Elwyn B. Robinson LectureDigital Archaeology: Technology in the Trenches William CaraherFebruary 24, 2010Chester Fritz Library, University of North Dakota Grand Forks, NDMy paper today will explore the intersection of digital technologies,Mediterranean archaeology, and transdisciplinary, synergistic research. This work has grown from my thinking about the newly created Working Group inDigital and New Media and some recent opportunities to talk about the role of agency and technology in the field of archaeology. When people think of digital technology, I am pretty sure that Mediterranean Archaeology is not the first field to come to mind. In fact, I’d be hard pressed toidentify any fields more steeped in traditional approaches than Mediterranean,or as we used to call it, Classical Archaeology, Ancient History, or ClassicalPhilology. While these fields did have digital pathbreakers, for example DavidPackard’s efforts with the Packard Humanities Institute and his famous Ibycuscomputer, the field never developed a reputation for embracing the cutting edgeof technology.
The same may be said for History (where I make my disciplinary home here on campus) which despite the important work of groups like theCenter for History and New Media at George Mason University, still featuresindividuals sufficiently skeptical of technology to publicly declare themselvesLuddites – and to understand the radical implication of Ned Ludd for academicmodes of productions (think of that next time the email server is down!).
Allthis is to say, that when I refer to trenches in my talk title, I am not just playing on archaeologists’ predilection for spending time in holes, but the rudimentary state of digital awareness in our field.
While Mediterranean archaeologists and historians have traditionally lackedtechnological savvy, the study of the ancient Mediterranean has a soundfoundation in the area of synergistic research and teaching. Its inclusion in thefield of Classics or Classical Studies places archaeology among the disciplines of Classical philology, history, anthropology, art history, literary criticism, and thehistory of religions – as well as numerous subfields each with their owndisciplinary practices like epigraphy, numismatics, silography, and the study of ceramics. The location of Mediterranean Archaeology within this transdisciplary space has produced a field perhaps more comfortable than most in disregarding disciplinary boundaries.
Its from this background that I’d like to argue today that technology holds outthe prospect of disrupting disciplinary boundaries in a far more profound way than traditional trans or interdisciplinary work has before. The intersection of digital technologies and archaeological (and historical) practices, in fact,“threatens” – and it is clear that some people will see this as a threat – to