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Synthesising Historical and Archaeological Databases

After the DHA 2012 keynote, I’m in a session on archaeology, which starts with Penny Crook. She highlights the task of synthesising history and archaeology in this field, and notes the potential which digital humanities methods have in this context. More needs to be done here: especially, more connection of available datasets, and more collaboration in online environments. Penny points to two archaeological databases which she’s been involved in.

She notes the life history of archaeological objects, from material extraction to manufacture, exchange, use and reuse, and discarding (plus rediscovery through archaeological work, of course). Each of these phases inscribes information attributes onto the object, which archaeologists must identify, catalogue, and bring into connection with one another as they build their collections.

Such material information must also be connected with contextual historical information, for example about the locations where objects were discovered. This is especially difficult in densely populated urban areas, of course.