Critical Perspectives on the Practice of Digital Archaeology


Logo derived from Creative Commons licensed images by Guilherme Furtado and Stefano Corradetti

The creation, management, sharing, and preservation of digital data and media have gained great prominence in archaeological research, grant making, policy making, and software and systems development. Digital data has much promise. It can help us engage with wider communities, explore new research questions, and create and preserve a vastly enriched body of archaeological documentation. Digital data also has a certain glamor, gained in large part through its associations with the burgeoning tech industry. However, does our celebration of speed, efficiency, precision and innovation sometimes make technology a superficial distraction rather than a substantive means toward learning? How do we encourage more meaningful intellectual engagement with new media as they transform archaeology? This conference represents an opportunity to take stock and more thoughtfully consider how our embracement of digital technologies is transforming archaeological practice.






Friday, February 3, 2017

Location: Tsai Auditorium (S010) CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Coffee, 8:00 - 9:00 AM


Welcome, Introduction, 9:00 - 9:30 AM


9:00 - 9:20 Rowan Flad (Chair, Standing Committee on Archaeology, Harvard University) and Eric Kansa (Open Context)

9:20 - 9:30 Peter Bol (Vice Provost for Advances in Learning, Harvard University)


Data Creation and Practice, 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Moderated by: Peter Manuelian (Director of the Semitic Museum, Harvard University)


The morning session has speakers engaged with data capture and creation. They will explore issues of what kinds of data they capture and why. How do they align data creation practices with goals of interpretation, research design, public engagement? To what degree are data empirical and objective versus selective and interpretive? Should our community mainly consider data management in terms of cultural heritage preservation or do we need to more fully consider other purposes and values for data?



9:30 - 9:55 Rachel Opitz (University of South Florida), Digital Recording and Creating an Archaeological Record for Gabi

9:55 - 10:20 Jolene Smith (Virginia Department of Historic Resources), Other People’s Data: Practical Realities and Ethics of Preservation, Reuse, and Dissemination at a State Repository

10:20 - 10:45 Jody Gordon (Wentworth Institute of Technology) Advancing Archaeological Practice?: Problematizing Digital Archaeology and the Measurement of its Practical and Interpretive Values

10:45 - 11:10 Theresa Huntsman (Sardis Expedition, Harvard Art Museums), Does anyone still know what this means? Archaeological legacy data preservation vs. open data presentation at two long-running excavations

11:10 - 12:00 Panel Discussion: Suzanne Blier (Department of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard) and Anne Austin (Stanford Archaeology Center)


Lunch 12:00 - 2:00 PM


Data Curation and Reuse, 2:00 - 4:30 PM

Moderated by: Jason Ur (Director, Center for Geographical Analysis, Harvard University)


Speakers in the afternoon session will bridge the realms of data creation / capture and data preservation / reuse. They will explore the challenges in meaningfully communicating data to wider audiences within a discipline, in other disciplines, with other publics, and with future generations. To what extent can current research data management and curation practices support new scholarship, instruction and engagement? Where do we see misalignments between data creation and downstream reuse? What new skills, professional incentives, and professional roles do we need to support and sustain to make data meaningful in scholarship?



2:00 - 2:25 Mercè Crosas (IQSS, Harvard University) FAIR data management and data sharing

2:25 - 2:50 Ece Turnator (MIT Libraries) Contextualizing Digital Humanities; its evolving meanings and possible future directions

2:50 - 3:15 Ixchel Faniel (OCLC Research): Do your data management and curation practices support data reuse?

3:15 - 3:40 Shawn Graham (Carleton University) Rehashing Archaeology: some thoughts on the potentials and perils of teaching with reused/reusable data

3:40 - 4:05 Panel Discussion: Barbara Fash (Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard) and Gabriel Pizzorno (Department of History, Harvard)


Afternoon Break / Coffee, 4:05 - 5:00 PM


Conclusion, 5:00 - 6:00 PM

“The Galisonian program, hard cores, and mirror recursion in Archaeological science”

Ben Marwick (University of Washington)

Reception, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM


Digital Data in Practice Workshop (Saturday, February 4, 2017 )

Location: Tozzer Library, Room 203; 21 Divinity Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138


Please also take a moment to fill out this questionnaire before the workshop. 

