Theorising Digital Archaeology: Critically Engaging with the Digital Turn in Archaeology

PhD course, August 29-September 3, 2016.

Dialogues with the Past. The Nordic Graduate School in Archaeology.

Digital tablets are being used at the Çatalhöyük Research Project in Turkey. Photo: Jason Quinlan 2014.

Digital archaeology – digital documentation methods and digital analytical tools – has been around for decades. Digital tools have become ubiquitous in archaeology and are increasingly an integral part of archaeological practice.


The digital development in the field of archaeology is in a rapid phase of change, as digital technology itself is developing quickly, and advanced hardware and in particular software is becoming increasingly affordable as well as accessible. Digital techniques that were only used by a privileged few only a few years ago, can now be put to work in almost any archaeological project. This has changed archaeological work profoundly. In essence it has changed all archaeological information processes and researchers are asking whether these changes may lead to a paradigm shift. However, there has been very little research on the consequences and implications of this gradual shift, e.g. how it affects archaeological interpretation processes.


The course will give both an introduction to the development of selected digital methods used in archaeology and a more in depth discussion of theoretical perspectives. The development of a digital archaeology will be outlined as well as its theoretical implications over time, including consideration of the state of digital archaeology today. Special focus will be placed on the implications for the archaeological interpretation process and the possibilities the methods may offer regarding a shift of perspective and added information and knowledge. One goal is to encourage students to begin thinking critically about the specific types of methods they might deploy and the potential impacts of those methods. As an example the discussion will be fleshed out by reference to Ҫatalhӧyük’s reflexive methodology and its strengths and weaknesses.


We will also discuss the development of critical GIS and GIScience, one of the most critically self-aware components of the Digital Turn, and consider various case studies and implications for archaeology. This will result in a discussion about the advantages of adopting a critical approach to applied digital technologies in archaeology, both for each student research project and for understanding the context of other people’s research within the wider discipline. The course will also include a discussion of digital visualisation practice including its reception by various audiences. We will discuss historical continuities in visual ideals and methodologies, audience expectations, the relationship between data and interpretation, and skillsets and disciplinary standards, all with the aim of encouraging students to consider for whom they are producing digital archaeology and how it is likely to be circulated and received by others. In addition, practical activities will be included. We will do hands-on activities related to thinking about digital visual practices as art, craft or science and visit a local institution or site with the intent of looking at the application of digital media in public spaces.


The main aim of the course is to make students critical and aware of the circumstances of their own digital outputs.


Course work

The course will consist of both seminars and lectures. Before the course starts, each PhD student will prepare a paper for pre-circulation, addressing her or his research project in relation to the course theme. In the course seminars, each paper will be allotted ca. 45 minutes, beginning with the student presenting a 15-minute summary of its contents. This is followed with a 10 min commentary from one of the other PhD students (selected in advance), after which she or he will chair an open discussion on the paper for approximately 20 minutes.



Associate Professor Nicolo Dell’Unto (Lund University)

Dr. James Taylor (York University)

Dr. Sara Perry (York University)


The participating lecturers will each give a lecture during the course, exploring different perspectives on digital archaeology based on their field of expertise, as well as participating as prime movers in the discussion of PhD presentations. The seminar days will be structured with adequate time for spin-off debates and networking opportunities in mind.



1 month or 7 ECTS


Location, travel and costs

The seminar will take place at the Norwegian Institute at Athens.The Graduate School will finance and arrange travel and accommodation, as well as supply a daily allowance during the seminar for all participating PhD students who are part of the Dialogues With the Past network. Students outside the Dialogues with the Past network will have to cover these costs themselves.



The Graduate school invites all registered PhD students to apply for participation. Please follow this link to apply for the course (in English only). From these applications, c. 20 PhD students will be admitted to the course.

For more information please contact:


Important dates

Application for participation: June 1 June 8, 2016

Submission of working papers (10 pages, Times New Roman 12, Spacing 1,5): August 1, 2016

Appointment of discussants: August 8, 2016


Dr. Åsa Berggren, Sydsvensk Arkeologi
Tags: Digital Archaeology, PhD Seminar, Ҫatalhӧyük, GIS, The Digital Turn, Dialogues with the Past
Published Mar. 10, 2016 4:26 PM - Last modified Feb. 27, 2020 12:20 PM