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02 Jan 2024
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Advancing data quality of marine archaeological documentation using underwater robotics: from simulation environments to real-world scenarios

Beyond Deep Blue: Underwater robotics, simulations and archaeology

Recommended by based on reviews by Marco Moderato and 1 anonymous reviewer

Diamanti et al. (2024) is a significant contribution to the field of underwater robotics and their use in archaeology, with an innovative approach to some major problems in the deployment of said technologies. It identifies issues when it comes to approaching Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCH) sites and does so through an interest in the combination of data, maneuverability, and the interpretation provided by the instruments that archaeologists operate. The article's motives are clear: it is not enough to find the means to reach these sites, but rather is fundamental to take a step forward in methodology and how we can safeguard certain aspects of data recovery with robust mission planning.

To this end, the article does not fail to highlight previous contributions, in an intertwined web of references that demonstrate the marked evolution of the use of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs), Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs), Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) and Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASVs), which are growing exponentially in use (see Kapetanović et al. 2020). It should be emphasized that the notion of ‘aquatic environment’ used here is quite broad and is not limited to oceanic or maritime environments, which allows for a larger perspective on distinct technologies that proliferate in underwater archaeology. There is also a relevant discussion on the typologies of sensors and how these autonomous vehicles obtain their data, where are debated Inertial Measurement Units (IMU) and LiDAR systems. 

Thus, the authors of this article propose the creation of a model that acquires data through simulations, which allows for a better understanding of what a real mission presupposes in the field. Their tripartite method - pre-mission planning; mission plan and post-mission plan - offers a performing algorithm that simplifies and provides reliability to all the parts of the intervention. The use of real cases to create simulation models allows for a substantial approximation to common practice in underwater environments. And yet, the article is at its most innovative status when it combines all the elements it sets out to explore. It could simply focus on the methodological or planning component, on obtaining data, or on theoretical problems. But it goes further, which makes this approach more complete and of interest to the archaeological community. By not taking any part as isolated, the problems and possible solutions arising from the course of the mission are carried over from one parameter to another, where details are worked upon and efficiency goals are set.

One of the most significant cases is the tuning of ocean optics in aquatic environments according to the idiosyncracies of real cases (Diamanti et al. 2024: 8), a complex endeavor but absolutely necessary in order to increase the informative potential of the simulation. The exploration of various data capture models is also welcome, for the purposes of comparison and adaptation on a case-by-case basis. The brief theoretical reflection offered at the end of the article dwells in all these points and problematizes the difference between terrestrial and aquatic archaeology. In fact, the distinction does not only exist in the technical component, as although it draws in theoretical elements from archaeology that is carried out on land (see Krieger 2012 for this matter), the problems and interpretations are shaped by different factors and therefore become unique (Diamanti et al 2024: 15). The future, according to the authors, lies in increasing the autonomy of these vehicles so that the human element does not have to make decisions in a systematic way. It is in that note, and in order for that path to become closer to reality, that we strongly recommend this article for publication, in conjunction with the comments of the reviewers. We hope that its integrated approach, which brings together methods, theories and reflections, can become a broader modus operandi within the field of underwater robotics applied to archaeology.

References:

Diamanti, E., Yip, M., Stahl, A. and Ødegård, Ø. (2024). Advancing data quality of marine archaeological documentation using underwater robotics: from simulation environments to real-world scenarios, Zenodo, 8305098, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8305098

Kapetanović, N., Vasilijević, A., Nađ, Đ., Zubčić, K., and Mišković, N. (2020). Marine Robots Mapping the Present and the Past: Unraveling the Secrets of the Deep. Remote Sensing, 12(23), 3902. MDPI AG. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/rs12233902

Krieger, W. H. (2012). Theory, Locality, and Methodology in Archaeology: Just Add Water? HOPOS: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science, 2(2), 243–257. https://doi.org/10.1086/666956

 

Advancing data quality of marine archaeological documentation using underwater robotics: from simulation environments to real-world scenariosDiamanti, Eleni; Yip, Mauhing; Stahl, Annette; Ødegård, Øyvind<p>This paper presents a novel method for visual-based 3D mapping of underwater cultural heritage sites through marine robotic operations. The proposed methodology addresses the three main stages of an underwater robotic mission, specifically the ...Computational archaeology, Remote sensingDaniel Carvalho2023-08-31 16:03:10 View
20 Feb 2024
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Understanding Archaeological Site Topography: 3D Archaeology of Archaeology

Rewriting Archaeological Narratives: Archaeology of Archaeology through 3D Site Topography Recording

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Geert Verhoeven, Jesús García-Sánchez and Catherine Scott

Even though applications of 3D recording have existed in archaeology for a long time, it is only since the early 2000s that this field of research has become mainstream thanks to technological advances, and the availability of low-cost sensors and image-based modelling software. This has led to significant changes in the way archaeological sites are documented. This paper entitled "Understanding Archaeological Site Topography: 3D Archaeology of Archaeology" by Jitte Waagen & Gert Jan van Wijngaarden (2024) presents an overview of the current developments in the application possibilities of 3D site topography recording in archaeology. The paper is the result of the round table discussion "Understanding Archaeological Site Topography: 3D Archaeology of Archaeology" at the CAA conference on 5 April 2023 in Amsterdam, with contributions from Radu Brunchi, Nicola Lercari, Joep Orbons, Davide Tanasi, Alicia Walsh, Pawel Wolf and Teagan Zoldoske.

