Digital Archaeological Heritage

Over the past few decades, and especially over the past few years, digital technologies have changed our world from how we communicate, to how we conduct research, and even to how we understand truth and reality. During this time, and not coincidentally, heritage and heritage sites have become increasingly important for nations, cultures, and social groups struggling for stability, recognition, and power. Archaeology has long been a discipline engaged with both uncovering truths about the past and discovering archaeological heritage—sites and materials of significant cultural, political, and historical value—but archaeology too has been changed by the digital. In this seminar we will explore how digital technologies have transformed archaeological practice, interpretation, and heritage management as well as the impact that digital archaeological heritage has had across varying communities in the “real” world. Topics will include how archaeologists have used digital technologies to diversify and amplify recording techniques during fieldwork, to create virtual simulations to aid in site interpretation, and to translate unique material discoveries into virtual or 3D printable and shareable artifacts to communicate findings to broader audiences. We will also discuss how the digital has induced an explosion of data enabling unprecedented comparison across sites that aims to answer long-standing questions and raises new ones. Central to the course will be the ethical issues raised by the digital, including how communities have challenged what constitutes authentic heritage and who should legitimately own it. Our case studies will derive from both hemispheres, from the deep to the recent past, and from research contexts to public-facing heritage institutions. Class meetings will be seminar-style with short lectures, workshops, and discussion of assigned readings. Students will be assessed on the basis of their class participation and a research project completed in steps (digital projects are encouraged). There are no course prerequisites, and newcomers to archaeology are welcome. 3 credits. Satisfies the chronological requirement.