Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Archaeology in the Digital Age

ARCHLGY 54N
CLASSICS 54N

Like so many fields, archaeology is being transformed by new opportunities and challenges of technologies inconceivable only a generation ago: online tourist photographs are assisting replication of an arch destroyed by terrorists, detailed scans reveal how tools were manufactured and used 2,000 years ago, and excavated remains historically texture lost worlds for games such as Assassin’s Creed. These artifacts and sites allow us to recreate human pasts in different ways, but only if we can make the most of every partial clue that archaeology uncovers. How do approaches such as laser scanning and digital modeling help us maximize archaeological documentation and analysis? How will 3D visualization bring archaeological finds to the public in more innovative, immersive, and democratic ways than ever before? How can we put the past into the hands of a global community anywhere and at any time through interactive digital reconstructions and physical replicas? Can 4D approaches integrating time help us understand ancient social processes through digital approaches? What ethical questions of practice, ownership, and display arise as archaeology confronts each of these new opportunities? How do such developments force us to reexamine the complex ways in which technologies are changing our relationship with the human past? This seminar bridges the theoretical and the practical, allowing students to develop hands-on projects—using 3D analysis of objects on campus—that ask fundamental questions about how artifacts worked in the past, how they speak in the present, and how new digital tools can transform their voices in the future. Trips to collections on campus and in the area, as well as visits from diverse experts in the field and case studies from the instructor’s own excavation (a Roman shipwreck of marble architectural materials) allow engagement with emerging technological approaches to the archaeological record.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Justin Leidwanger

"I am an archaeologist who splits time between teaching, lab research on campus, and fieldwork in Italy and Turkey. Currently, I direct excavation of a Roman shipwreck off Sicily that carried marble architectural components for an early church. Working with these and other shipwreck finds helps me, and my team, understand the lives and connections of everyday people in the past alongside broader cultural phenomena and historical developments. Students play a key role in all stages of this and related research on 3D modeling and virtual environments. These projects have recently included the development of new methods for analyzing how ancient transport jars and column capitals were mass produced to standardized shapes and sizes, and the creation of immersive 'pop up' exhibits on Mediterranean maritime history from ancient colonization and commerce to the modern refugee plight."