The paper starts with a discussion of the Amsterdam Troy Project (ATP). In the frame of the ATP, the rich history of archaeological activity (over 150 years of fieldwork) at Troy is being studied to explore how previous archaeological research has helped to shape the current topography of the site and how these earlier research activities, embedded in their contemporary theoretical frameworks, have determined our understanding of the site (see Murray and M. Spriggs 2017, Carver 2011 for the influence of theory on archaeological fieldwork and archaeology as a discipline), the so-called 'Archaeology of Archaeology' approach. In addition to studying previous research records and re-excavating old excavation trenches, a central element of the project is the 3D recording of the past and present topography of the site in order to reconstruct the archaeological research activities at the site and their impact on the archaeological landscape.

The paper focuses on current trends in 3D recording of archaeological site topography and discusses three main areas where 3D recording of archaeological site topography can contribute to the "Archaeology of Archaeology" approach: (1) monitoring the topography of sites for preservation, conservation, research and dissemination purposes; (2) reconstructing, reevaluating and reinterpreting past archaeological research efforts; and (3) archiving in a 4D (GIS) environment. This is done using the example of the Amsterdam Troy project and comparing it with other projects using similar methods and approaches. Using these case studies, the authors effectively discuss the impact of these technologies on the understanding of the topography of archaeological sites and how 3D recording can enhance archaeological research methodologies and interpretations, for example, by not using such 3D approaches as a stand-alone product but integrating them with available information from previous research activities. They also recognise the limitations and challenges involved, such as the need for customised data acquisition strategies and the lack of ready-made software solutions for developing comprehensive data management strategies.

One topic that could have been covered in more detail is how 3D site topography recording (and 3D recording in general) is affected by current theoretical developments in archaeology. Like any other archaeological fieldwork or data collection approach, it is a child of its time. Decisions such as what to record, how to record, what to store, how to store, what to visualise, and how to visualise influence our understanding of archaeological sites (Ward 2022). This minor critical reflection aside, the paper makes a timely and significant contribution to archaeology by addressing current trends and the limitations of the increasingly widespread use of 3D site topography recording technologies.

References

Carver, G. (2011). Reflections on the archaeology of archaeological excavation, Archaeological Dialogues 18(1), pp. 18–26. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1380203811000067

Murray, T. and Spriggs, M. (2017). The historiography of archaeology: exploring theory, contingency and rationality, World Archaeology 49(2), pp. 151–157. https://doi.org/10.1080/00438243.2017.1334583

Ward, C. (2022). Excavating the Archive / Archiving the Excavation: Archival Processes and Contexts in Archaeology, Advances in Archaeological Practice 10(2), pp. 160–176. https://doi.org/10.1017/aap.2022.1

Waagen, J. and van Wijngaarden, G.J. (2024). Understanding Archaeological Site Topography: 3D Archaeology of Archaeology, Zenodo, 10061343, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommonded by Peer Community in Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.10061343

Understanding Archaeological Site Topography: 3D Archaeology of ArchaeologyWaagen, Jitte & Wijngaarden, Gert Jan van<p>The current ubiquitous use of 3D recording technologies in archaeological fieldwork, for a large part due to the application of budget-friendly (drone) sensors and the availability of many low-cost image-based 3D modelling software packages, ha...Computational archaeology, Remote sensingDevi Taelman2023-10-17 23:03:47 View
01 Dec 2022
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Surface texture analysis in Toothfrax and MountainsMap® SSFA module: Different software packages, different results?

An important comparison of software for Scale Sensitive Fractal Analysis : are ancient and new results compatible?

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO and ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Antony Borel and 2 anonymous reviewers

The community of archaeologists, bioanthropologist and paleontologists relying on tools use-wear and dental microwear has grown in the recent years, mainly driven by the spread of confocal microscopes in the laboratories. If the diversity of microscopes is quite high, the main software used for 3D surface texture data analysis are mostly different versions of the same Mountains Map core. In addition to this software, since the beginning of 3D surface texture analysis in dental microwear, surface sensitive fractal analysis (SSFA) initially developed for industrial research (Brown & Savary, 1991) have been performed in our disciplines with the Sfrax/Toothfrax software for two decades (Ungar et al., 2003). This software being discontinued, these calculations have been integrated to the new versions of Mountains Map, with multi-core computing, full integration in the software and an update of the calculation itself.

New research based on these standard parameters of surface texture analysis will be, from now on, mainly calculated with this new add-on of Mountains Map, and will be directly compared with the important literature based on the previous software. The question addressed by Calandra et al. (2022), gathering several prominent researchers in this domain including the Mountains Map developer F. Blateyron, is key for the future research: can we directly compare SSFA results from both software?

Thanks to a Bayesian approach to this question, and comparing results calculated with both software on three different datasets (two on dental microwear, one on lithic raw materials), the authors show that the two software gives statistically different results for all surface texture parameters tested in the paper. Nevertheless, applying the new calculation to the datasets, they also show that the results published in original studies with these datasets would have been similar. Authors also claim that in the future, researchers will need to re-calculate the fractal parameters of previously published 3D surfaces and cannot simply integrate ancient and new data together.

We also want to emphasize the openness of the work published here. All datasets have been published online and will be probably very useful for future methodological works. Authors also published their code for statistical comparison of datasets, and proposed a fully reproducible article that allowed the reviewers to check the content of the paper, which can also make this article of high interest for student training.

This article is therefore a very important methodological work for the community, as noted by all three reviewers. It will certainly support the current transition between the two software packages and it is necessary that all surface texture specialists take these results and the recommendation of authors into account: calculate again data from ancient measurements, and share the 3D surface measurements on open access repositories to secure their access in the future.

