|Id||Title||Authors||Abstract||Picture||Thematic fields||Recommender||Reviewers||Submission date|
01 Sep 2023
Zooarchaeological investigation of the Hoabinhian exploitation of reptiles and amphibians in Thailand and Cambodia with a focus on the Yellow-headed tortoise (Indotestudo elongata (Blyth, 1854))Corentin Bochaton, Sirikanya Chantasri, Melada Maneechote, Julien Claude, Christophe Griggo, Wilailuck Naksri, Hubert Forestier, Heng Sophady, Prasit Auertrakulvit, Jutinach Bowonsachoti, Valery Zeitoun https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.04.27.538552
A zooarchaeological perspective on testudine bones from Hoabinhian hunter-gatherer archaeological assemblages in Southeast AsiaRecommended by Ruth Blasco based on reviews by Noel Amano and Iratxe Boneta
The study of the evolution of the human diet has been a central theme in numerous archaeological and paleoanthropological investigations. By reconstructing diets, researchers gain deeper insights into how humans adapted to their environments. The analysis of animal bones plays a crucial role in extracting dietary information. Most studies involving ancient diets rely heavily on zooarchaeological examinations, which, due to their extensive history, have amassed a wealth of data.
During the Pleistocene–Holocene periods, testudine bones have been commonly found in a multitude of sites. The use of turtles and tortoises as food sources appears to stretch back to the Early Pleistocene [1-4]. More importantly, these small animals play a more significant role within a broader debate. The exploitation of tortoises in the Mediterranean Basin has been examined through the lens of optimal foraging theory and diet breadth models (e.g. [5-10]). According to the diet breadth model, resources are incorporated into diets based on their ranking and influenced by factors such as net return, which in turn depends on caloric value and search/handling costs . Within these theoretical frameworks, tortoises hold a significant position. Their small size and sluggish movement require minimal effort and relatively simple technology for procurement and processing. This aligns with optimal foraging models in which the low handling costs of slow-moving prey compensate for their small size [5-6,9]. Tortoises also offer distinct advantages. They can be easily transported and kept alive, thereby maintaining freshness for deferred consumption [12-14]. For example, historical accounts suggest that Mexican traders recognised tortoises as portable and storable sources of protein and water . Furthermore, tortoises provide non-edible resources, such as shells, which can serve as containers. This possibility has been discussed in the context of Kebara Cave  and noted in ethnographic and historical records (e.g. ). However, despite these advantages, their slow growth rate might have rendered intensive long-term predation unsustainable.
While tortoises are well-documented in the Southeast Asian archaeological record, zooarchaeological analyses in this region have been limited, particularly concerning prehistoric hunter-gatherer populations that may have relied extensively on inland chelonian taxa. With the present paper Bochaton et al.  aim to bridge this gap by conducting an exhaustive zooarchaeological analysis of turtle bone specimens from four Hoabinhian hunter-gatherer archaeological assemblages in Thailand and Cambodia. These assemblages span from the Late Pleistocene to the first half of the Holocene. The authors focus on bones attributed to the yellow-headed tortoise (Indotestudo elongata), which is the most prevalent taxon in the assemblages. The research include osteometric equations to estimate carapace size and explore population structures across various sites. The objective is to uncover human tortoise exploitation strategies in the region, and the results reveal consistent subsistence behaviours across diverse locations, even amidst varying environmental conditions. These final proposals suggest the possibility of cultural similarities across different periods and regions in continental Southeast Asia.
In summary, this paper  represents a significant advancement in the realm of zooarchaeological investigations of small prey within prehistoric communities in the region. While certain approaches and issues may require further refinement, they serve as a comprehensive and commendable foundation for assessing human hunting adaptations.
 Hartman, G., 2004. Long-term continuity of a freshwater turtle (Mauremys caspica rivulata) population in the northern Jordan Valley and its paleoenvironmental implications. In: Goren-Inbar, N., Speth, J.D. (Eds.), Human Paleoecology in the Levantine Corridor. Oxbow Books, Oxford, pp. 61-74. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvh1dtct.11
 Alperson-Afil, N., Sharon, G., Kislev, M., Melamed, Y., Zohar, I., Ashkenazi, R., Biton, R., Werker, E., Hartman, G., Feibel, C., Goren-Inbar, N., 2009. Spatial organization of hominin activities at Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, Israel. Science 326, 1677-1680. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1180695
 Archer, W., Braun, D.R., Harris, J.W., McCoy, J.T., Richmond, B.G., 2014. Early Pleistocene aquatic resource use in the Turkana Basin. J. Hum. Evol. 77, 74-87. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2014.02.012
 Blasco, R., Blain, H.A., Rosell, J., Carlos, D.J., Huguet, R., Rodríguez, J., Arsuaga, J.L., Bermúdez de Castro, J.M., Carbonell, E., 2011. Earliest evidence for human consumption of tortoises in the European Early Pleistocene from Sima del Elefante, Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain. J. Hum. Evol. 11, 265-282. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2011.06.002
 Stiner, M.C., Munro, N., Surovell, T.A., Tchernov, E., Bar-Yosef, O., 1999. Palaeolithic growth pulses evidenced by small animal exploitation. Science 283, 190-194. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.283.5399.190
 Stiner, M.C., Munro, N.D., Surovell, T.A., 2000. The tortoise and the hare: small-game use, the Broad-Spectrum Revolution, and paleolithic demography. Curr. Anthropol. 41, 39-73. https://doi.org/10.1086/300102
 Stiner, M.C., 2001. Thirty years on the “Broad Spectrum Revolution” and paleolithic demography. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 98 (13), 6993-6996. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.121176198
 Stiner, M.C., 2005. The Faunas of Hayonim Cave (Israel): a 200,000-Year Record of Paleolithic Diet. Demography and Society. American School of Prehistoric Research, Bulletin 48. Peabody Museum Press, Harvard University, Cambridge.
