Digital Analytics at ASOR in 2016

It’s ASOR (American School of Oriental Research) abstract time for most dedicated ASORdlers (attendees of the ASOR annual meeting). Like last year, I’ve been invited to participate in a workshop on object biography despite my ambivalence toward the concept. This year, we were given a handful of objects and asked to pick one and write some kind of biography for it. 


I don’t know what the objects are or where they were found, but there is no doubt that they are fantastic examples of … something. So I got to thinking about how I would write about objects with which I am completely unfamiliar. I decided to do something mildly satirical, futuristic(al), and fun that imagines how one of these objects came to be discovered and documented. In that way, I’d give the object some digital context befitting the 21st century.

Here’s my abstract:

Excavating in the 21st Century

The object under consideration for this workshop is of less inherent interest to me than the technological processes necessary for it to enter the archaeological context; as a result, I will focus on the dense network relationships led to this objects *inventio*. Because of the remote and unstable location of the objects penultimate deposition, it was uncovered using remote, automated excavation equipment. The primary tool was the Mini-Rathje Remote Excavator (TM) running a prototype of Binford (TM) 2.0 software. This device provides continuous, near-nano-stratigraphic, excavation and on-site, realtime, multispectral and XRF recording of both natural clast and cultural artifacts as well as conventional high-resolution photography and sub-micrometer 3D laser scanning. Data from the excavator was uploaded to a private, geostationary, Cohen Class Fallen Robin (TM) satellite positioned both to ensure continuous communication with the remote excavator and to provide sub-nanometer geospatial accuracy. When sensitive contexts were encountered, we cooperated with the USAF 183rd Archaeological Drone Wing from Grand Forks Air Force Base. Pilots stationed in secure locations around the world deployed Global Tourist Class drones which enabled us to collect realtime aerial photographs and LiDAR imaging. A proprietary suite of software on our CenterTel PowerScreen II (TM) tablets allowed all data collectors to communicate in realtime with our remote base on a repurposed Russian Ekranoplan. Most of the technologies deployed during the excavation remains proprietary, but we feel that our project offers a model of remote, digital analytic excavation for the 21st century.


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