References

Brown CA, and Savary G (1991) Describing ground surface texture using contact profilometry and fractal analysis. Wear, 141, 211–226. https://doi.org/10.1016/0043-1648(91)90269-Z

Calandra I, Bob K, Merceron G, Blateyron F, Hildebrandt A, Schulz-Kornas E, Souron A, and Winkler DE (2022) Surface texture analysis in Toothfrax and MountainsMap® SSFA module: Different software packages, different results? Zenodo, 7219877, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7219877

Ungar PS, Brown CA, Bergstrom TS, and Walker A (2003) Quantification of dental microwear by tandem scanning confocal microscopy and scale-sensitive fractal analyses. Scanning: The Journal of Scanning Microscopies, 25, 185–193. https://doi.org/10.1002/sca.4950250405

Surface texture analysis in Toothfrax and MountainsMap® SSFA module: Different software packages, different results?Ivan CALANDRA, Konstantin BOB, Gildas MERCERON, François BLATEYRON, Andreas HILDEBRANDT, Ellen SCHULZ-KORNAS, Antoine SOURON, Daniela E. WINKLER<p>The scale-sensitive fractal analysis (SSFA) of dental microwear textures is traditionally performed using the software Toothfrax. SSFA has been recently integrated to the software MountainsMap® as an optional module. Meanwhile, Toothfrax suppor...Computational archaeology, Palaeontology, TraceologyAlain QueffelecAnonymous, John Charles Willman, Antony Borel2022-07-07 09:58:50 View
12 Feb 2024
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3Duewelsteene - A website for the 3D visualization of the megalithic passage grave Düwelsteene near Heiden in Westphalia, Germany

Online presentation of the digital reconstruction process of a megalithic tomb : “3Duewelsteene”

Recommended by and ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Robert Bischoff, Ronald Visser and Scott Ure

“3Duewelsteene - A website for the 3D visualization of the megalithic passage grave Düwelsteene near Heiden in Westphalia, Germany” (Tharandt 2024) presents several 3-dimensional models of the Düwelsteene monument, along with contextual information about the grave and the process of creating the models. The website (https://3duewelsteene.github.io/) includes English and German versions, making it accessible to a wide audience. The website itself serves as the primary means of presenting the data, rather than as a supplement to a written text. This is an innovative and engaging way to present the research to a wider public.

Düwelsteene (“Devil’s Stones”) is a megalithic passage grave from the Funnel Beaker culture, dating to approximately 3300 BC. to 2600 BC. that was excavated in 1932. The website displays three separate 3-dimensional models. They ares shown in the 3D viewer software 3DHOP, which enables viewers to interact with the models in several ways, Annotations on the models display further information.

The first model was created by image-based modeling and shows the monument as it appears today.

A second model uses historical photographs and excavation data to reconstruct the grave as it appeared prior to the 1932 archaeological excavation. Restoration work following the excavation relocated many of the stones. Pre-1932 photographs collected from residents of the nearby town of Heiden were then used to create a model showing what the tomb looked like before the restoration work. It is commendable that a “certainty view” of the model shows the certainty with which the stones can be put at the reconstructed place. Gaps in the 3D models of stones that were caused by overlap with other stones have been filled with a rough mesh and marked as such, thereby differentiating between known and unknown parts of the stones.

The third model is the most imaginative and most interesting. As it shows as the grave as it might have appeared in approximately 3000 B.C., many aspects of this model are necessarily somewhat speculative. There is no direct evidence for exact size and shape of the capstones, the height of the mound, and other details. But enough is known about other similar constructions to allow these details to be inferred with some confidence. Again, care was taken to enable viewers to distinguish between the stones that are still in existence and those that were reconstructed.

A video on the home page of the website adds a nice touch. It starts with the model of the Düwelsteene as it currently appears then shows, in reverse order, the changes to the grave, ending with the inferred original state.

The 3D reconstructions are convincing and the methods well described. This project follows an open science approach and the FAIR principles, which is commendable and cutting edge in the field of Digital Archaeology. The preprint of the website hosted on zenodo includes all the photos, text, html files, and nine individual 3D model (.ply) files that are combined in the reconstructions exhibited on the website. A “readme.md” file includes details about building the models using CloudCompare and Blender, and modifications to the 3D viewer software (3DHOP) to get the website to improve the display of the reconstructions. We have to note that the link between the reconstructed models and the html page does not work when the files are downloaded from zenodo and opened offline. The html pages open in the browser, and the individual ply files work fine, but the 3D models do not display on the browser page when the html files are opened offline. The online version of the website is working perfectly.

The 3Düwelsteene website combines the presentation of archaeological domain knowledge to a lay audience as well as in-depths information on the reconstruction process to make it an interesting contribution for researchers. By providing data and code for the website it also models an Open Science approach, which enables other researchers to re-use these materials. We congratulate the author on a successful reconstruction of the megalithic tomb, an admirable presentation of the archaeological work and the thoughtful outreach to a broad audience.

Bibliography
Tharandt, L., 3Duewelsteene - A website for the 3D visualization of the megalithic passage grave Düwelsteene near Heiden in Westphalia, Germany, https://3duewelsteene.github.io/, Zenodo, 7948379, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7948379

3Duewelsteene - A website for the 3D visualization of the megalithic passage grave Düwelsteene near Heiden in Westphalia, GermanyTharandt, Louise<p>The Düwelsteene near Heiden, Westphalia, is one of the most southern megalithic tombs of the Funnel Beaker culture. In 1932 the Düwelsteene were restored and the appearance of the grave was changed. Even though the megalithic tomb was excavated...Computational archaeology, Mesolithic, NeolithicSophie C. Schmidt2023-05-21 17:24:22 View
10 Jan 2024
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Linking Scars: Topology-based Scar Detection and Graph Modeling of Paleolithic Artifacts in 3D

A valuable contribution to automated analysis of palaeolithic artefacts

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Lutz Schubert and 1 anonymous reviewer

In this paper (Linsel/Bullenkamp/Mara 2024), the authors propose an automatic system for scar-ridge-pattern detection on palaeolithic artefacts based on Morse Theory. Scare-Ridge pattern recognition is a process that is usually done manually while creating a drawing of the object itself. Automatic systems to detect scars or ridges exist, but only a small amount of them is utilizing 3D data. In addition to the scar-ridges detection, the authors also experiment in automatically detecting the operational sequence, the temporal relation between scars and ridges. As a result, they can export a traditional drawing as well as graph models displaying the relationships between the scars and ridges.