On Saturday morning (9 AM - 1 PM), we will host a workshop for Boston-area archaeologists to introduce fundamental aspects of good archaeological data practices. The workshop will help guide archaeologists in data management planning, introduce open source software tools for data cleanup, and introduce archaeologists to a variety of online data resources and standards that support research.


Speakers / Organizers

Anne Austin (Stanford University) and Eric Kansa (Open Context)




Participant Profiles


Rachel Opitz

Department of Anthropology and Center for Virtualization and Applied Spatial Technologies, University of South Florida


Dr. Rachel Opitz began her archaeological career in Europe, completing a PhD at Cambridge in 2009 and then working as a post-doctoral researcher in Besançon, France. She subsequently served as a research assistant at the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies (CAST) at the University of Arkansas, where she was Executive Director of the SPARC Program. She has an active research program focused on rural western Mediterranean societies and landscapes in the 1st millennium BCE. The foundations of this work are in remote sensing and survey, human perception of the built and natural environment as studied through formal exercises in 3D modeling and analysis of visual attention of users of the models, and the material culture of rural communities and the towns emerging within them.


Her recognized methodological expertise includes photogrammetric modeling in the context of excavations, work primarily carried out at the Gabii Project – a major research excavation in central Italy, in LIDAR analysis of sites and landscapes, work primarily carried out through the LIEPPEC Project, a multi-method survey in the Forêt de Chailluz in the Franche-Comté, and in developing information metrics to ask new archaeological questions using 3D data. She currently serves as the chair of the Aerial Archaeology Research Group (2015-2018) and as a member of the ArchaeoLandscapes International Project General Management Board.


Jolene Smith

Virginia Department of Historic Resources


Jolene Smith manages statewide archaeological data at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. She holds a Master of Applied Anthropology degree from the University of Maryland, College Park and has been working with data, archives, and collections from throughout Virginia for over a decade. In the current phase of her career, Smith studies the implications of the long-term transition from a paper archaeology information ecosystem to one built with born-digital data at its foundation. She is also interested in archaeological dataset diversity and enabling interoperability, as well as developing basic digital data literacy training for archaeologists. Smith was privileged to be a participant in the 2015-2016 NEH-funded Institute on Digital Archaeology Method and Practice. Knowledge acquired through the Institute along with continued self-directed training in programming, database design, open data, and digital preservation propels her continued research and application of technologies in low resource environments.


Theresa Huntsman

Sardis Expedition, Harvard Art Museums


Theresa Huntsman has spent the last fifteen years researching and assisting in the preservation and presentation of archaeological and collections data for a number of museums, as well as the Poggio Civitate Archaeological Project (from 2001-2013) and the Sardis Expedition (2014-present). She received her PhD in Art History and Archaeology from Washington University in St. Louis in 2014 with a dissertation on Etruscan cremation urns of the Hellenistic period, and she continues to publish and present on Etruscan funerary culture and inscriptions, as well as issues of archaeological data and archival management. Her current work for Sardis focuses on fleshing out and confirming data for 60 years of excavation work, and digitizing publications and creating new content for Sardis's website: She continues to teach online for the Classics Department at the University of Massachusetts, and she also edits and proofreads publications for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Numismatic Society.


Jody Michael Gordon

Wentworth Institute of Technology


Jody Michael Gordon is an Assistant Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston and an Assistant Director of the Athienou Archaeological Project (AAP). He received his Ph.D. in Classical Archaeology from the Department of Classics at the University of Cincinnati, where his dissertation involved an archaeological study of the e ects of imperialism on local identities in Cyprus during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. In addition to working in Cyprus, Jody has excavated in Tunisia, Italy, and Greece, and his research interests include Roman archaeology, cultural identity, ancient imperialism, and computer applications in archaeology.


