Michael Braverman portfolio / personal site

Computational Archeology: Project Statement

Google Slide of the concept

Creator Statement

The concept behind the project that I want to create is related to the idea of how most of what we experience as ‘history’, relies on some form of excavation and retrieval of the past. With the advent of new tools and computational methods, the way in which human retrieve the past has evolved drastically. With the advent of tools such as telescopes and data analysis, humans are not only able to look into the history of the geologic sediment for fossils and other forms of artifacts, but also take a profound gaze into the universe’s 13.4 billion year history.

When we take a glimpse into the night sky, most of us rarely realize that we are looking at history. Whatever we see in the night sky, is a collection of photons that traveled for thousands and millions of years from their point of origin. The photons coming from Alpha Centauri for example, which is our closest neighboring stellar system, is already 4.3 years old by the time it reaches our telescopes. When we look at the center of our galaxy, we see light that is 27,000 years old. When we observe Andromeda, our neighboring galaxy, we see light that is 2.5 million years old. Our night sky is filled with the cosmic past, and the gigabytes of data collected by all kinds of telescopes, have yet to be “excavated” and reveal an alien civilization that may be lurking among the data.1 The sky, can be considered a opaque sediment that you can see through, and observe the timeline of the universe’s history. Just by looking at the sky, we become ‘observer archeologists’ who are engaged in an act of excavating the past.

When looking at something like the sky however, our eyes are not sophisticated enough to make most of these cosmic observations. This is why tools such as optical, radio, X-ray telescopes, mathematical formulas, physics theories, and data; become the tools for these activities. Just like the Earth’s crust needs archaeologic work, data too needs specific tools that an archeologists can work with in order something from the past. Today, such an activity is referred to as “Computational Archaeology” 2. It is a meticulous process of applying advanced statistical and computational methods such as bayesian analysis, probability models3, visibility analysis4, 3D analysis, AI5 (artificial intelligence) classification methods, and even applied mathematics6. If the tools of 20th century archeology where trowels, shovels, and tape measures,7 the tools of the 21st century archeology are all kinds of computational, statistical, and mathematical tools.

The motivation for this project is to create an experience where the user interaction is engaged in this new form of computational archeology. The digital artifacts in the interaction will include images, 3D models of dinosaurs, and maybe even am Arduino gadget in a form of a pickaxe. The user will have to to somehow interact with that space and reveal something from the past.

Data archaeology from Wikipedia

Digital Classicista - An organization from Berlin that specializes in Data Archeology

  1. Distant Ruins by Paul Gilster 

  2. Computational archaeology from Wikipedia 

  3. Probability from Wikipedia 

  4. Visibility graph analysis from Wikipedia 

  5. Visibility graph analysis from Wikipedia 

  6. Applied Mathematics from Wikipedia 

  7. Tools Used by Archaeologists by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign