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Dev Day presentation on Computational Archaeology

Software companies often have days where developers either present a topic of their choice or get together to create prototypes of their innovative ideas. Some of these events are held internally and others, by larger companies, internationally. Some examples of popular companies that do this are:

Entelect, the company I currently work for, has an event just like these. In our case, three times a year, we have a DevDay, where any of the employees can propose and prepare a presentation on any tech topic of their choice. I tried my luck and asked if I could present on computational archaeology and, to my surprise, I was told I could.

The itinerary for the day was as follows (I am not adding the presenter’s names in case they don’t feel comfortable being mentioned in this blog):

  • Front end technology choices (15 minutes) – Discussed the importance of making the right front end choices when designing a system.
  • Computational Archaeology  (15 minutes) – This was my presentation, I’ll give a detailed description after this list.
  • Azure Machine Learning (25 minutes) – Discussed how to use the machine learning services provided by Azure and applied these as a test to an solar-flare dataset.
  • Chatops and update on Pluralsight course (5 minutes) – Discussed ChatOps (getting data about builds and deployments in a team’s chat room) and gave the company an update on how the Pluralsight course that he is hosting is going.
  • Node, Pipes and Edge.js (15 minutes) – Discussed his experience with mixing Node.js and .Net using Edge.js
  • Jasvacript Robot Programming  (25 minutes) – Discussed how to build simple robots and program them in Javascript. Some relevant links: NodeBots and Johnny Five
  • REST API’s  (25 minutes): This was an overall discussion on REST API
  • Kerbal Space Program integration and automation  (15 minutes): Discussed the automation of launching a rocket into space in the game Kerbal Space Program.

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My presentation on computational archaeology consisted of the following:

  • An introduction explaining that Computational Archaeology is the use of technology for the purpose of helping the archaeological process.
  • Mention that it is one of many applications of our skills as software developers
  • A discussion on the use of robotics in archaeology
  • A discussion on the use of 3D modelling in archaeology
  • A discussion on the use of Remote Sensing in archaeology
  • A discussion on the use of Desktop and Mobile applications in archaeology
  • A discussion on collaborative projects aimed at using technology in archaeology
  • A discussion on the use of Artificial Intelligence in archaeology

You may view the Prezi presentation here.

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A few people asked me if any tech had been used during the Maropeng discoveries that were recently announced in South Africa.  I found that:

  • 3D models of the skulls have been created and are available on Morpho Source.
  • 3D printers have been used to create printed models of the skulls discovered.

For more information on the tech involved see this article.

The other topics were very interesting and well presented. However, as this is a computational archaeology blog, I have only mentioned them briefly. Two of these other presentations could be applied to computational archaeology:

  • Azure Machine Learning: The machine learning services provided by Azure can be applied to all kinds of problems, including archaeology. Azure provides a nice user interface and detailed manual to prepare your experiments, requiring no coding experience. Here’s a video giving an overview. This is ideal for archaeologists who have no interest in programming, but would like to use powerful machine learning algorithms.
  • Jasvacript Robot Programming: The robots discussed were small wheeled vehicles, which, with a camera and some proximity sensors, could work well to survey inaccessible archaeological sites. The talk focused mostly on using Javascript to control the robots, which was concluded to be an interesting exercise but not as practical as using more conventional languages for robot programming, such as Python.

Questions were asked about each presentation and the first person to answer was given a prize. The computational archaeology question was: “What technique is used to measure objects through images which can be used in archaeology to generate 3D models?” and the answer was Photogrammetry.

If you want to see the tweets for this event you can check out @Entelect.

Thank you very much to the organisers for all the organising, and to our IT Operations Manager for making sure that the projector works in a room full of developers who can’t use it 😛

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