Traces of digital archaeological practises

Submitted by Isto Huvila on Fri, 06/17/2022 - 10:28

Session at International Conference on Computer Applications & Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA) 2022 - "Inside Information", Oxford, UK organised together with Zanna Friberg, Lisa Börjesson and Olle Sköld.


Knowing about how archaeological work – from fieldwork to data collection, analyses, construction of models, visualisations and beyond – is conducted is essential for understanding its outputs whether they are 3D models, archaeological knowledge, digital or analogue data or books, articles or reports. There is an increasing body of research on the traces of archaeological, and in a broader sense, scientific and scholarly practises. These studies investigate how different traces—conceptualised, for example, as traces (e.g. Hug et al. 2011; Morgan & Eve, 2012), paradata (e.g. Gant & Reilly, 2017; Denard, 2012; Huvila et al. 2021) and provenance metadata (e.g. Huggett, 2014)—can inform data reuse, provide understanding and criticise archaeological practises, documentation and information, seek to understand the limits of archaeological knowledge, and much more. Thematically the work spans from the documentation of archaeological visualisations (Bentkowska-Kafel & Denard, 2012; Börjesson et al. 2020) to studies of the use (Wylie, 2017) and curatorial history of archaeological collections (Voss, 2012; Friberg & Huvila, 2019), archaeological documentation (Huvila et al., 2021), data reuse (Ullah, 2015; Sobotkova, 2018; Strupler, 2021), analysis of earlier data collection methods (Olson & Walther, 2007) and changing data practises (Montoya et al., 2019).

This session invites presentations of evidence-based, theoretical and reflective work relating to traces of digital archaeological practises. Theoretically, the session is open to perspectives drawing from the quantitatively oriented trace data analysis tradition and qualitative investigation of traces—including trace ethnography that enables identification and analysis of traces in semi- or unstructured documentary formats such as working notes, log files and oral communication (cf. Geiger & Ribes, 2011)—and beyond to bring different approaches and theoretical views into discussion with each other. Contributions to the session can, for example, describe qualitative and quantitative methods and experiences of collecting traces (including paradata, provenance metadata and beyond); discuss how traces can inform data reuse, analysis and use of archaeological information and knowledge in different forms; engage in theoretical ruminations of what counts and works as a trace; share experiences and considerations of e.g., what functions as a trace and why, what types of traces are informative and for what purposes, and what kinds of traces can be seemingly informative but in practice are less useful. Thinking of possible contexts, the discussed work can pertain to fieldwork and documentation of digital field practises, documentation of data creation (e.g. database design and curation), traces of practises in legacy data, metadata and paradata, automatic and manual documentation of practises in field and lab notebooks, databases and video diaries, annotation of 3D visualisations and documentation and archiving of software used in archaeological data capturing and analysis. The disciplinary background of proposers includes the whole CAA community from archaeologists to, for example, social and computer scientists, heritage, museum and information studies researchers and practitioners.

The format of the session (Standard session) consists of paper presentations and discussion, including a concluding open forum for sharing and collecting ideas for future research on and in relation to traces of digital archaeological practises.

The session is affiliated with the CAASIG-ARKWORK on archaeological practises and knowledge work in the digital environment.


Bentkowska-Kafel, A., Denard, H., & Baker, D. (Eds.). (2012). Paradata and transparency in virtual heritage. (A. Bentkowska-Kafel, H. Denard, & D. Baker). Farnham: Ashgate.

Börjesson, L., Sköld, O., & Huvila, I. (2020). The politics of paradata in documentation standards and recommendations for digital archaeological visualisations. Digital Culture and Society , 6 (2), 191–220.

Denard, H. (2012). A new introduction to the London Charter. In A. Bentkowska-Kafel, H. Denard, & D. Baker, A. Bentkowska-Kafel, H. Denard, & D. Baker (Eds.), Paradata and transparency in virtual heritage (pp. 57–71). Farnham: Ashgate.

Friberg, Z., & Huvila, I. (2019). Using object biographies to understand the curation crisis: lessons learned from the museum life of an archaeological collection. Museum Management and Curatorship , 34 (4), 362–382.

Gant, S., & Reilly, P. (2017). Different expressions of the same mode: a recent dialogue between archaeological and contemporary drawing practices. Journal of Visual Art Practice , 17 (1), 100–120.

Geiger, R. S. & Ribes, D. (2011). Trace Ethnography: Following Coordination through Documentary Practices. In Proceedings of the 44th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS).

Hug, C., Salinesi, C., Deneckere, R., & Lamasse, S. (2012). Process modeling for Humanities: tracing and analyzing scientific processes. In M. Zhou, I. Romanowska, Z. Wu, P. Xu, & P. Verhagen (Eds.), Annual Conference of Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA 2011) (pp. 245–255). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Huggett, J. (2014). Promise and Paradox: Accessing Open Data in Archaeology. In C. Mills, M. Pidd, & E. Ward, C. Mills, M. Pidd, & E. Ward (Eds.), Proceedings of the Digital Humanities Congress 2012. Studies in the Digital Humanities. Sheffield: HRI Online Publications.

Huvila, I., Sköld, O., & Börjesson, L. (2021). Documenting information making in archaeological field reports. Journal of Documentation, 77(5), 1107–1127.

Morgan, C., & Eve, S. (2012). DIY and digital archaeology: what are you doing to participate? World Archaeology , 44 (4), 521–537.

Montoya, R. D., Morrison, K., & Morrison, K. (2019). Document and data continuity at the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology. Journal of Documentation, 75(5), 1035–1055.

Olson, C., & Walther, Y. (2007). Neolithic cod and herring fisheries in the Baltic Sea, in the light of fine-mesh sieving: A comparative study of subfossil fishbone form the late Stone Age sites at Ajvide, Gotland, Sweden and Åland, Finland. Environmental Archaeology, 12(2), 175–185.

Sobotkova, A. (2018). Sociotechnical Obstacles to Archaeological Data Reuse. Advances in Archaeological Practice, 6(2), 117–124.

Strupler, N. (2021). Re-discovering Archaeological Discoveries. Experiments with reproducing archaeological survey analysis. Internet Archaeology, 56, Article 6.

Ullah, I. I. T. (2015). Integrating older survey data into modern research paradigms. Advances in Archaeological Practice, 3(4), 331–350.

Voss, B. L. (2012). Curation as research. A case study in orphaned and underreported archaeological collections. Archaeological Dialogues, 19(2), 145–169.

Wylie, A. (2017). How Archaeological Evidence Bites Back: Strategies for Putting Old Data to Work in New Ways. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 42(2), 203–225.