Increasingly in modern society, digital platforms are amplifying marginalized voices and communities, such as women, minorities, indigenous, queer, and LGBTQ. Digital archaeology, with its focus on open data, multivocality and outreach, is unique among archaeological specializations because of its relevance to this conversation.
Digital archaeology is one of the most rapidly developing subfields of archaeology, driven by technological breakthroughs that expand what is possible in terms of recordkeeping, analysis and outreach each year. Digital tools have the potential to catalyze public interest and understanding of archaeology, foster comparative research and transparency through open linked data, streamline data collection in the field, and fuel innovative research.
Digital photogrammetry provides a low-cost and efficient way to create convey a wide range of archaeological information in a concise, digital format that transcends language barriers, and allows archaeologists to access and analyze archaeological deposits that would otherwise be inaccessible.
Digital Salvage Archaeology
For several years, I’ve been involved with excavations at the Bronze Age archaeological site of Seyitömer Höyük, in western Turkey. This site is unique because it is one of the best-preserved examples of early urbanism in the region, often garnering comparisons to Troy and other significant sites from Early Bronze Age. It is also unique because it is located within an active coal mine, and lies atop a valuable 12 million ton deposit of coal. From 2006 through 2014, a coal company funded the excavation of the archaeological site with a team of 300 workers for six months per year. This massive effort excavated the entire site rapidly, to enable the extraction of the valuable coal deposit. This created an enormous amount of data one about one of the best examples of early urbanism in Turkey. Unfortunately, the excavation permit expired in 2014 and the coal company decided not to renew it, and instead to move forward with plans to completely destroy all remaining archaeological material and extract the valuable coal resource below.How might digital tools be used to enhance the research potential of this important but inaccessible dataset, to both Turkish and non-Turkish researchers and the public?
The 3D model you see here was generated from 59 photos of an important ritual deposit that found within a freestanding building at Seyitömer Höyük, which has been interpreted as a ritual space. This model – which is constructed from photos not originally intended for the photogrammetry – illustrates the potential of using imperfect salvage archaeology datasets to create useful 3D models. It is part of a broader effort to create 3D models from additional archaeological contexts at the site. This is a low-cost solution that conveys the morphology of the deposit in such a way that archaeologists can do what we do best – visually interpret and analyze archaeological deposits. The potential research applications for comparative research and pottery analysis are wide ranging.
Creating fast, low-cost digital archaeology models offers a counterbalance to the critique that digital heritage is only possible with expensive, high-end equipment and extensive technical expertise. If we agree that digital heritage projects should promote the democratization of science, then digital heritage research should be possible at varying scales and levels of financial support. This project illustrates one way that digital heritage products are attainable, even with a modest initial investment.