 Stiner, M.C., Munro, N.D., 2002. Approaches to prehistoric diet breadth, demography, and prey ranking systems in time and space. J. Archaeol. Method Theory 9, 181-214. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1016530308865
 Blasco, R., Cochard, D., Colonese, A.C., Laroulandie, V., Meier, J., Morin, E., Rufà, A., Tassoni, L., Thompson, J.C. 2022. Small animal use by Neanderthals. In Romagnoli, F., Rivals, F., Benazzi, S. (eds.), Updating Neanderthals: Understanding Behavioral Complexity in the Late Middle Palaeolithic. Elsevier Academic Press, pp. 123-143. ISBN 978-0-12-821428-2. https://doi.org/10.1016/C2019-0-03240-2
 Winterhalder, B., Smith, E.A., 2000. Analyzing adaptive strategies: human behavioural ecology at twenty-five. Evol. Anthropol. 9, 51-72. https://doi.org/10.1002/(sici)1520-6505(2000)9:2%3C51::aid-evan1%3E3.0.co;2-7
 Schneider, J.S., Everson, G.D., 1989. The Desert Tortoise (Xerobates agassizii) in the Prehistory of the Southwestern Great Basin and Adjacent areas. J. Calif. Gt. Basin Anthropol. 11, 175-202. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27825383
 Thompson, J.C., Henshilwood, C.S., 2014b. Nutritional values of tortoises relative to ungulates from the Middle Stone Age levels at Blombos Cave, South Africa: implications for foraging and social behaviour. J. Hum. Evol. 67, 33-47. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2013.09.010
 Blasco, R., Rosell, J., Smith, K.T., Maul, L.Ch., Sañudo, P., Barkai, R., Gopher, A. 2016. Tortoises as a Dietary Supplement: a view from the Middle Pleistocene site of Qesem Cave, Israel. Quat Sci Rev 133, 165-182. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2015.12.006
 Pepper, C., 1963. The truth about the tortoise. Desert Mag. 26, 10-11.
 Speth, J.D., Tchernov, E., 2002. Middle Paleolithic tortoise use at Kebara Cave (Israel). J. Archaeol. Sci. 29, 471-483. https://doi.org/10.1006/jasc.2001.0740
 Bochaton, C., Chantasri, S., Maneechote, M., Claude, J., Griggo, C., Naksri, W., Forestier, H., Sophady, H., Auertrakulvit, P., Bowonsachoti, J. and Zeitoun, V. (2023) Zooarchaeological investigation of the Hoabinhian exploitation of reptiles and amphibians in Thailand and Cambodia with a focus on the Yellow-headed Tortoise (Indotestudo elongata (Blyth, 1854)), BioRXiv, 2023.04.27.538552 , ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.04.27.538552v3
|Zooarchaeological investigation of the Hoabinhian exploitation of reptiles and amphibians in Thailand and Cambodia with a focus on the Yellow-headed tortoise (*Indotestudo elongata* (Blyth, 1854))||Corentin Bochaton, Sirikanya Chantasri, Melada Maneechote, Julien Claude, Christophe Griggo, Wilailuck Naksri, Hubert Forestier, Heng Sophady, Prasit Auertrakulvit, Jutinach Bowonsachoti, Valery Zeitoun||<p style="text-align: justify;">While non-marine turtles are almost ubiquitous in the archaeological record of Southeast Asia, their zooarchaeological examination has been inadequately pursued within this tropical region. This gap in research hind...||Asia, Taphonomy, Zooarchaeology||Ruth Blasco||Iratxe Boneta, Noel Amano||2023-05-02 09:30:50||View|
29 Aug 2023
Designing Stories from the Grave: Reviving the History of a City through Human Remains and Serious GamesTsaknaki, Electra; Anastasovitis, Eleftherios; Georgiou, Georgia; Alagialoglou, Kleopatra; Mavrokostidou, Maria; Kartsiakli, Vasiliki; Aidonis, Asterios; Protopsalti, Tania; Nikolopoulos, Spiros; Kompatsiaris, Ioannis https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7981323
AR and VR Gamification as a proof-of-conceptRecommended by Sebastian Hageneuer based on reviews by Sophie C. Schmidt and Tine Rassalle
Tsaknaki et al. (2023) discuss a work-in-progress project in which the presentation of Cultural Heritage is communicated using Serious Games techniques in a story-centric immersive narration instead of an exhibit-centered presentation with the use of Gamification, Augmented and Virtual Reality technologies. In the introduction the authors present the project called ECHOES, in which knowledge about the past of Thessaloniki, Greece is planned to be processed as an immersive and interactive experience. After presenting related work and the methodology, the authors describe the proposed design of the Serious Game and close the article with a discussion and conclusions.
The paper is interesting because it highlights an ongoing process in the realm of the visualization of Cultural Heritage (see for example Champion 2016). The process described by the authors on how to accomplish this by using Serious Games, Gamification, Augmented and Virtual Reality is promising, although still hypothetical as the project is ongoing. It remains to be seen if the proposed visuals and interactive elements will work in the way intended and offer users an immersive experience after all. A preliminary questionnaire already showed that most of the respondents were not familiar with these technologies (AR, VR) and in my experience these numbers only change slowly. One way to overcome the technological barrier however might be the gamification of the experience, which the authors are planning to implement.
I decided to recommend this article based on the remarks of the two reviewers, which the authors implemented perfectly, as well as my own evaluation of the paper. Although still in progress it seems worthwhile to have this article as a basis for discussion and comparison to similar projects. However, the article did not mention the possible longevity of data and in which ways the usability of the Serious Game will be secured for long-term storage. One eminent problem in these endeavors is, that we can read about these projects, but never find them anywhere to test them ourselves (see for example Gabellone et al. 2016). It is my intention with this review and the recommendation, that the ECHOES project will find a solution for this problem and that we are not only able to read this (and forthcoming) article(s) about the ECHOES project, but also play the Serious Game they are proposing in the near and distant future.
Gabellone, Francesco, Antonio Lanorte, Nicola Masini, und Rosa Lasaponara. 2016. „From Remote Sensing to a Serious Game: Digital Reconstruction of an Abandoned Medieval Village in Southern Italy“. Journal of Cultural Heritage. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.culher.2016.01.012
Tsaknaki, Electra, Anastasovitis, Eleftherios, Georgiou, Georgia, Alagialoglou, Kleopatra, Mavrokostidou, Maria, Kartsiakli, Vasiliki, Aidonis, Asterios, Protopsalti, Tania, Nikolopoulos, Spiros, and Kompatsiaris, Ioannis. (2023). Designing Stories from the Grave: Reviving the History of a City through Human Remains and Serious Games, Zenodo, 7981323, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7981323
|Designing Stories from the Grave: Reviving the History of a City through Human Remains and Serious Games||Tsaknaki, Electra; Anastasovitis, Eleftherios; Georgiou, Georgia; Alagialoglou, Kleopatra; Mavrokostidou, Maria; Kartsiakli, Vasiliki; Aidonis, Asterios; Protopsalti, Tania; Nikolopoulos, Spiros; Kompatsiaris, Ioannis||<p>The main challenge of the current digital transition is to utilize computing media and cutting-edge technologyin a more meaningful way, which would make the archaeological and anthropological research outcomes relevant to a heterogeneous audien...||Bioarchaeology, Computational archaeology, Europe||Sebastian Hageneuer||2023-05-29 13:19:46||View|
28 Aug 2023
Geometric Morphometric Analysis of Projectile Points from the Southwest United StatesRobert J. Bischoff https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/a6wjc
2D Geometric Morphometrics of Projectile Points from the Southwestern United StatesRecommended by Adrian L. Burke based on reviews by James Conolly and 1 anonymous reviewer
Bischoff (2023) is a significant contribution to the growing field of geometric morphometric analysis in stone tool analysis. The subject is projectile points from the southwestern United States. Projectile point typologies or systematics remain an important part of North American archaeology, and in fact these typologies continue to be used primarily as cultural-historical markers. This article looks at projectile point types using a 2D image geometric morphometric analysis as a way of both improving on projectile point types but also testing if these types are in fact based in measurable reality. A total of 164 point outlines are analyzed using Elliptical Fourier, semilandmark and landmark analyses. The author also uses a network analysis to look at possible relationships between projectile point morphologies in space. This is a clever way of working around the predefined distributions of projectile point types, some of which are over 100 years old. Because of the dynamic nature of stone tools in terms of their use, reworking and reuse, this article can also provide solutions for studying the dynamic nature of stone tools. This article therefore also has a wide applicability to other stone tool analyses.
