What is archaeological information?

Monday, March 30, 2015 - 09:00 to Saturday, April 4, 2015 - 18:00

Presentation at the CAA 2015 conference in Siena together with ARKDIS research project.


Many things are informative in archaeology. The basic understanding of archaeology as a branch of scholarship that studies past human activities based on their material traces captures the basic domain of interest of archaeology. At the same time, it fails to appreciate the diversity of material and intangible, written, drawn, emerged and produced types of artefacts, processes, feelings and practices that inform archaeologists about the past and that archaeologists use to inform their colleagues and other stakeholders of their work (Huvila, 2006, 2014a). As, for instance, Thomas (2005) has underlined, it is necessary to dig deeper into the premises of understanding of the role of the material inm archaeology in order to appreciate it as (one of the) fundaments of archaeological knowledge. A proper understanding of what is informative in archaeology is not only a fundamental premise of unraveling the complexity of a simple typology of ’things’ that inform archaeologists and other about archaeology but an elementary step towards deconstructing the complexities of archaeological information processes and archaeological work in general. 

The presentation reports of a collective effort of the researchers of a Swedish Research Council funded research project Archaeological Information in the Digital Society (ARKDIS) (Huvila, 2014b) that focused on mapping the archaeological work and information process in the digital society, to collect an inventory and to develop a theoretical model of what archaeological information is and how ’things’ becomes archaeologically informative. Changing technologies is a significant aspects that has influenced the evolution of archaeological knowing as, for example, Evans and Daly (2006) emphasise, but it is only one of the pertinent factors. The aim of the presentation is to presents the preliminary results of this undertaking and to invite the audience to critically reflect the questions of what is informative and by what means in the fast digitising infrastructures of archaeological work and scholarship. The theoretical perspective combines insights from the different areas of archaeology, information science and archival and cultural heritage studies.


  • Evans, T. L., & Daly, P. T. (2006). Digital archaeology: bridging method and theory. London; New York: Routledge.
  • Huvila, I. (2006). The ecology of information work – A case study of bridging archaeological work and virtual reality based knowledge organisation. Åbo: Åbo Akademi University Press. Diss. Åbo Akademi University.
  • Huvila, I. (2014a). Archaeologists and their information sources. In I. Huvila (Ed.) Perspectives to Archaeological Information in the Digital Society, (pp. 25–54). Uppsala: Department of ALM, Uppsala University.
  • Huvila, I. (2014b). Introduction. In I. Huvila (Ed.) Perspectives to Archaeological Information in the Digital Society, (pp. 1–9). Uppsala: Department of ALM, Uppsala University.
  • Thomas, J. (2005). Materiality and the Social. In P. P. Funari, A. Zarankin, & E. Stovel (Eds.) Global Archaeological Theory: Contextual Voices and Contemporary Thoughts, (pp. 11–18). New York: Kluwer.

Archaeology and Archaeological Information in the Digital Society shows how the digitization of archaeological information, tools and workflows, and their interplay with both old and new non-digital practices throughout the archaeological information process, affect the outcomes of archaeological work, and in the end, our general understanding of the human past.

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Taking Health Information Behaviour into Account: implications of a neglected element for success- ful implementation of consumer health technologies on older adults (HIBA) is an Academy of Finland funded research project at Åbo Akademi University.

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Sheds new light on the potential of extra-academic knowledge-making as a contribution in formations of knowledge throughout society, explores extra-academic knowledge as a useful resource in academy, policy development, evidence based practices, and innovation, and focuses on the informational dimensions, stemming from and grounded in an informationscience perspective, which provides the means to address practical information-related issues throughout knowledge-making processes.

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