At the end of the March I spent four days at the University of Oslo for the Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA) annual conference. AAL were fantastic and supported my attendance, as did a low income bursary from CAA International. Last summer, prior to getting a job with AAL, I agreed to run a session with Stuart Eve of LP Archaeology at the conference focussing on digital approaches to multisensory engagements with the past (Interpretations from digital sensations). We decided to run the session on the back of a series of discussions we have both had on twitter about each of our research trying to move beyond a visual interpretation of the past.I presented a paper in the session and we had two other speakers; Lawrence Shaw of the New Forest National Park and Piotr Dziewanowski from the National Maritime Museum in Gdańsk. My paper seemed to go down fairly well, which is always nice, and the other two papers were fantastic. The team from Gdańsk presented a series of scans of the museum ship the Soldek, which looked like an incredibly complicated project and produced some amazing outputs. While Lawrence Shaw and his team demonstrated the use of 3d printing to engage the public with the Lidar; letting people “get tactile” with the landscape.
While I was out there I also had some great conversations about how to introduce more digital techniques or applications into commercial archaeology, a slightly ignored subject, and “enthusiastically” discussed over a few glasses of wine at the fantastic Museum of Cultural History… The underlying theme of those discussions was not that commercial archaeology did not need to introduce new and shiny methodologies and applications, but rather that there was no time in the commercial world to roll out and field test new on site approaches and in the UK archives are frequently not willing to accept digital data. For example, I saw numerous approaches to using tablets onsite for recording, instead of the traditional context sheets. This would allow us to avoid digitizing these at the end of the project and should in theory force the appropriate data to be collected in the field. However, setting up and ensuring this system works on the software end would require a lot of development. There are costs associated with buying in the kit. And also is the hardware capable of dealing with a British winter… (Though Mike and Flo from LP highlighted that you can buy ruggedized tablets; the issue is ensuring they are cleaned and dried on return from the field).Somewhere along the line we went to visit the Viking Ship Museum, where my inner maritime archaeologist got very excited. The boats, the artefacts, the preservation, and the building they are presented in is amazing!
One of the sessions that really stood out for me was run by Gary Lock, Agiatis Benardou, Costis Dallas, Paul Reilly and Jeremy Huggett; a roundtable on scenarios for the next five years of archaeological computing. It was a really challenging session making us all think about the future of digital archaeology and I’m looking forward to hearing about the follow up to the session.
Finally on the last day I “conference-bombed” the digiTAG session ran by my friend Sara and her colleagues. They had a couple of presenters drop out and wanted to fill a couple of spots. All I can say what seemed like a good idea at 10pm after a few pints seemed less appealing at 6am the next morning. But I gave a quick presentation on theorising archaeo-acoustics, a presentation I had wimped out of submitting to their session in the first place; and I think it was well received (or at least twitter seemed to think so). The whole session was fantastic and drew together a number of my thoughts on the lack of theoretical engagement with digital approaches. I was sad to miss the concluding discussions.