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Computational Archaeology news and links for many overdue months

It has been a while since a news post, so some of these might not really be “new”s, but rather interesting articles in the field that you might have missed. Additionally there are some old projects or articles I have only ran into now which I am posting along with the news.

Here’s the first batch. I will do another one soon as this post is getting long and there are still quite a few articles worth posting.

Articles directly related


Articles indirectly related

  • Autonomous underwater robot inspired by Star Trek crew hierarchy: MIT engineers have built an autonomous underwater robot, whose decision making algorithm is based on the crew hierarchy of Star Trek. This is relevant to computational archaeology as robots like this could be used to explore underwater sites, just like our friends in Star Trek explore the universe. Hopefully the team has a guy called Scotty assigned to retrieve the robot post-exploration.
  • Oculus Rift and robotic heads combination for exploration: A robotic bust mounted on a four-wheeled, battery-powered cart has been built by University of Pennsylvania students. This robot’s movements are mapped to an Oculus Rift, making the wearer of the Oculus Rift able to virtually explore the same locations as the robot. T%he wearer controls the movement of the camera by moving his/her head to look around. This could be useful to computational archaeology as some sites may not be accessible by a human, yet need to be analysed in detail by one. The robot would allow the archaeologist explore the inaccessible site in more detail, rather than struggle to angle the camera of an ROV using a control remote.
  • Underwater Mass Spectrometer Successfully Integrates with Bluefin Autonomous Underwater Vehicle: This article describes the benefits of integrating underwater mass spectrometer with autonomous underwater vehicles. In short, this integration results in a cost-feasible solution to underwater surveys and increased quality of data.



Research Papers


Digital History Course

The blogger of Electric Archaeology (a great blog I’ve previously linked to) is starting a course on crafting digital history. This is an online course starting next winter (I’m assuming northern hemisphere winter, so summer for those of us in the south). Here are some links regarding the course:

  • Electric Archaeology’s blog post: Here you can see the details of the course. I can’t find the course on the department’s website yet, I guess because they are still busy setting it up.
  • Github repository with course material: The course material is freely available for anyone to read through (Loving that this is on github). Note that the course material is still being edited and perfected for the course.

While searching for the course on the department’s site I found an old course by the same instructor. This course is called Gaming History – Simulations & Other Digital Tools and it aims to teach students how to represent and analyse archaeological data in a gaming environment. I’m not sure when this course runs, and if it will run again, but here is a link to a blog post detailing the course.

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Computational Archaeology Kickstarter projects

I know a news in Computational Archaeology post is long overdue, but I’ve been wanting to write a post on Kickstarter projects involving Computational archaeology for a while. I promise I’ll do a news post again soon ;)

For those who haven’t heard of Kickstarter, it is a crowd-funding platform that aims to bring creative projects to life. This is accomplished by providing the means for people to make monetary contributions to different kinds of creative projects proposed via the Kickstarter web-site. Contributors will then get some form of reward (depending on the project) for their contributions.

The Kickstarter platform allows people to propose or fund all kinds of innovative projects. It has successfully funded  projects in a variety of fields including as arts, natural sciences, engineering, humanities, etc. There are, however, some projects that do not succeed.

If you go to the Kickstarter website and search for archaeology, quite a large list of projects appears, check it out here. We are however more concerned with the use of technology in archaeology in this blog, so let us look at a list of current and previous projects possibly relevant to computational archaeology.

  • ArchaeoScan [Currently requiring funding]: This project aims to build a Virtual Reality application based on real, authentic archaeological sites (desktop and mobile). The project also aims to be compatible with the Oculus Rift, allowing users to be more immersed in the virtual world. Why is this helpful? Well, a project like this requires accurate 3D models of archaeological sites to be generated, which preserve archaeological sites virtually. Additionally, it is a great platform for learning about archaeology.
  • Virtual Prehistoric Worlds [Successfully funded]: This project aimed to generate a virtual world representing a religious Bronze Age area in East Anglia. The team wanted to create a freely available online experience using the archaeological material.
  • Long-Lost Egyptian Pyramids Found? [Funding Unsuccessful]: This project aimed to further prove the existence of possible pyramids spotted using satellite imaging. The end goal was to document the site further using ground penetrating radar and video. A while back I actually posted the Discovery news article mentioning the discovery of the site.
  • The Maeander Project [Funding Cancelled]: This project aimed to deliver a multimedia experience of an ancient area of Turkey. Unfortunately the project was cancelled, but the team hopes to be able to try again in the future.
  • Open Access Antiquarianism [Funding Cancelled]: An archaeologist and a computer scientist get together to organise an art show. This art show aims to teach people about the use of technology in archaeology by displaying the artistic results of combining the two fields. The project was cancelled due to time limitations, but will be re-launching a new Kickstarter, so watch out for it next time you explore the site.


Additionally, here are some projects that, although don’t specifically mention archaeology, are applicable to the field:

  • Humanitarian Drones [Funding Unsuccessful]: This project aimed to build LiDAR-capable drones that can be used to locate bombs. It would have mapped the changes in topography from the impact of unexploded bombs in various areas, which is also how LiDAR is used to find archaeological sites.
  • 3D Cave Modelling in North America [Funding Unsuccessful]: This project aimed to create 3D maps of caves in North America using a handheld LiDAR device.
  • Mapping with Drones [Successfully Funded]: This project allows users to easily upload raw aerial imagery into high quality stitched aerial imagery or into geo-referenced maps suitable for use in GIS applications.
  • Ziphius: The Aquatic Drone [Successfully Funded]: This project aimed to deliver an aquatic drone, which sits on the surface of the water and can be controlled via a mobile application. This little drone has an HD camera which can see above and below the water. The drone could probably be used for video documentation of shallow archaeological sites.