Bischoff, R. J. (2023) Geometric Morphometric Analysis of Projectile Points from the Southwest United States, SocArXiv, a6wjc, ver. 8 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/a6wjc
|Geometric Morphometric Analysis of Projectile Points from the Southwest United States||Robert J. Bischoff||<p style="text-align: justify;">Traditional analyses of projectile points often use visual identification, the presence or absence of discrete characteristics, or linear measurements and angles to classify points into distinct types. Geometric mor...||Archaeometry, Computational archaeology, Lithic technology, North America||Adrian L. Burke||2022-12-18 03:38:14||View|
06 Aug 2023
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 https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7967035
A meticulous description of archiving research data from a long-running landscape research projectRecommended by Isto Huvila 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.
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 Project||Scott 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. The lead author has been involved in archaeologic...||Computational archaeology, Environmental archaeology, Landscape archaeology||Isto Huvila||2023-05-24 18:46:34||View|
25 Jul 2023
Sorghum and finger millet cultivation during the Aksumite period: insights from ethnoarchaeological modelling and microbotanical analysisAbel Ruiz-Giralt, Alemseged Beldados, Stefano Biagetti, Francesca D’Agostini, A. Catherine D’Andrea, Yemane Meresa, Carla Lancelotti https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7859673
An innovative integration of ethnoarchaeological models with phytolith data to study histories of C4 crop cultivationRecommended by Emma Loftus based on reviews by Tanya Hattingh and 1 anonymous reviewer
This article “Sorghum and finger millet cultivation during the Aksumite period: insights from ethnoarchaeological modelling and microbotanical analysis”, submitted by Ruiz-Giralt and colleagues (2023a), presents an innovative attempt to address the lack of palaeobotanical data concerning ancient agricultural strategies in the northern Horn of Africa. In lieu of well-preserved macrobotanical remains, an especial problem for C4 crop species, these authors leverage microbotanical remains (phytoliths), in combination with ethnoarchaeologically-informed agroecology models to investigate finger millet and sorghum cultivation during the period of the Aksumite Kingdom (c. 50 BCE – 800 CE).
Both finger millet and sorghum have played important roles in the subsistence of the Horn region, and throughout much of the rest of Africa and the world in the past. The importance of these drought-resistant and adaptable crops is likely to increase as we move into a warmer, drier world. Yet their histories of cultivation are still only approximately sketched due to a paucity of well-preserved remains from archaeological sites - for example, debate continues as to the precise centre of their domestication. Recent studies of phytoliths (by these and other authors) are demonstrating the likely continuous presence of these crops from the pre-Aksumite period. However, phytoliths are diagnostic only to broad taxonomic levels, and cannot be used to securely identify species. To supplement these observations, Ruiz-Giralt et al. deploy models (previously developed by this team: Ruiz-Giralt et al., 2023b) that incorporate environmental variables and ethnographic data on traditional agrosystems. They evaluate the feasibility of different agricultural regimes around the locations of numerous archaeological sites distributed across the highlands of northern Ethiopia and southern Eritrea.
Their results indicate the general viability of finger millet and sorghum cultivation around archaeological settlements in the past, with various regions displaying greater-or-lesser suitability at different distances from the site itself. The models also highlight the likelihood of farmers utilising extensive-rainfed regimes, given low water and soil nutrient requirements for these crops. The authors discuss the results with respect to data on phytolith assemblages, particularly at the site of Ona Adi. They conclude that Aksumite agriculture very likely included the cultivation of finger millet and sorghum, as part of a broader system of rainfed cereal cultivation.
Ruiz-Giralt et al. argue, and have demonstrated, that ethnoarchaeologically-informed models can be used to generate hypotheses to be evaluated against archaeological data. The integration of many diverse lines of information in this paper certainly enriches the discussion of agricultural possibilities in the past, and the use of a modelling framework helps to formalise the available hypotheses. However, they emphasise that modelling approaches cannot be pursued in lieu of rigorous archaeobotanical studies but only in tandem - a greater commitment to archaeobotanical sampling is required in the region if we are to fully detail the histories of these important crops.
Ruiz-Giralt, A., Beldados, A., Biagetti, S., D’Agostini, F., D’Andrea, A. C., Meresa, Y. and Lancelotti, C. (2023a). Sorghum and finger millet cultivation during the Aksumite period: insights from ethnoarchaeological modelling and microbotanical analysis. Zenodo, 7859673, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7859673
Ruiz-Giralt, A., Biagetti, S., Madella, M. and Lancelotti, C. (2023b). Small-scale farming in drylands: New models for resilient practices of millet and sorghum cultivation. PLoS ONE 18, e0268120. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0268120
|Sorghum and finger millet cultivation during the Aksumite period: insights from ethnoarchaeological modelling and microbotanical analysis||Abel Ruiz-Giralt, Alemseged Beldados, Stefano Biagetti, Francesca D’Agostini, A. Catherine D’Andrea, Yemane Meresa, Carla Lancelotti||<p>For centuries, finger millet (<em>Eleusine coracana</em> Gaertn.) and sorghum (<em>Sorghum bicolor</em> (L.) Moench) have been two of the most economically important staple crops in the northern Horn of Africa. Nonetheless, their agricultural h...||Africa, Archaeobotany, Computational archaeology, Protohistory, Spatial analysis||Emma Loftus||2023-04-29 16:24:54||View|
05 Jul 2023
Tool types and the establishment of the Late Palaeolithic (Later Stone Age) cultural taxonomic system in the Nile ValleyAlice Leplongeon https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8115202
Cultural taxonomic systems and the Late Palaeolithic/Later Stone Age prehistory of the Nile Valley – a critical reviewRecommended by Felix Riede, Sébastien Plutniak and Shumon Tobias Hussain based on reviews by Giuseppina Mutri and 1 anonymous reviewer
The paper entitled “Tool types and the establishment of the Late Palaeolithic (Later Stone Age) cultural taxonomic system in the Nile Valley” submitted by A. Leplongeon offers a review of the many cultural taxonomic in use for the prehistory – especially the Late Palaeolithic/Late Stone Age – of the Nile Valley (Leplongeon 2023). This paper was first developed for a special conference session convened at the EAA annual meeting in 2021 and is intended for an edited volume on the topic of typology and taxonomy in archaeology.
