Mobilizing the Past

When we decided to bring iPads to Cyprus for use in the 2012 excavation season of the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project, we knew we were migrating into a new and uncertain digital future of archaeological research. My own initial encounters with the archaeological process (excavating prehistoric rockshelters and hilltop enclosures in southern Ohio) had involved recording notes in paper notebooks the old fashioned way. And when I crossed the pond and participated in archaeological surveys and excavations in Greece and Cyprus, there was lots of paper in forms, notebooks, instruction manuals, and end-of-season reports.

Our experience using mobile devices for collecting material in Cyprus gave us a sense of how fieldwork could be streamlined with digital media but also taught us not to give up on paper altogether (you can read a summary of our experiences here). In fact, we collected our data that year with both iPads and paper in the fear that some catastrophic data loss might send us back to the U.S. with nothing to show for our work.

Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project, Cyprus, June 1, 2012. Photo by David Pettegrew
A student uses an iPad to record data in the excavation of a Hellenistic site. From the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project, Cyprus, June 1, 2012. Photo by David Pettegrew.

This new volume edited by Erin Averett, Jody Gordon, and Derek Counts and published by the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is a welcome contribution to the scholarship surrounding digital archaeology. This major publication compiles contributions from leading practitioners in the field in a discussion about how mobile technologies (broadly defined) intersect with and affect archaeological practices.  With 20 articles that total 556 pages of text, the volume publishes a workshop at Wentworth Institute of Technology in early 2015 that was funded by an NEH Digital Humanities Startup Grant. Most importantly, the volume takes a critical and reflective (rather than utopian) view on mobile approaches in archaeology today. Here’s the book description:

Mobilizing the Past is a collection of 20 articles that explore the use and impact of mobile digital technology in archaeological field practice. The detailed case studies present in this volume range from drones in the Andes to iPads at Pompeii, digital workflows in the American Southwest, and examples of how bespoke, DIY, and commercial software provide solutions and craft novel challenges for field archaeologists. The range of projects and contexts ensures that Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future is far more than a state-of-the-field manual or technical handbook. Instead, the contributors embrace the growing spirit of critique present in digital archaeology. This critical edge, backed by real projects, systems, and experiences, gives the book lasting value as both a glimpse into present practices as well as the anxieties and enthusiasm associated with the most recent generation of mobile digital tools….

While there are only a few references to Corinthian matters in the volume per se, you’ll see in the list of contributors a number of long-term contributors to Corinthian scholarship. And the work is certainly relevant to the various movements in the digital Corinthia which we have discussed here at Corinthian Matters.

If you’re interested, you can download the full volume or individual chapters at The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota.

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