After an introduction to the project and the practice of documenting palaeolithic artefacts, the authors explain their procedure in automatising the analysis of scars and ridges as well as their temporal relation to each other on these artefacts. To illustrate the process, an open dataset of lithic artefacts from the Grotta di Fumane, Italy, was used and 62 artefacts selected. To establish a Ground Truth, the artefacts were first annotated manually. The authors then continue to explain in detail each step of the automated process that follows and the results obtained.

In the second part of the paper, the results are presented. First the results of the segmentation process shows that the average percentage of correctly labelled vertices is over 91%, which is a remarkable result. The graph modelling however shows some more difficulties, which the authors are aware of. To enhance the process, the authors rightfully aim to include datasets of experimental archaeology in the future. They also aim to develop a way of detecting the operational sequence automatically and precisely.

This paper has great potential as it showcases exactly what Digital and Computational Archaeology is about: The development of new digital methods to enhance the analysis of archaeological data. While this procedure is still in development, the authors were able to present a valuable contribution to the automatization of analytical archaeology. By creating a step towards the machine-readability of this data, they also open up the way to further steps in machine learning within Archaeology.

Bibliography

Linsel, F., Bullenkamp, J. P., and Mara, H. (2024). Linking Scars: Topology-based Scar Detection and Graph Modeling of Paleolithic Artifacts in 3D, Zenodo, 8296269, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8296269

Linking Scars: Topology-based Scar Detection and Graph Modeling of Paleolithic Artifacts in 3DFlorian Linsel, Jan Philipp Bullenkamp & Hubert Mara<p>Motivated by the concept of combining the archaeological practice of creating lithic artifact drawings with the potential of 3D mesh data, our goal in this project is not only to analyze the shape at the artifact level, but also to enable a mor...Computational archaeology, Europe, Lithic technology, Upper PalaeolithicSebastian Hageneuer2023-09-01 23:03:59 View
11 Dec 2023
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A meta-analysis of Final Palaeolithic/earliest Mesolithic cultural taxonomy and evolution in Europe

Questioning Final Palaeolithic and early Mesolithic cultural taxonomy with a data-driven statistical approach

Recommended by based on reviews by Dirk Leder and 2 anonymous reviewers

Cultural taxonomies are an essential tool for archaeologists working with prehistoric material cultures as they have historically been used to create the basic analytical units for studying cultural evolution through time (de Mortillet, 1883 ; Breuil, 1913). This approach has its limits as the taxonomic units are essentially etic constructions, i.e., they are defined in a cultural context exterior to the one that produced the material culture on which they are based (e.g., Pesesse, 2019). But to approach questions related to cultural evolution, one has to define archaeological units with clear geographic and chronological delineations in order to be compared synchronically and diachronically (e.g., Willey and Philips, 1958). In « A meta-analysis of Final Palaeolitic/Earliest Mesolithic cultural taxonomy and evolution in Europe », F. Riede and colleagues propose a novel and interesting approach to question the end of the Palaeolithic and beginning of the Mesolithic’s « named archaeological cultures » (NACs) analytical pertinence (Riede et al., 2023). In this particular context, NACs are indeed very numerous (n = 86) and result from complex and regional research histories. It seems thus pertinent to question the extent to which the said NACs chronological and geographic patterns result from past cultural diversity and evolution, and are not artefacts of research. 

To do so, the authors adopted a data-driven approach that they describe in detail in the paper. First, they gathered an European data base of lithic tool-kit composition, blade and bladelet technology and armature morphology at 350 key sites considered representative of NACs, dated between 15 and 11 ka (Hussain et al., 2023). These data were then analyzed using geometric morphometrics and a set of statisticaal tests in order to 1) test the coherence of these taxonomic units, and 2) test the chronological change in artefact shape variation. The authors conclude that the data set is partially biased by reasearch practices and histories, as their data-driven approach has only partially replicated traditional NACs for the european Late Palaeolithic/Early Mesolithic. However, their analysis of armature shape evolution has shown a tendency to diversification overtime, a pattern that was already observed in more « traditional » approaches. 

This study is, in my opinion, an excellent contribution for a significant step in macro-regional approaches to the archaeological record: defining discrete archaeological units that serve as a basis for subsequent analyses aimed at delineating cultural evolutionary processes. The authors propose a carefully designed and statistically grounded procedure in order to achieve these definitions in the most replicable and explicit possible manner. Taking advantage of drawings as a primary source of information is also very original despite several limitations of this approach (such as the necessary selection of most typical artefacts to be represented, the incompleteness of data publication or the difficulty to access all published work across such a large geographic area). The results of the study are convincing enough to allow the authors to discuss the pertinence of European Late Paleo/Early Mesolithic NACs, the potential epistemological and historical factors that could affect this taxonomic framework, as well as to give more weight to the traditional hypothesis of lithic cultural diversification towards the end of the Pleistocene/beginning of the Holocene in Europe. 

I would also like to underline the authors’ important efforts to ensure transparence and replicability of their study, as well as the accessibility of the data, thanks to extensive supplementary data and a data paper describing their data set in detail.