Issues of cultural taxonomy have recently risen to the forefront of archaeological debate (Reynolds and Riede 2019; Ivanovaitė et al. 2020; Lyman 2021). Archaeological systematics, most notably typology, have roots in the research history of a particular region and period (e.g. Plutniak 2022); commonly, different scholars employ different and at times incommensurable systems, often leading to a lack of clarity and inter-regional interoperability. African prehistory is not exempt from this debate (e.g. Wilkins 2020) and, in fact, such a situation is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in the iconic Nile Valley. The Nile Valley is marked by a complex colonial history and long-standing archaeological interest from a range of national and international actors. It is also a vital corridor for understanding human dispersals out of and into Africa, and along the North African coastal zone. As Leplongeon usefully reviews, early researchers have, as elsewhere, proposed a variety of archaeological cultures, the legacies of which still weigh in on contemporary discussions. In the Nile Valley, these are the Kubbaniyan (23.5-19.3 ka cal. BP), the Halfan (24-19 ka cal. BP), the Qadan (20.2-12 ka cal BP), the Afian (16.8-14 ka cal. BP) and the Isnan (16.6-13.2 ka cal. BP) but their temporal and spatial signatures remain in part poorly constrained, or their epistemic status debated. Leplongeon’s critical and timely chronicle of this debate highlights in particular the vital contributions of the many female prehistorians who have worked in the region – Angela Close (e.g. 1978; 1977) and Maxine Kleindienst (e.g. 2006) to name just a few of the more recent ones – and whose earlier work had already addressed, if not even solved many of the pressing cultural taxonomic issues that beleaguer the Late Palaeolithic/Later Stone Age record of this region.
Leplongeon and colleagues (Leplongeon et al. 2020; Mesfin et al. 2020) have contributed themselves substantially to new cultural taxonomic research in the wider region, showing how novel quantitative methods coupled with research-historical acumen can flag up and overcome the shortcomings of previous systematics. Yet, as Leplongeon also notes, the cultural taxonomic framework for the Nile Valley specifically has proven rather robust and does seem to serve its purpose as a broad chronological shorthand well. By the same token, she urges due caution when it comes to interpreting these lithic-based taxonomic units in terms of past social groups. Cultural systematics are essential for such interpretations, but age-old frameworks are often not fit for this purpose. New work by Leplongeon is likely to not only continue the long tradition of female prehistorians working in the Nile Valley but also provides an epistemologically and empirically more robust platform for understanding the social and ecological dynamics of Late Palaeolithic/Later Stone Age communities there.
Close, Angela E. 1977. The Identification of Style in Lithic Artefacts from North East Africa. Mémoires de l’Institut d’Égypte 61. Cairo: Geological Survey of Egypt.
Close, Angela E. 1978. “The Identification of Style in Lithic Artefacts.” World Archaeology 10 (2): 223–37. https://doi.org/10.1080/00438243.1978.9979732
Ivanovaitė, Livija, Serwatka, Kamil, Steven Hoggard, Christian, Sauer, Florian and Riede, Felix. 2020. “All These Fantastic Cultures? Research History and Regionalization in the Late Palaeolithic Tanged Point Cultures of Eastern Europe.” European Journal of Archaeology 23 (2): 162–85. https://doi.org/10.1017/eaa.2019.59
Kleindienst, M. R. 2006. “On Naming Things: Behavioral Changes in the Later Middle to Earlier Late Pleistocene, Viewed from the Eastern Sahara.” In Transitions Before the Transition. Evolution and Stability in the Middle Paleolithic and Middle Stone Age, edited by E. Hovers and Steven L. Kuhn, 13–28. New York, NY: Springer.
Leplongeon, Alice. 2023. “Tool Types and the Establishment of the Late Palaeolithic (Later Stone Age) Cultural Taxonomic System in the Nile Valley.” https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8115202
Leplongeon, Alice, Ménard, Clément, Bonhomme, Vincent and Bortolini, Eugenio. 2020. “Backed Pieces and Their Variability in the Later Stone Age of the Horn of Africa.” African Archaeological Review 37 (3): 437–68. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10437-020-09401-x
Lyman, R. Lee. 2021. “On the Importance of Systematics to Archaeological Research: The Covariation of Typological Diversity and Morphological Disparity.” Journal of Paleolithic Archaeology 4 (1): 3. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41982-021-00077-6
Mesfin, Isis, Leplongeon, Alice, Pleurdeau, David, and Borel, Antony. 2020. “Using Morphometrics to Reappraise Old Collections: The Study Case of the Congo Basin Middle Stone Age Bifacial Industry.” Journal of Lithic Studies 7 (1): 1–38. https://doi.org/10.2218/jls.4329
Plutniak, Sébastien. 2022. “What Makes the Identity of a Scientific Method? A History of the ‘Structural and Analytical Typology’ in the Growth of Evolutionary and Digital Archaeology in Southwestern Europe (1950s–2000s).” Journal of Paleolithic Archaeology 5 (1): 10. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41982-022-00119-7
Reynolds, Natasha, and Riede, Felix. 2019. “House of Cards: Cultural Taxonomy and the Study of the European Upper Palaeolithic.” Antiquity 93 (371): 1350–58. https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2019.49
Wilkins, Jayne. 2020. “Is It Time to Retire NASTIES in Southern Africa? Moving Beyond the Culture-Historical Framework for Middle Stone Age Lithic Assemblage Variability.” Lithic Technology 45 (4): 295–307. https://doi.org/10.1080/01977261.2020.1802848
|Tool types and the establishment of the Late Palaeolithic (Later Stone Age) cultural taxonomic system in the Nile Valley||Alice Leplongeon||<p>Research on the prehistory of the Nile Valley has a long history dating back to the late 19th century. But it is only between the 1960s and 1980s, that numerous cultural entities were defined based on tool and core typologies; this habit stoppe...||Africa, Lithic technology, Upper Palaeolithic||Felix Riede||2023-03-08 19:25:28||View|
05 Jun 2023
SEAHORS: Spatial Exploration of ArcHaeological Objects in R ShinyROYER, Aurélien, DISCAMPS, Emmanuel, PLUTNIAK, Sébastien, THOMAS, Marc https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7957154
Analyzing piece-plotted artifacts just got simpler: A good solution to the wrong problem?Recommended by Reuven Yeshurun based on reviews by Frédéric Santos, Jacqueline Meier and Maayan Lev
Paleolithic archaeologists habitually measure 3-coordinate data for artifacts in their excavations. This was first done manually, and in the last three decades it is usually performed by a total station and associated hardware. While the field recording procedure is quite straightforward, visualizing and analyzing the data are not, often requiring specialized proprietary software or coding expertise. Here, Royer and colleagues (2023) present the SEAHORS application, an elegant solution for the post-excavation analysis of artifact coordinate data that seems to be instantly useful for numerous archaeologists. SEAHORS allows one to import and organize field data (Cartesian coordinates and point description), which often comes in a variety of formats, and to create various density and distribution plots. It is specifically adapted to the needs of archaeologists, is free and accessible, and much simpler to use than many commercial programs. The authors further demonstrate the use of the application in the post-excavation analysis of the Cassenade Paleolithic site (see also Discamps et al., 2019).