Mercè Crosas

Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS), Harvard University


Mercè Crosas is the Chief Data Science and Technology Officer at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS) at Harvard University. She has more than 10 years of experience leading the Dataverse project and more than 15 years of experience building data management and analysis systems in industry and academia. She is part of numerous committees and working groups focus on research data management, data standards, and research best practices. Crosas is currently co-PI of the Dataverse Project, with IQSS faculty director Gary King, and supervises the Zelig project for statistical analysis, Consilience for text analysis, the Data Science Services and Data Curation Services at IQSS. She is collaborating with the Harvard Privacy Tools project led by Salil Vadhan (Harvard), the Provenance project with Margo Seltzer (Harvard), the Structural Biology Grid Data project with Piotrek Sliz (Harvard Medical School), and with the Massachusetts Open Cloud (Boston Univeristy), among others.


Ece Turnator

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Libraries


Ece Turnator received her Ph.D. in Medieval (Byzantine) History from Harvard University in 2013. Her dissertation is an interpretation of 13th-century Byzantine economy through an analysis of archaeological (coins and ceramics) and textual evidence. Between 2013-2016, she worked as a CLIR/Mellon postdoctoral fellow at The University of Texas at Austin in medieval data curation, studying and learning about digital humanities, best practices for data curation and visualization, in addition to teaching and researching in her area of expertise. She is currently working at MIT Libraries as the Humanities and Digital Scholarship Librarian (


Ixchel M. Faniel

OCLC Research


Ixchel M. Faniel, PhD, is a Research Scientist at OCLC with prior experience at the University of Michigan, IBM, and Andersen Consulting (now Accenture). Her interests include improving how people discover, access, and use/reuse content. She is currently examining how academics manage, share, and reuse research data and academic library professionals’ experiences providing research support services. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). For more information:


Shawn Graham

Carleton University, History Department


Shawn Graham is an associate professor in the history department at Carleton University. His digital archaeological work involves the use of small-scale agent based models to explore Roman social space, 3d photogrammetry for teaching & public outreach with museums, and data mining to see what can be squeezed from archaeological data sets. He blogs at and is all over twitter as @electricarchaeo. He is the author with Ian Milligan and Scott Weingart of ‘Exploring Big Historical Data: The Historian’s Macroscope’, London: ICP, 2015. . He’s currently very interested in sonifying historical and archaeological data to better ‘hear’ the past, and in building virtual machines for teaching archaeology.


Ben Marwick

University of Washington, Anthropology Department


Ben Marwick is an Associate Professor at the University of Washington Anthropology Department, and a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Wollongong Centre for Archaeological Science. A graduate of the University of Western Australia and The Australian National University, Ben's main research activities combine models from evolutionary ecology with analyses of archaeological evidence to investigate past human behaviour. His specific interests include the hominin colonisation of mainland Southeast Asia, forager technologies and ecology in Australia, mainland Southeast Asia and elsewhere. He has technical specialisations in stone artefact analyses and geoarchaeology. Ben has also written about how archaeology engages with local communities and popular culture. Woven throughout all his work is a deep commitment to reproducible research. As a Data Science Fellow in the UW eScience Institute, Ben is active in the development of techniques and methods for improving the reproducibility of archaeology and the social sciences in general.

Anne Austin

Stanford University

Anne Austin is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University (2014-17). She received her B.A. in Anthropology from Harvard University (2006), and she earned her M.A. (2009) and Ph.D. (2014) in the Archaeology program at UCLA. Anne's bioarchaeological research in Egypt led her to develop OsteoSurvey, a series of forms for recording information about human skeletal remains using mobile devices. Anne is interested in improving (bio)archaeological data collection and data management in order to analyze broader patterns in human health across Egypt's Pharaonic history.


Eric Kansa

Open Context Open Context Logo

Eric Kansa (PhD, Harvard University) directs Open Context (, a data publishing venue for archaeology. Eric’s research interests explore web architecture, service design and how these issues relate to the social and professional context of the digital humanities and social sciences. He also researches policy issues relating to intellectual property, including text-mining and cultural property concerns, and actively participates in a number of Open Science, Open Government, text mining and scholarly user needs initiatives. Eric has taught project management and information service design at the UC Berkeley School of Information and has been a principal investigator and co-investigator on projects funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the US National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, Hewlett-Packard, the Sunlight Foundation, Google, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Encyclopedia of Life and the National Science Foundation. Eric is on the board of the Shelby White and Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications, a granting program that funds archaeological publications. In June 2013, the White House recognized Eric’s contributions to reforming scholarly communications with a “Champion of Change” award.