Anaïs L. Vignoles 

References

Breuil, H. (1913). Les subdivisions du paléolithique supérieur et leur signification. In Congrès international d’anthropologie et d’archéologie préhistoriques - compte-rendu de la XIVème session, tome 1:165‑238. Genève: Imprimerie Albert Kündig.

Hussain, S. T., Riede, F., Matzig, D. N., Biard, M., Crombé, P., Fernández-Lopéz de Pablo, J., Fontana, F., Groß, D., Hess, T., Langlais, M., Mevel, L., Mills, W., Moník, M., Naudinot, N., Posch, C., Rimkus, T., Stefański, D. and Vandendriessche, H. (2023). A Pan-European Dataset Revealing Variability in Lithic Technology, Toolkits, and Artefact Shapes ~15-11 Kya. Scientific Data 10 (1): 593. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41597-023-02500-9.

Mortillet, G. (1883). Le Préhistorique, antiquité de l’homme. Reinwald. Paris.

Pesesse, D. (2019). Analyser un silex, le façonner à nouveau ? Sur certains usages de la chaîne opératoire au Paléolithique supérieur. Techniques & culture, no 71: 74‑77. https://doi.org/10.4000/tc.11321.

Riede, F., Matzig, D. N., Biard, M., Crombé, P., Fernández-Lopéz de Pablo, J., Fontana, F., Groß, D., Hess, T., Langlais, M., Mevel, L., Mills, W., Moník, M., Naudinot, N., Posch, C., Rimkus, T., Stefański, D., Vandendriessche, H. and Hussain, S. T. (2023). A meta-analysis of Final Palaeolithic/earliest Mesolithic cultural taxonomy and evolution in Europe, Zenodo, 8195587., ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8195587

Willey, G. R. and Phillips, P. (1958). Method and Theory in American Archaeology. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

A meta-analysis of Final Palaeolithic/earliest Mesolithic cultural taxonomy and evolution in EuropeFelix Riede, David N. Matzig, Miguel Biard, Philippe Crombé, Javier Fernández-Lopéz de Pablo, Federica Fontana, Daniel Groß, Thomas Hess, Mathieu Langlais, Ludovic Mevel, William Mills, Martin Moník, Nicolas Naudinot, Caroline Posch, Tomas Rimkus,...<p>Archaeological systematics, together with spatial and chronological information, are commonly used to infer cultural evolutionary dynamics in the past. For the study of the Palaeolithic, and particularly the European Final Palaeolithic and earl...Computational archaeology, Europe, Lithic technology, Mesolithic, Upper PalaeolithicAnaïs Vignoles2023-07-29 16:06:17 View
06 Aug 2023
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A Focus on the Future of our Tiny Piece of the Past: Digital Archiving of a Long-term Multi-participant Regional Project

A meticulous description of archiving research data from a long-running landscape research project

Recommended by based on reviews by Dominik Hagmann and Iwona Dudek

The paper “A Focus on the Future of our Tiny Piece of the Past: Digital Archiving of a Long-term Multi-participant Regional Project” (Madry et al., 2023) describes practices, challenges and opportunities encountered in digital archiving of a landscape research project running in Burgundy, France for more than 45 years. As an unusually long-running multi-disciplinary undertaking working with a large variety of multi-modal digital and non-digital data, the Burgundy project has lived through the development of documentation and archiving technologies from the 1970s until today and faced many of the challenges relating to data management, preservation and migration.

The major strenght of the paper is that it provides a detailed description of the evolution of digital data archiving practices in the project including considerations about why some approaches were tested and abandoned. This differs from much of the earlier literature where it has been more common to describe individual solutions how digital archiving was either planned or was performed at one point of time. A longitudinal description of what was planned, how and why it has worked or failed so far, as described in the paper, provides important insights in the everyday hurdles and ways forward in digital archiving. As a description of a digital archiving initiative, the paper makes a valuable contribution for the data archiving scholarship as a case description of practices and considerations in one research project. For anyone working with data management in a research project either as a researcher or data manager, the text provides useful advice on important practical matters to consider ahead, during and after the project. The main advice the authors are giving, is to plan and act for data preservation from the beginning of the project rather than doing it afterwards. To succeed in this, it is crucial to be knowledgeable of the key concepts of data management—such as “digital data fixity, redundant backups, paradata, metadata, and appropriate keywords” as the authors underline—including their rationale and practical implications. The paper shows also that when and if unexpected issues raise, it is important to be open for different alternatives, explore ways forward, and in general be flexible.

The paper makes also a timely contribution to the discussion started at the session “Archiving information on archaeological practices and work in the digital environment: workflows, paradata and beyond” at the Computer Applications and Quantitative 2023 conference in Amsterdam where it was first presented. It underlines the importance of understanding and communicating the premises and practices of how data was collected (and made) and used in research for successful digital archiving, and the similar pertinence of documenting digital archiving processes to secure the keeping, preservation and effective reuse of digital archives possible.

References

Madry, S., Jansen, G., Murray, S., Jones, E., Willcoxon, L. and Alhashem, E. (2023) A Focus on the Future of our Tiny Piece of the Past: Digital Archiving of a Long-term Multi-participant Regional Project, Zenodo, 7967035, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7967035

A Focus on the Future of our Tiny Piece of the Past: Digital Archiving of a Long-term Multi-participant Regional ProjectScott Madry, Gregory Jansen, Seth Murray, Elizabeth Jones, Lia Willcoxon, Ebtihal Alhashem<p>This paper will consider the practical realities that have been encountered while seeking to create a usable Digital Archiving system of a long-term and multi-participant research project. &nbsp;The lead author has been involved in archaeologic...Computational archaeology, Environmental archaeology, Landscape archaeologyIsto Huvila2023-05-24 18:46:34 View
08 Jan 2024
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Comparing summed probability distributions of shoreline and radiocarbon dates from the Mesolithic Skagerrak coast of Norway

Taking the Reverend Bayes to the seaside: Improving Norwegian Mesolithic shoreline dating with advanced statistical approaches

Recommended by based on reviews by 2 anonymous reviewers

The paper entitled “Comparing summed probability distributions of shoreline and radiocarbon dates from the Mesolithic Skagerrak coast of Norway” by Isak Roalkvam and Steinar Solheim (2024) sheds new light on the degree to which shoreline dating may be used as a reliable chronological and palaeodemographic proxy in the Mesolthic of southern Norway.