While in no way detracting from my appreciation of Royer et al.’s (2023) work, I would like to play the devil’s advocate by asking whether, in the majority of cases, field recording of artifacts in three coordinates is warranted. Royer et al. (2023) regard piece plotting as “…indispensable to propose reliable spatial planimetrical and stratigraphical interpretations” but this assertion does not hold in all (or most) cases, where careful stratigraphic excavation employing thin volumetric units would do just as well.
Moreover, piece-plotting has some serious drawbacks. The recording often slows excavations considerably, beyond what is needed for carefully exposing and documenting the artifacts in their contexts, resulting in smaller horizontal and vertical exposures (e.g., Gilead, 2002). This typically hinders a fuller stratigraphic and contextual understanding of the excavated levels and features. Even worse, the method almost always creates a biased sample of “coordinated artifacts”, in which the most important items for understanding spatial patterns and site-formation processes – the small ones – are underrepresented. Some projects run the danger of treating the coordinated artifacts as bearing more significance than the sieve-recovered items, preferentially studying the former with no real justification. Finally, the coordinated items often go unassigned to a volumetric unit, effectively disconnecting them from other types of data found in the same depositional contexts.
The advantages of piece-plotting may, in some cases, offset the disadvantages. But what I find missing in the general discourse (certainly not in the recommended preprint) is the “theory” behind the seemingly technical act of 3-coordinate recording (Yeshurun, 2022). Being in effect a form of sampling, this practice needs a rethink about where and how to be applied; what depositional contexts justify it, and what the goals are. These questions should determine if all “visible” artifacts are plotted, or just an explicitly defined sample of them (e.g., elongated items above a certain length threshold, which should be more reliable for fabric analysis), or whether the circumstances do not actually justify it. In the latter case, researchers sometimes opt for using “virtual coordinates” within in each spatial unit (typically 0.5x0.5 m), essentially replicating the data that is generated by “real” coordinates and integrating the sieve-recovered items as well. In either case, Royer et al.’s (2023) solution for plotting and visualizing labeled points within intra-site space would indeed be an important addition to the archaeologists’ tool kits.
Discamps, E., Bachellerie, F., Baillet, M. and Sitzia, L. (2019). The use of spatial taphonomy for interpreting Pleistocene palimpsests: an interdisciplinary approach to the Châtelperronian and carnivore occupations at Cassenade (Dordogne, France). Paleoanthropology 2019, 362–388. https://doi.org/10.4207/PA.2019.ART136
Gilead, I. (2002). Too many notes? Virtual recording of artifacts provenance. In: Niccolucci, F. (Ed.). Virtual Archaeology: Proceedings of the VAST Euroconference, Arezzo 24–25 November 2000. BAR International Series 1075, Archaeopress, Oxford, pp. 41–44.
Royer, A., Discamps, E., Plutniak, S. and Thomas, M. (2023). SEAHORS: Spatial Exploration of ArcHaeological Objects in R Shiny Zenodo, 7957154, ver. 2 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7929462
Yeshurun, R. (2022). Intra-site analysis of repeatedly occupied camps: Sacrificing “resolution” to get the story. In: Clark A.E., Gingerich J.A.M. (Eds.). Intrasite Spatial Analysis of Mobile and Semisedentary Peoples: Analytical Approaches to Reconstructing Occupation History. University of Utah Press, pp. 27–35.
|SEAHORS: Spatial Exploration of ArcHaeological Objects in R Shiny||ROYER, Aurélien, DISCAMPS, Emmanuel, PLUTNIAK, Sébastien, THOMAS, Marc||<p style="text-align: justify;">This paper presents SEAHORS, an R shiny application available as an R package, dedicated to the intra-site spatial analysis of piece-plotted archaeological remains. This open-source script generates 2D and 3D scatte...||Computational archaeology, Spatial analysis, Theoretical archaeology||Reuven Yeshurun||2023-02-24 16:01:44||View|
02 May 2023
Transmission of lithic and ceramic technical know-how in the Early Neolithic of central-western Europe: Shedding Light on the Social Mechanisms underlying Cultural TransitionSolène Denis, Louise Gomart, Laurence Burnez-Lanotte, Pierre Allard https://osf.io/gqnht/
A Thought Provoking Consideration of Craft in the NeolithicRecommended by Clare Burke based on reviews by Bogdana Milić and 1 anonymous reviewer
The pioneering work of Leroi-Gourhan introduced archaeologists to the concept of the chaîne opératoire, whereby, like his supervisor Mauss, Leroi-Gourhan proposed direct links between bodily actions and aspects of cultural identity. The chaîne opératoire offers a powerful conceptual tool with which to reconstruct and describe the technological practices undertaken by craftspeople, linking material objects to the cultural context in which crafts are learnt. Although initially applied to lithics, the concept today is well known in ceramic studies, as well as, other material crafts, in order to identify aspects of tradition and identity through ideas linked to technological style[3,4] and communities of practice.
Utilizing this approach, Denis et al. use the chaîne opératoire to look at both lithics and ceramics together from a diachronic viewpoint, to examine technical systems present over the transition between Linearbandkeramic (LBK) and post LBK Blicquy/Villeneuve-Saint German (BQY/VSG) timeframes. This much needed comparative and diachronic perspective, focuses on material from the sites of Vaux-et-Borset and Verlaine in Belgium, and has enabled the authors to consider the impact of changing social dynamics on these two crafts simultaneously.
The authors examine the ceramic and lithic assemblages from a macroscopic and morphological perspective in order to identify techniques of production. The data gathered testifies to the dominance of one production technique for each craft within the LBK. There is particularly striking homogeneity noted for the lithics that suggests the transmission of a single tradition over the Hesbaye area, whilst the ceramics display greater regional diversity. The picture alters somewhat for the BQY/VSG material where it seems there is an increase in the diversity of production techniques, with both the introduction of new techniques, as well as a degree of hybridization of earlier techniques to form new BQY/VSG chaînes opératoires that have LBK roots. The BQY/VSG diversity noted for the lithics is especially interesting, with the introduction of techniques that attest to increased expertise which the authors attest to the migration of an external group.
