, recording and analysis of heritage places is an essential part of their conservation and management. The rapid rise in new digital technologies has revolutionized the practice of recording heritage places. Digital tools and media offer a myriad of new opportunities for collecting, analyzing and disseminating information about heritage sites. With these new opportunities, there are also conflicts, and an intense effort to build digital media into the education of conservation professionals. Issues regarding the proper, innovative and research-focused uses of digital media in heritage conservation are an urgent topic in the global heritage conservation field, and Penn, KU-Leuven and its partners have played a leading role in this area of cross-disciplinary research and practice.”

A New York Times article describes how “the husband-and-wife team of Arlen F. Chase and Diane Z. Chase tried a new approach using airborne laser signals that penetrate the jungle cover and are reflected from the ground below. They yielded 3-D images of the site of ancient Caracol, in Belize, one of the great cities of the Maya lowlands.”

NYT lidar mapping in Belize

“In only four days, a twin-engine aircraft equipped with an advanced version of lidar (light detection and ranging) flew back and forth over the jungle and collected data surpassing the results of two and a half decades of on-the-ground mapping, the archaeologists said. After three weeks of laboratory processing, the almost 10 hours of laser measurements showed topographic detail over an area of 80 square miles, notably settlement patterns of grand architecture and modest house mounds, roadways and agricultural terraces.”

“[T]he primary financing of the project [came] from the little-known space archaeology program of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The flights were conducted by the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping, operated by the University of Florida and the University of California, Berkeley.”

“The Airborne Laser Terrain Mapper, as the specific advanced system is named, issued steady light pulses along 62 north-south flight lines and 60 east-west lines. This reached to what appeared to be the fringes of the city’s outer suburbs and most agricultural terraces, showing that the urban expanse encompassed at least 70 square miles.”

An article in ScienceInsider notes that the National Science Foundation (NSF) will start requiring every grant applicant to provide a data management plan.

“NSF’s current policy requires grantees to share their data within a reasonable length of time so long as the cost is modest. ‘That’s nice, but it doesn’t have much teeth,’ said Seidel. Under the new policy, which is expected to be unveiled this fall, a researcher would submit a data management plan as a two-page supplement to any regular grant proposal. That would make it an element of the merit review process.” “Seidel called the supplemental application ‘phase one’ of a broader effort to address the growing interest from U.S. policymakers in making sure that any data obtained with federal funds be accessible to the general public.”

Chuck Jones (AWOL) drew my attention to the Academia.edu website. It had been a while since I last visited. I posted my profile ages ago but the site has since been upgraded and improved.

“A developing social network focused on the scholarly community, Academia.edu is developing a critical mass of participants in ancient studies [and archaeology]. It is an increasingly important locus for the deposit of scholarly articles, as well as a place to provide links to scholarly articles online elsewhere – either at publishers’ sites or at institutional repositories. A significant advantage it has over other such sites is the ability for participants to build networks among themselves, and to request personalized alerts for new content from periodicals and for material deposited by other members of the network.

It shows real promise as a model of social networking based on existing academic hierarchies.

I’m there. So are many of you [Eric Kansa, myself]. I encourage others to join us. Unaffiliated and independent scholars are welcome and encouraged.”

I need to add my papers and the like. That actually reminds that some of them aren’t yet online, something I ought to remedy.

The volcano erupting from underneath the Eyafjallajoküll (aya-fjatla-yokütch) glacier in Iceland wreaked/wreaks havoc on our 21st-century just-in-time-by-way-of-airplanes culture. Guess what, no, you can’t get to Denmark anymore, not this week… The 13th [!] International Aegean Conference, Kosmos – Jewellery, Adornment and Textiles in the Aegean Bronze Age, held at the University of Copenhagen from 19-23 April, was faced with the prospect of hardly anybody of the archaeologists, historians, etc. being able to attend.

What to do? The organizers of this annual conference decided to hold it mainly online instead! I know at least one of the participants personally. I probably should inquire how it went…

From the Research News section of the Leiden Institute for Area Studies (Netherlands) website:

“The assyriologist Wilfred van Soldt (professor at the Leiden Institute for Area Studies) will receive 55.000 euros for a first digging season near Satu Qala in North Iraq. The excavations will be conducted from 25 April till 8 June 2010. Van Soldt will cooperate with the University of Erbil.”

“In 2008 a palace centre has been discovered during excavations near Satu Qala. This find is of great importance for the study of Assyriology. Van Soldt: ‘We known [sic] the Middle Assyrian Empire through texts from the capital Assur, but especially from archives in the provincial capitals. Up until now, only the western part of the emptire has been discovered. Satu Qala is the first identified provincial capital in the eastern part of the empire.’”

“Van Soldt would also like to digitalize the finds from Satu Qala en make them available online. Part of the grant will be used to this end. Van Soldt: ‘We think that all excavation data should become available as soon as possible to other archaeologists. The best way to do this is through Open Access, like we do here at Leiden University. That will garantuee larger accessibility and the possibility to update regularly.’”

Satu Qala (Iraq)