ArcheoFOSS 2022
Panel: Practice and Paradigms of Open Source Technologies for Archaeological Field Data

Fabian Riebschläger
German Archaeological Institute, Berlin, Germany

Thomas Kleinke
German Archaeological Institute, Berlin, Germany

Panel: Practice and Paradigms of Open Source Technologies for Archaeological Field Data

Clarke (1973:17) stated, that Archaeology is “the discipline with the theory and practice for the recovery of unobservable hominid behaviour patterns from indirect traces in bad samples”. At the same time, Archaeology‘s main method of sample acquisition, excavation, is a destructive practice. Thus, our discipline‘s digital transformation is driven by a desire to capture and analyze observations more exactly and more completely. Allowing for both is the basic promise of computing technology.

However, Archaeology, being a niche market for software developers, also has a tradition of adopting software from other domains. The prime example are GIS, which are essential in archaeology and are represented by several powerful open source incarnations. The fact that complex research software is not just a collection of software tools is frequently overlooked. Rather, it implements traditional research methods and paradigms and attempts to evolve them through technological innovations.

The question arises: is the transfer of software innovations from other fields to established archaeological practice really sufficent (a prime example being CAD as a replacement for technical drawings with pen and paper)? Or is it in fact counter-productive, blinding us to the potential of creating open source tools to shift paradigms instead of supporting them? Are traditional workflow ideals, such as context-based recording, still desirable in software? This panel invites contributions that examine open source software support for archaeological field work and subsequent data analysis from a critical point of view, asking questions such as:

  • Which traditional paradigms have to berepresented within the software? Which ones have to be prioritized, replaced or introduced?
  • What are the limits of using software to advance research methods and practice?
  • How should archaeological fieldwork practice shape basic principles of software or vice versa? Which desirable properties, in practice, do certain technological concepts have (e.g. NoSQL vs. SQL)?

We particularly welcome contributions that show how specific open source projects and their use contribute to epistemologically reflective innovation and improvement of both field and research practice.


  • Clarke, D. 1973. Archaeology: the loss of innocence. Antiquity, 47(185), 6–18.