The results of this work have allowed Denis et al. to discuss multiple influences on the technical systems they identify. Rather than trying to fit the data within a single model, the authors demonstrate the need for nuance, considering the social changes associated with Neolithic migration and interactions, as multifaced and dynamic. As such, they are able to show not only the influence of contact with other groups, but that the apparent migration of external groups does not simply lead to the replacement of the crafting heritage already established at the sites they have examined.
In concluding the authors acknowledge, that as scholars push the existing state of knowledge (in this respect analysis of raw materials would make an especially important contribution), the picture presented in the paper may alter. Future work will hopefully fill in current gaps, particularly in terms of how far the trends identified extend, and the extent to which the lithic and ceramic pictures diversify on a broader geographical scale. It is certain that based on such results, future work should adopt the comparative approach presented by the authors, who have demonstrated its explanatory potential for understanding the technical and cultural groups we all study.
 Mauss, M. 2009 . Techniques, Technology and Civilisation. Edited and introduced by N. Schlanger. New York/Oxford: Durkheim Press/Berghahn Books.
 Lechtman, H. 1977. Style in Technology: some early thoughts. In H. Lechtman and R.S. Merrill (eds.) Material Culture: styles, organization and dynamics of technology. Proceedings of the American Ethnological Society 1975, St. Paul, 3-20.
 Gosselain, O. 1992. Technology and Style: Potters and Pottery Among Bafia of Cameroon. Man 27(3) 559- 586. htpps://doi.org/10.2307/2803929.
 Wenger, E. 1998. Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
 Denis, S., Gomart, L., Burnez-Lanotte, L. and Allard, P. (2023). Transmission of lithic and ceramic technical know-how in the Early Neolithic of central-western Europe: Shedding Light on the Social Mechanisms underlying Cultural Transition. OSF Preprints, gqnht, ver. 5 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/gqnht
|Transmission of lithic and ceramic technical know-how in the Early Neolithic of central-western Europe: Shedding Light on the Social Mechanisms underlying Cultural Transition||Solène Denis, Louise Gomart, Laurence Burnez-Lanotte, Pierre Allard||<p>Research on the European Neolithisation agrees that a process of colonisation throughout the sixth millennium BC underlies the spread of agricultural ways of life on the continent. From central to central-western Europe, this colonisation path ...||Ceramics, Europe, Lithic technology, Neolithic||Clare Burke||2022-11-18 12:03:55||View|
21 Mar 2023
Hafted stone and shell tools in the Asia Pacific RegionChristopher Buckley https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/8cwa2
From Polished Stone Tools to Population Dynamics: Ethnographic Archives as InsightsRecommended by Solène Denis based on reviews by Adrian L. Burke and 1 anonymous reviewer
Most archaeological contexts provide objects without organic materials making them quite silent regarding their hafting techniques and use. This is especially true for the polished stone tools that only thanks to a few discoveries in a wet environment, we can obtain some insights regarding their hafting techniques. Use-wear analysis can also be of some support to get a better picture of these artefacts (e.g. Masclans Latorre 2020), whose typology testifies to an important diversity in European Neolithic contexts that sometimes are well-documented from the chaîne opératoire perspective (see De Labriffe and Thirault dir. 2012).
The study offered by Chris Buckley (2023) constitutes an important contribution to animating these tools. His work relies on the Asia Pacific region, where he gathered data and mapped more than 300 ethnographic hafted stone and shell tools. This database is available on a webpage https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1D_sC7VUtQRuRcCgc9rROVU7ghrdiVAg&ll=-2.458804534247277%2C154.35254980859378&z=6, providing a short description and pictures of some of the items, completed by Supplementary data.
Thanks to this important record of entire objects, the author presents the different possibilities regarding hafting styles, blade orientations and attachment techniques. The combination of these different characteristics led the author to the introduction of a dynamic typology based on the concept of ‘morphospace’. Eight types have been so identified for the Asia Pacific region.
The geographical distribution of these types is then presented and questioned, bringing also to the forefront some archaeological findings. An emphasis is made on New Guinea island where documentation is important. We can mention the emblematic work of Anne-Marie and Pierre Pétrequin (1993 and 2020) focused on West Papua, providing one of the most consulted books on stone axes by archaeologists.
The worthy explanations tested to understand this repartition mobilize archaeological or linguistic data to hypothesise a three waves model of innovations in link with agricultural practices. A discussion on the correlation between material culture and language highlights in the background the need for interdisciplinary to deal finely with these interactions and linkages as has been effectively demonstrated elsewhere (Hermann and Walworth 2020).
To conclude, the convergence between European Neolithic and New Guinea polished stone tools is demonstrated here through ‘morphospace’ comparisons. Thanks to this study, the polished stone tools come alive more than any European archaeological context would allow. The population dynamics investigated through these tools are directly relevant to current scientific issues concerning material culture. This example of convergent evolution is therefore an important key to considering this article as a source of inspiration for the archaeological community.
Buckley C. (2023). Hafted Stone and Shell Tools in the Asia Pacific Region, PsyArXiv, v.3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/8cwa2
De Labriffe A., Thirault E. dir. (2012). Produire des haches au Néolithique, de la matière première à l’abandon, Paris, Société préhistorique française (Séances de la Société préhistorique française, 1).
Hermann A., Walworth M. (2020). Approche interdisciplinaire des échanges interculturels et de l’intégration des communautés polynésiennes dans le centre du Vanuatu, Journal de la Société des Océanistes, 151, 239-262. https://doi-org.docelec.u-bordeaux.fr/10.4000/jso.11963
Masclans Latorre A. (2020). Use-wear Analyses of Polished and Bevelled Stone Artefacts during the Sepulcres de Fossa/Pit Burials Horizon (NE Iberia, c. 4000–3400 cal B.C.), Oxford, BAR Publishing (BAR International Series 2972).
Pétrequin P., Pétrequin A.-M. (1993). Écologie d'un outil : la hache de pierre en Irian Jaya (Indonésie), Paris, CNRS Editions.