So as you can see, Kickstarter has a variety of projects which can be applied to computational archaeology. There are so many projects on the site that I must definitely have missed a couple that could have been added to this post.

It is unfortunate that a lot of the archaeology projects were not successfully funded or were cancelled by the creator. However, Kickstarter does provide a good platform to start a project when no funding is available. Who knows, maybe you have an idea in future and really need some funding to get going, you might as well propose it on Kickstarter and see how things go.

I hope that this was an inspiring post to start new projects.


PS: This post almost didn’t make it. When I saved, exited and came back in all the data in the post was gone :-0 Luckily I managed to restore it, phew!

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Computational archaeology during my trip through Turkey

I disappeared for a couple of months, I am sorry about that. I was busy on a road trip around Turkey, moving to another city and starting a new job. A lot of exciting things have been happening.

In December two friends, my partner and I flew to turkey and hired a car. Our road trip consisted of the following places:

  • Nicaea
  • Afyonkarahisar
  • Ankara
  • Cappadocia
  • Pammukkale
  • Selcuk and Sirince
  • Kusadasi
  • Istanbul

During this trip we encountered a lot of archaeology, Turkey is a country with fascinating history and impressive remains. Every city had some ancient building or the ruins of some ancient structure.

When we went to Ephesus, we met this little guy:


This device is called a quadcopter. The owners were using it to photograph or video Ephesus. This reminded me of the drones previously used to perform an aerial survey of the same site (see my article on archaeological drones for more information).

Quadcopters are useful tools to perform aerial surveys of archaelogical sites. Here are some articles with examples of quadcopters being used for this particular purpose:


Game of drones (hehe)

– Quadcopters used to survey Guatemalan ruins

Quadcopter over Tel Dan

Quadcopters as the archaeologist’s eye

Although this particular quadcopter may not necessarily have been used to survey Ephesus, it did remind me of previous archaeological applications of drones. It was exciting to see technology and history together in one place.

When we went to Istanbul I found the following inside the Hagia Sophia:


So what is this block and why have I taken a (really bad) picture of it?

These blocks are used to perform a 3d survey. Through the blurriness of the photo you may be able to see the word Faro. Faro is a company that deals with 3D modeling technology.It seems a team at the Hagia Sophia was busy building a 3d model of the building.

I must have looked a bit strange taking a photo of a piece of paper on the wall while I have, well… the Hagia Sophia around me. I wanted to, however, share this small discovery with you.

If anyone has some more information on exactly what these blocks are used for when it comes to the 3d survey please comment on this post. I assume their purpose is to mark some position that needs to be recorded.


Free online archaeology course starting now

Coursera has a vast amount of interesting topics taught by some great lecturers and tutors. An archaeology course, which I think I have mentioned before, started again yesterday. This course is called “Recovering the Humankind’s Past and Saving the Universal Heritage” and can be accessed here. The course consists of the following sections:

  • The recovery of the human past and the protection of the universal heritage
  • The birth of archaeology and its role in the contemporary world
  • The fascination of archaeology in its practices and in interpretation
  • Archaeology in research practice
  • Contemporary archaeology and public perception
  • Digitizing Cultural Objects and 3D virtual reconstruction
  • Sharing Digital Cultural Objects over the Internet
  • The past as a universal heritage of humankind

Notice I have made the computational archaeology specific sections bold. This does not mean that only those sections will refer to technology in archaeology. It is quite possible that there will be traces of technology used in archaeology in the rest of the sections. But this is what personally made this course extremely attractive over other history and archaeology courses.

I hope to see some of you in this virtual class :)

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Archaeological drones

Drones are the new thing. They are being used for various purposes across the world. For example:

Archaeologists have caught up to this new trend of using drones and are now using drones themselves to map archaeological sites, get aerial images of a site and protect endangered sites. Examples of the use of such technology by archaeologists can be seen in the following articles (some of these I have reported previously but I am adding them in this post again):


Here are some more links related to this topic:

Castillo, a Peruvian archaeologist with Lima's Catholic University and an incoming deputy culture minister, flies a drone over the archaeological site of Cerro Chepen in Trujillo

I don’t know about you, but I really want to play with a drone after writing this.

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No, I am not talking about a seafood pie, which sounds like a terrible idea anyway. FishPi is a project aiming to develop an unmanned  marine vessel which  will cross the Atlantic taking scientific measurements. The idea is to use a Raspberry Pi to explore the marine world.

I would go as far as to say that probably ALL computer and engineering geeks know what a Raspberry Pi is and have probably played with one, if don’t already own one.  This blog, however, has a much wider audience than that. A Raspberry Pi is a computer that’s the size of a credit card. This computer was developed to promote the teaching of computer science in schools and it’s widely used by people for tech pet projects. For more information on the Raspberry Pi check out the official website or the wikipedia page.

So back to FishPi. This project aims to use the credit card-sized computer to explore the mysterious sea. The project is still in the planning and proof-of-concept stages and there are discussion forums where everyone is welcome to give their input. I have subscribed and have asked in the forums if they have considered using the FishPi for archaeological purposes :)

Go check out the project! The forum is there to ask questions, but also so you can brainstorm solutions to a variety of problems that they have or will run into. They are currently on the engineering stage, so I can’t be of much help there :P, but maybe I can be helpful when they get to the programming of the FishPi. Do you have any engineering knowledge? Go to the Brain Stew forum and give some ideas.


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