Based on geologically motivated investigations of eustatic and isostatic sea-level changes, shoreline dating has long been used as a method to date archaeological sites in Scandinavia, not least in Norway (e.g., Bjerck 2008; Astrup 2018). Establishing reliable sea-level curves requires much effort and variations across regions may be substantial. While this topic has seen a great deal of attention in Norway specifically, many purely geological questions remain. In addition, dating archaeological sites by linking their elevation to previously established seal-level curves relies strongly on the foundational assumption that such sites were in fact shore-bound. Given the strong contrast between terrestrial and marine productivity in high-latitude regions such as Norway, this assumption per se is not unreasonable. It is very likely that the sea has played a decisive role in the lives of Stone Age peoples throughout (Persson et al. 2017), just as it has in later periods here. However, many confounding factors relating to both taphonomy and human behaviour are also likely to have loosened the shore/site relationship. Systematic variations driven by cultural norms about settlement location, mobility, as well as factors such as shelter construction, fuel use and a range of other possible factors could variously have impacted the validity or at least the precision of shoreline dating.

By developing a new methodology for handling and assessing a large number of shoreline dated sites, Roalkvam and Solheim use state-of-the-art Bayesian statistical methods to compare shoreline and radiocarbon dates as proxies for population activity. The probabilistic treatment of shoreline dates in this way is novel, and the divergences between the two data sets are interpreted by the authors in light of specific behavioural, cultural, and demographic changes. Many of the peaks and troughs observed in these time-series may be interpreted in light of long-observed cultural transitions while others may relate to population dynamics now also visible in palaeogenomic analyses (Günther et al. 2018; Manninen et al. 2021). Overall, this paper makes an innovative and fresh contribution to the use of shoreline dating in Norwegian archaeology, specifically by articulating it with recent developments in Open Science and data-driven approaches to archaeological questions (Marwick et al. 2017).

References

Astrup, P. M. 2018. Sea-Level Change in Mesolithic Southern Scandinavia : Long- and Short-Term Effects on Society and the Environment. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press.

Bjerck, H. B. 2008. Norwegian Mesolithic Trends: A Review. In Mesolithic Europe, edited by Geoff Bailey and Penny Spikins, 60–106. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Günther, T., Malmström, H., Svensson, E. M., Omrak, A., Sánchez-Quinto, F., Kılınç, G. M., Krzewińska, M. et al. 2018. Population Genomics of Mesolithic Scandinavia: Investigating Early Postglacial Migration Routes and High-Latitude Adaptation. PLOS Biology 16 (1): e2003703. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2003703

Manninen, M. A., Damlien, H., Kleppe, J. I., Knutsson, K., Murashkin, A., Niemi, A. R., Rosenvinge, C. S. and Persson, P. 2021. First Encounters in the North: Cultural Diversity and Gene Flow in Early Mesolithic Scandinavia. Antiquity 95 (380): 310–28. https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2020.252

Marwick, B., d’Alpoim Guedes, J. A., Barton, C. M., Bates, L. A., Baxter, M., Bevan, A., Bollwerk, E. A. et al. 2017. Open Science in Archaeology. The SAA Archaeological Record 17 (4): 8–14. https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/72n8g

Persson, P., Riede, F., Skar, B., Breivik, H. M. and Jonsson, L. 2017. The Ecology of Early Settlement in Northern Europe: Conditions for Subsistence and Survival. Sheffield: Equinox.

Roalkvam, I. and Solheim, S. (2024). Comparing summed probability distributions of shoreline and radiocarbon dates from the Mesolithic Skagerrak coast of Norway, SocArXiv, 2f8ph, ver. 5 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/2f8ph

Comparing summed probability distributions of shoreline and radiocarbon dates from the Mesolithic Skagerrak coast of NorwayIsak Roalkvam, Steinar Solheim <p>By developing a new methodology for handling and assessing a large number of shoreline dated sites, this paper compares the summed probability distribution of radiocarbon dates and shoreline dates along the Skagerrak coast of south-eastern Norw...Computational archaeology, Dating, Europe, Mesolithic, PaleoenvironmentFelix Riede2023-09-26 16:43:29 View
21 Nov 2022
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Removing Barriers to Reproducible Research in Archaeology

Three levels of reproducible workflow remove barriers for archaeologists and increase accessibility

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Sam Leggett, Cyler Conrad, Cheng Liu and Lisa Lodwick

Over the last decade, a small but growing community of archaeologists, from a diversity of intellectual and demographic backgrounds, have been striving for computational reproducibility in their published research. In their survey of the accomplishments of this thriving community, Emma Karoune and Esther Plomp (2022) analyzed the wide variety of approaches researchers have taken to enhance the reproducibility of their research. A key contribution of this paper is their excellent synthesis of diverse approaches into three levels of increasing complexity. This is helpful because it provides multiple entry points for researchers new to the challenge of fortifying their research. Many researchers assume that computational reproducibility is only achievable if they have a high degree of technical skill with computers, or is only necessary if their work is very computationally intensive. Karoune and Plomp give three compelling reasons why reproducibility is important for all archaeological research, and through their three levels they demonstrate that how these levels can be accomplished with basic, non-specialized computer skills and widely used free software. They showcase exemplary work from a variety of archaeologists to show how practical and achievable reproducible research is for all archaeologists. They advocate for archaeologists to use the most widely used and supported tools and services to support their reproducible research, such as the R and Python programming languages for data analysis, and Git and GitHub for collaboration. 