Pétrequin P., Pétrequin A.-M. (2020). Ecology of a Tool: The ground stone axes of Irian Jaya (Indonesia). Oxbow Books.
|Hafted stone and shell tools in the Asia Pacific Region||Christopher Buckley||<p>Hafted stone tools fell into disuse in the Pacific region in the 19th and 20th centuries. Before this occurred, examples of tools were collected by early travelers, explorers and tourists. These objects, which now reside in ethnographic collect...||Asia, Conservation/Museum studies, Lithic technology, Neolithic, Oceania||Solène Denis||2022-11-09 18:37:08||View|
21 Mar 2023
Archaeology, Typology and Machine EpistemologyGavin Lucas https://zenodo.org/record/7267834
Automation and Novelty –Archaeocomputational Typo-Praxis in the Wake of the Third Science RevolutionRecommended by Shumon Tobias Hussain, Felix Riede and Sébastien Plutniak based on reviews by Rachel Crellin and 1 anonymous reviewer
“Archaeology, Typology and Machine Epistemology” submitted by G. Lucas (1) offers a refreshing and welcome reflection on the role of computer-based practice, type-thinking and approaches to typology in the age of big data and the widely proclaimed ‘Third Science Revolution’ (2–4). At the annual meeting of the EAA in Maastricht in 2017, a special thematic block was dedicated to issues and opportunities linked to the Third Science Revolution in archaeology “because of [its] profound and wide ranging impact on practice and theory in archaeology for the years to come” (5). Even though the Third Science Revolution, as influentially outlined by Kristiansen in 2014 (2), has occasionally also been met with skepticism and critique as to its often implicit scientism and epistemological naivety (6–8), archaeology as a whole seems largely euphoric as to the promises of the advancing ‘revolution’. As Lucas perceptively points out, some even regard it as the long-awaited opportunity to finally fulfil the ambitions and goals of Anglophone processualism. The irony here, as Lucas rightly notes, is that early processualists initially foregrounded issues of theory and scientific epistemology, while much work conducted under the banner of the Third Science Revolution, especially within its computational branches, does not. Big data advocates have echoed Anderson’s much-cited “end of theory” (9) or at least emphatically called for an ‘empirization’ and ‘computationalization’ of theory, often under the banner of ‘data-driven archaeology’ (10), yet typically without much specification of what this is supposed to mean for archaeological theory and reflexivity. The latter is indeed often openly opposed by archaeological Third Science Revolution enthusiasts, arguably because it is viewed as part of the supposedly misguided ‘post-modernist’ project.
Lucas makes an original meta-archaeological contribution here and attempts to center the epistemological, ontological and praxeological dimensions of what is actually – in situated archaeological praxis and knowledge-production – put at stake by the mobilization of computers, algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI), including its many but presently under-reflected implications for ordering practices such as typologization. Importantly, his perspective thereby explicitly and deliberately breaks with the ‘normative project’ in traditional philosophy of science, which sought to nail down a universal, prescriptive way of doing science and securing scientific knowledge. He instead focuses on the practical dimensions and consequences of computer-reliant archaeologies, what actually happens on the ground as researchers try to grapple with the digital and the artefactual and try to negotiate new insights and knowledge, including all of the involved messiness – thereby taking up the powerful impetus of the broader practice turn in interdisciplinary science studies and STS (Science and Technology Studies (11)) (12–14), which have recently also re-oriented archaeological self-observation, metatheory and epistemology (15). This perspective on the dawning big data age in archaeology and incurred changes in the status, nature and aims of type-thinking produces a number of important insights, which Lucas fruitfully discusses in relation to promises of ‘automation’ and ‘novelty’ as these feature centrally in the rhetorics and politics of the Third Science Revolution.
With regard to automation, Lucas makes the important point that machine or computer work as championed by big data proponents cannot adequately be qualified or understood if we approach the issue from a purely time-saving perspective. The question we have to ask instead is what work do machines actually do and how do they change the dynamics of archaeological knowledge production in the process? In this optic, automation and acceleration achieved through computation appear to make most sense in the realm of the uncontroversial, in terms of “reproducing an accepted way of doing things” as Lucas says, and this is precisely what can be observed in archaeological practice as well. The ramifications of this at first sight innocent realization are far-reaching, however. If we accept the noncontroversial claim that automation partially bypasses the need for specialists through the reproduction of already “pre-determined outputs”, automated typologization would primarily be useful in dealing with and synthesizing larger amounts of information by sorting artefacts into already accepted types rather than create novel types or typologies. If we identity the big data promise at least in part with automation, even the detection of novel patterns in any archaeological dataset used to construct new types cannot escape the fact that this novelty is always already prefigured in the data structure devised. The success of ‘supervised learning’ in AI-based approaches illustrates this. Automation thus simply shifts the epistemological burden back to data selection and preparation but this is rarely realized, precisely because of the tacit requirement of broad non-contentiousness.
Minimally, therefore, big data approaches ironically curtail their potential for novelty by adhering to conventional data treatment and input formats, rarely problematizing the issue of data construction and the contested status of (observational) data themselves. By contrast, they seek to shield themselves against such attempts and tend to retain a tacit universalism as to the nature of archaeological data. Only in this way is it possible to claim that such data have the capacity to “speak for themselves”. To use a concept borrowed from complexity theory, archaeological automation-based type-construction that relies on supposedly basal, incontrovertible data inputs can only ever hope to achieve ‘weak emergence’ (16) – ‘strong emergence’ and therefore true, radical novelty require substantial re-thinking of archaeological data and how to construct them. This is not merely a technical question as sometimes argued by computational archaeologies – for example with reference to specifically developed, automated object tracing procedures – as even such procedures cannot escape the fundamental question of typology: which kind of observations to draw on in order to explore what aspects of artefactual variability (and why). The focus on readily measurable features – classically dimensions of artefactual form – principally evades the key problem of typology and ironically also reduces the complexity of artefactual realities these approaches assert to take seriously. The rise of computational approaches to typology therefore reintroduces the problem of universalism and, as it currently stands, reduces the complexity of observational data potentially relevant for type-construction in order to enable to exploration of the complexity of pattern. It has often been noted that this larger configuration promotes ‘data fetishism’ and because of this alienates practitioners from the archaeological record itself – to speak with Marxist theory that Lucas briefly touches upon. We will briefly return to the notion of ‘distance’ below because it can be described as a symptomatic research-logical trope (and even a goal) in this context of inquiry.
In total, then, the aspiration for novelty is ultimately difficult to uphold if computational archaeologies refuse to engage in fundamental epistemological and reflexive self-engagement. As Lucas poignantly observes, the most promising locus for novelty is currently probably not to be found in the capacity of the machines or algorithms themselves, but in the modes of collaboration that become possible with archaeological practitioners and specialists (and possibly diverse other groups of knowledge stakeholders). In other words, computers, supercomputers and AI technologies do not revolutionize our knowledge because of their superior computational and pattern-detection capacities – or because of some mysterious ‘superintelligence’ – but because of the specific ‘division of labour’ they afford and the cognitive challenge(s) they pose. Working with computers and AI also often requires to ask new questions or at least to adapt the questions we ask. This can already be seen on the ground, when we pay attention to how machine epistemologies are effectively harnessed in archaeological practice (and is somewhat ironic given that the promise of computational archaeology is often identified with its potential to finally resolve "long-standing (old) questions"). The Third Science Revolution likely prompts a consequential transformation in the structural and material conditions of the kinds of ‘distributed’ processes of knowledge production that STS have documented as characteristic for scientific discoveries and knowledge negotiations more generally (14, 17, 18). This ongoing transformation is thus expected not only to promote new specializations with regard to the utilization of the respective computing infrastructures emerging within big data ecologies but equally to provoke increasing demand for new ways of conceptualizing observations and to reformulate the theoretical needs and goals of typology in archaeology. The rediscovery of reflexivity as an epistemic virtue within big data debates would be an important step into this direction, as it would support the shared goal of achieving true epistemic novelty, which, as Lucas points out, is usually not more than an elusive self-declaration. Big data infrastructures require novel modes of human-machine synergy, which simply cannot be developed or cultivated in an atheoretical and/or epistemological disinterested space.
