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Cultural Dynamics, Deep Time, and Data

Planning Cyberinfrastructure Investments for Archaeology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 January 2017

Keith W. Kintigh
School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Box 872402, Arizona State University, Tempe AZ 85287-2402 (
Jeffrey H. Altschul
Statistical Research, Inc., P.O. Box 31865, Tucson AZ 85751 (
Ann P. Kinzig
School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Box 874501, Tempe AZ 85287-4501 (
W.Fredrick Limp
Department of Geosciences, 304 JB Hunt, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville AR 72701 (
William K. Michener
University Libraries, University of New Mexico, 1312 Basehart Drive SE, MSC04 2815, Albuquerque NM 87131-0001 (
Jeremy A. Sabloff
Santa Fe Institute, 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe NM 87501 (
Edward J. Hackett
School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Box 872402, Arizona State University, Tempe AZ 85287-2402 (
Timothy A. Kohler
Department of Anthropology, P.O. Box 644910, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-4910 and Santa Fe Institute, 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe NM 87501 (
Bertram Ludäscher
Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 501 E. Daniel Street, Champaign, IL 61820 (
Clifford A. Lynch
Coalition for Networked Information, 21 Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. 20036 (


Archaeological data and research results are essential to addressing such fundamental questions as the origins of human culture; the origin, waxing, and waning of civilizations and cities; the response of societies to long-term climate changes; and the systemic relationships implicated in human-induced changes in the environment. However, we lack the capacity for acquiring, managing, analyzing, and synthesizing the data sets needed to address important questions such as these. We propose investments in computational infrastructure that would transform archaeology’s ability to advance research on the field’s most compelling questions with an evidential base and inferential rigor that have heretofore been impossible. At the same time, new infrastructure would make archaeological data accessible to researchers in other disciplines. We offer recommendations regarding data management and availability, cyberinfrastructure tool building, and social and cultural changes in the discipline. We propose funding synthetic case studies that would demonstrate archaeology’s ability to contribute to transdisciplinary research on long-term social dynamics and serve as a context for developing computational tools and analytical workflows that will be necessary to attack these questions. The case studies would explore how emerging research in computer science could empower this research and would simultaneously provide productive challenges for computer science research.

Los datos y resultados de la investigación arqueológica son esenciales para abordar cuestiones tan fundamentales como los orígenes de la cultura humana; el origen, crecimiento y decadencia de las civilizaciones y ciudades; la respuesta de las sociedades a los cambios climáticos a largo plazo y las relaciones sistémicas involucradas en los cambios antropogénicos en el medio ambiente. Sin embargo, carecemos de la capacidad para adquirir, administrar, analizar y sintetizar los conjuntos de datos necesarios para abordar cuestiones importantes como estas. En este trabajo proponemos que las inversiones en infraestructura computacional tienen la capacidad de transformar la habilidad de la arqueología para desarrollar la investigación en torno a las cuestiones más apremiantes de este campo con una base empírica y bajo el rigor de la inferencia científica que hasta ahora habían sido imposibles de lograr. Al mismo tiempo, la nueva infraestructura facilitaría el acceso a los datos arqueológicos a investigadores de otras disciplinas. Ofrecemos recomendaciones en torno al manejo de datos y su disponibilidad, la construcción de herramientas de infraestructura cibernética y a los cambios sociales y culturales en la disciplina. Proponemos financiar estudios específicos y concisos que demostrarían la capacidad de la arqueología para contribuir a la investigación transdisciplinaria sobre las dinámicas sociales a largo plazo y que sirvan de contexto para desarrollar herramientas computacionales y procesos de trabajo analíticos que son indispensables para abordar estas cuestiones. Los estudios de caso exploran como la investigación emergente en la ciencia de la computación puede potenciar este tipo de investigación y podría simultáneamente proveer retos productivos a la investigación en ciencias de la computación.

Research Article
Copyright © Society for American Archaeology 2015

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