This paper, with its extensive appendix including thoughtful responses to frequently asked questions about reproducible research in archaeology, is likely to have a wide reach and influence, beyond previous works on this topic that have largely focused on technical details. Karoune and Plomp have provided the on-ramp for a generation of archaeologists who will find their questions about reproducible research answered here. They will also find an agreeable entry point to reproducible research in one of the three levels described by the authors. Will every archaeologist embrace this way of working? Should they? The work of Leonelli (2018) can help us anticipate the answers to these questions. Leonelli asks where are the limits to reproducibility, and how do the characteristics of different ways of knowing affect the desirability of reproducibility? Leonelli's work invites us to consider that there will be archaeologists coming from different epistemic cultures for whom the motivations presented by Karoune and Plomp will not resonate. For example, archaeologists engaged in mostly hermeneutical social science and humanities research, who do little or no quantitative analysis and statistics, are unlikely to see reproducibility as meaningful or desirable for their work. We can describe these researchers as working in interpretative or constructivist epistemic cultures. In these cultures, the particulars of how an individual researcher engages with their subject are exclusive and unique, and they would argue it cannot be fully captured or shared in an meaningful way (Elman and Kapiszewski 2017). Here, knowledge is situational, emerging from a specific, once-off combination of people and circumstances. One example in archaeology is the chaîne opératoire approach of stone artefact analysis, which Monnier and Missal (2014:61) describe as "based upon the analyst's experience and intuition, and it is not replicable, nor quantifiable". To make sense of this example we can draw on Galison's (1997) concept of 'image traditions' and 'logic traditions'. An image tradition is a way of knowing that is qualitative, based on composing narratives from drawings and photographs. A logic tradition is based on the use of instruments and statistical methods to collect standardised quantitative data. Chaîne opératoire approaches fall into the image tradition, along with many other ways of working in archaeology that do not generate numbers or use them to support claims about the past. Archaeologists working in a logic tradition will find reproducible research to be more meaningful than those working in an image tradition.

We should be mindful not to claim that one epistemic culture is superior to another because reproducibility is not meaningful or attainable for researchers in one culture. Such a claim would threaten the plurality that is essential for the reliability of scientific knowledge (Massimi 2022). Instead we should identify those communities in archaeology where reproducible research is both meaningful and attainable, but has not yet been widely embraced. That is the where the most beneficial effects can be expected. According to Leonelli's (2018) framework, we can recognise these communities by a few basic characteristics. For example: they are doing computationally intensive archaeology, such as using or writing software to collect, simulate, analyse or visualise data; they are doing experimental archaeology; or they are making knowledge claims that are supported by tables of numeric data and data visualisations. Archaeologists whose work shares one or more of these characteristics will find the guidance provided here by Karoune and Plomp to be highly instructive and relevant, and stand the most to benefit from it.  ​​

But it is not only individual archaeological scientists that have potential to benefit from how Karoune and Plomp have lowered the barriers to reproducible research. An especially important implication of this paper is that by lowering the barriers to reproducible research, Karoune and Plomp help us all to lower barriers to participation in archaeology in general. Documenting our research transparently, and sharing our materials (such as data and code and so on) openly, can profoundly change how others can participate in archaeology. By doing this, we are enabling students and researchers elsewhere, for example in low and middle income locations, to use our materials in their teaching and learning. Other researchers and students can apply our methods to their data, and combine their data with ours to achieve syntheses beyond what a single project can do. Similarly, for archaeologists working with local, descendant or marginalized communities, the tools of reproducible research are vital for enabling community members to have full access to the archaeological process, and thus reproducibility may be considered a necessity for decolonising the discipline. Karoune and Plomp present the CARE principles (Carroll et al. 2020) to guide archaeologists in ensuring community control of data so that reproducibility can be ethically accomplished with community safety and well-being as a priority. This may have a profoundly positive impact on the demographics of archaeology, as it lowers the barriers of meaningful participation by people far beyond our immediate groups of collaborators. 

Making archaeology more accessible is of critical importance in stemming the negative social impacts of pseudoarchaeologists, who often claim that archaeologists actively suppress the truth of the archaeological record through secrecy, elitism, and exclusiveness. The harm in this is twofold. First, that pseudoarchaeology typically erases Indigenous heritage by claiming that their past achievements were due to an ancient, extinct advanced civilization, not Indigenous people. These claims are often adopted by white supremacists to support racist and antisemitic conspiracy theories (Turner and Turner 2021), which sometimes leads to prejudice, physical violence, radicalization and extremism. A second type of harm that can come from claims of secrecy and elitism is it drains public trust in experts, leading to science denial. Not only trust in archaeologists, but trust in many kinds of experts, including those working on urgent contemporary issues such as public health and climate change. Karoune and Plomp's work is important here because it provides a practical and affordable pathway for archaeologists to fight claims of secrecy and elitism by sharing their work in ways that make it possible for non-academics to inspect the analyses and logic in detail. Claims of secrecy and elitism can be easily countered by openness, transparently and reproducibility by archaeologists. This is not only useful for tackling pseudoarchaeologists, but also in enacting an ethic of care, framing members of the public as people that not only care about archaeology as part of humanity's shared heritage, but also care for the construction of reliable interpretations of the archaeological record to provide secure and authentic foundations for their social identities and relationships (Wylie et al 2018; de la Bellacasa 2011). By striving for reproducible research in the way described by Karoune and Plomp, we are practicing a kind of reciprocal care among ourselves as archaeologists, and between archaeologists and members of the public as two communities who care about the human past. 