Lucas’ exploration ultimately prompts us to ask big questions (again), and this is why this is an important contribution. The elephant in the room, of course, is the overly strong notion of objectivity on which much computational archaeology is arguably premised – linked to the vow to eventually construct ‘objective typologies’. This proclivity, however, re-tables all the problematic debates of the 1960s and – to speak with the powerful root metaphor of the machine fueling much of causal-mechanistic science (19, 20) – is bound to what A. Wylie (21) and others have called the ‘view from nowhere’. Objectivity, in this latter view, is defined by the absence of positionality and subjectivity – chiefly human subjectivity – and the promise of the machine, and by extension of computational archaeology, is to purify and thus to enhance processes of knowledge production by minimizing human interference as much as possible. The distancing of the human from actual processes of data processing and inference is viewed as positive and sometimes even as an explicit goal of scientific development. Interestingly, alienation from the archaeological record is framed as an epistemic virtue here, not as a burden, because close connection with (or even worse, immersion in) the intricacies of artefacts and archaeological contexts supposedly aggravates the problem of bias. The machine, in this optic, is framed as the gatekeeper to an observer-independent reality – which to the backdoor often not only re-introduces Platonian/Aristotelian pledges to a quasi-eternal fabric of reality that only needs to be “discovered” by applying the right (broadly nonhuman) means, it is also largely inconsistent with defendable and currently debated conceptions of scientific objectivity that do not fall prey to dogma.
Furthermore, current discussions on the open AI ChatGPT have exposed the enormous and still under-reflected dangers of leaning into radical renderings of machine epistemology: precisely because of the principles of automation and the irreducible theory-ladenness of all data, ecologies such as ChatGPT tend to reinforce the tacit epistemological background structures on which they operate and in this way can become collaborators in the legitimization and justification of the status quo (which again counteracts the potential for novelty) – they reproduce supposedly established patterns of thought. This is why, among other things, machines and AI can quickly become perpetuators of parochial and neocolonial projects – their supposed authority creates a sense of impartiality that shields against any possible critique. With Lucas, we can thus perhaps cautiously say that what is required in computational archaeology is to defuse the authority of the machine in favour of a new community archaeology that includes machines as (fallible) co-workers. Radically put, computers and AI should be recognized as subjects themselves, and treated as such, with interesting perspectives on team science and collaborative practice.
1. Lucas, G. (2022). Archaeology, Typology and Machine Epistemology. https:/doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7620824.
2. Kristiansen, K. (2014). Towards a New Paradigm? The Third Science Revolution and its Possible Consequences in Archaeology. Current Swedish Archaeology 22, 11–34. https://doi.org/10.37718/CSA.2014.01.
3. Kristiansen, K. (2022). Archaeology and the Genetic Revolution in European Prehistory. Elements in the Archaeology of Europe. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009228701
4. Eisenhower, M. S. (1964). The Third Scientific Revolution. Science News 85, 322/332. https://www.sciencenews.org/archive/third-scientific-revolution.
5. The ‘Third Science Revolution’ in Archaeology. http://www.eaa2017maastricht.nl/theme4 (March 16, 2023).
6. Ribeiro, A. (2019). Science, Data, and Case-Studies under the Third Science Revolution: Some Theoretical Considerations. Current Swedish Archaeology 27, 115–132. https://doi.org/10.37718/CSA.2019.06
7. Samida, S. (2019). “Archaeology in times of scientific omnipresence” in Archaeology, History and Biosciences: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, pp. 9–22. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110616651
8. Sørensen, T. F.. (2017). The Two Cultures and a World Apart: Archaeology and Science at a New Crossroads. Norwegian Archaeological Review 50, 101–115. https://doi.org/10.1080/00293652.2017.1367031
9. Anderson, C. (2008). The end of theory: The data deluge makes the scientific method obsolete. Wired. https://www.wired.com/2008/06/pb-theory/.
10. Gattiglia, G. (2015). Think big about data: Archaeology and the Big Data challenge. Archäologische Informationen 38, 113–124. https://doi.org/10.11588/ai.2015.1.26155
11. Hackett, E. J. (2008). The handbook of science and technology studies, Third edition, MIT Press/Society for the Social Studies of Science.
12. Ankeny, R., Chang, H., Boumans, M. and Boon, M. (2011). Introduction: philosophy of science in practice. Euro Jnl Phil Sci 1, 303. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13194-011-0036-4
13. Soler, L., Zwart, S., Lynch, M., Israel-Jost, V. (2014). Science after the Practice Turn in the Philosophy, History, and Social Studies of Science, Routledge.
14. Latour, B. and Woolgar, S. (1986). Laboratory life: the construction of scientific facts, Princeton University Press.
15. Chapman, R. and Wylie, A. (2016) Evidential reasoning in archaeology, Bloomsbury Academic.
16. Greve, J. and Schnabel, A. (2011). Emergenz: zur Analyse und Erklärung komplexer Strukturen, Suhrkamp.
17. Shapin, S., Schaffer, S. and Hobbes, T. (1985). Leviathan and the air-pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the experimental life, including a translation of Thomas Hobbes, Dialogus physicus de natura aeris by Simon Schaffer, Princeton University Press.
18. Galison, P. L. and Stump, D. J. (1996).The Disunity of Science: Boundaries, Contexts, and Power, Stanford University Press.
19. Pepper, S. C. (1972). World hypotheses: a study in evidence, 7. print, University of California Press.
20. Hussain, S. T. (2019). The French-Anglophone divide in lithic research: A plea for pluralism in Palaeolithic Archaeology, Open Access Leiden Dissertations. https://hdl.handle.net/1887/69812
21. A. Wylie, A. (2015). “A plurality of pluralisms: Collaborative practice in archaeology” in Objectivity in Science, pp. 189-210, Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-14349-1_10
|Archaeology, Typology and Machine Epistemology||Gavin Lucas||<p>In this paper, I will explore some of the implications of machine learning for archaeological method and theory. Against a back-drop of the rise of Big Data and the Third Science Revolution, what lessons can be drawn from the use of new digital...||Computational archaeology, Theoretical archaeology||Shumon Tobias Hussain||Anonymous, Rachel Crellin||2022-10-31 15:25:38||View|