 

References

Karoune, E., and Plomp, E. (2022). Removing Barriers to Reproducible Research in Archaeology. Zenodo, 7320029, ver. 5 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7320029

de la Bellacasa, M. P. (2011). Matters of care in technoscience: Assembling neglected things. Social Studies of Science, 41(1), 85–106. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306312710380301

Carroll, S. R., Garba, I., Figueroa-Rodríguez, O. L., Holbrook, J., Lovett, R., Materechera, S., Parsons, M., Raseroka, K., Rodriguez-Lonebear, D., Rowe, R., Sara, R., Walker, J. D., Anderson, J., and Hudson, M. (2020). The CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance. Data Science Journal, 19(1), Article 1. https://doi.org/10.5334/dsj-2020-043​

Elman, C., and Kapiszewski, D. (2017). Benefits and Challenges of Making Qualitative Research More Transparent. Inside Higher Ed 2017,  http://web.archive.org/web/20220407064134/https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/rethinking-research/benefits-and-challenges-making-qualitative-research-more-transparent (accessed 21 Oct, 2022). 

Galison, P. (1997). Image and logic: a material culture of microphysics. Chicago (IL): University of Chicago Press.

Leonelli, S. (2018). Re-Thinking Reproducibility as a Criterion for Research Quality [preprint]. Available online: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/14352 (Accessed 21 Oct 2022).

Massimi, M. (2022). Perspectival realism. Oxford University Press.

Monnier, G. F., and Kele M.. "Another Mousterian debate? Bordian facies, chaîne opératoire technocomplexes, and patterns of lithic variability in the western European Middle and Upper Pleistocene." Quaternary International 350 (2014): 59-83. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2014.06.053

Turner, D. D., and Turner, M. I. (2021). “I’m Not Saying It Was Aliens”: An Archaeological and Philosophical Analysis of a Conspiracy Theory. In A. Killin and S. Allen-Hermanson (Eds.), Explorations in Archaeology and Philosophy (pp. 7–24). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-61052-4_2

​Wylie, C., Neeley, K., and Ferguson, S. (2018). Beyond Technological Literacy: Open Data as Active Democratic Engagement? Digital Culture & Society, 4(2), 157–182. https://doi.org/10.14361/dcs-2018-0209​​​

 

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Removing Barriers to Reproducible Research in ArchaeologyEmma Karoune and Esther Plomp<p>Reproducible research is being implemented at different speeds in different disciplines, and Archaeology is at the start of this journey. Reproducibility is the practice of reanalysing data by taking the same steps and producing the same or sim...Computational archaeologyBen Marwick2022-06-07 10:02:46 View
02 Sep 2023
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Research workflows, paradata, and information visualisation: feedback on an exploratory integration of issues and practices - MEMORIA IS

Using information visualisation to improve traceability, transmissibility and verifiability in research workflows

Recommended by based on reviews by Adéla Sobotkova and 2 anonymous reviewers

The paper “Research workflows, paradata, and information visualisation: feedback on an exploratory integration of issues and practices - MEMORIA IS” (Dudek & Blaise, 2023) describes a prototype of an information system developed to improve the traceability, transmissibility and verifiability of archaeological research workflows. A key aspect of the work with MEMORIA is to make research documentation and the workflows underpinning the conducted research more approachable and understandable using a series of visual interfaces that allow users of the system to explore archaeological documentation, including metadata describing the data and paradata that describes its underlying processes. The work of Dudek and Blaise address one of the central barriers to reproducibility and transparency of research data and propose a set of both theoretically and practically well-founded tools and methods to solve this major problem. From the reported work on MEMORIA IS, information visualisation and the proposed tools emerge as an interesting and potentially powerful approach for a major push in improving the traceability, transmissibility and verifiability of research data through making research workflows easier to approach and understand.

In comparison to technical work relating to archaeological data management, this paper starts commendably with a careful explication of the conceptual and epistemic underpinnings of the MEMORIA IS both in documentation research, knowledge organisation and information visualisation literature. Rather than being developed on the basis of a set of opaque assumptions, the meticulous description of the MEMORIA IS and its theoretical and technical premises is exemplary in its transparence and richness and has potential for a long-term impact as a part of the body of literature relating to the development of archaeological documentation and documentation tools. While the text is sometimes fairly densely written, it is worth taking the effort to read it through. Another major strength of the paper is that it provides a rich set of examples of the workings of the prototype system that makes it possible to develop a comprehensive understanding of the proposed approaches and assess their validity.

As a whole, this paper and the reported work on MEMORIA IS forms a worthy addition to the literature on and practical work for developing critical infrastructures for data documentation, management and access in archaeology. Beyond archaeology and the specific context of the discussed work discussed this paper has obvious relevance to comparable work in other fields.

References

Dudek, I. and Blaise, J.-Y. (2023) Research workflows, paradata, and information visualisation: feedback on an exploratory integration of issues and practices - MEMORIA IS, Zenodo, 8252923, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8252923
Research workflows, paradata, and information visualisation: feedback on an exploratory integration of issues and practices - MEMORIA ISDudek Iwona, Blaise Jean-Yves<p>The paper presents an exploratory web information system developed as a reaction to practical and epistemological questions, in the context of a scientific unit studying the architectural heritage (from both historical sciences perspective, and...Computational archaeologyIsto Huvila2023-05-02 12:50:39 View