Special Thematic Issues
Since the beginning of the publication of "Archeologia e Calcolatori", the tradition has been to devote at least one issue every five
years to a specific theme of current interest in the field of archaeological computing. The idea for this 15th special issue comes from
the observation that the problem of language, together with that of descriptive standards – which have characterised the pioneering
work of scholars who attempted the recording and classification of archaeological data using computers – has significantly come back
into discussion in light of today’s consolidated diffusion of multimedia communication. The web has therefore become a transmission
tool, which makes use of international standards, solving old problems in innovative ways.
As in the past special issues, the purpose is that of furthering debate and highlighting some of the theoretical aspects of archaeological
computing. On the basis of current research projects, scientists involved in the application of computer methods to archaeology have been
brought together to discuss the phases of data acquisition and representation to their processing, interpretation and diffusion. In fact,
the changes due to Information Technology have given rise to a series of new concerns to which the authors of this publication have offered
various answers. Therefore, the volume has taken on six different sections, each displaying a convergence of purpose and originality of
I. Writing or rewriting archaeology: theory, technology and information society
II. Languages, standards and metadata: methodological and terminological problems
III. Data encoding, formalisation and analysis: comparison of experiences
IV. Between time and space: the geographical dimension of knowledge
V. From reality to virtuality: towards an augmented communication?
VI. Communicating archaeology through the web: uses and usability
The "Caere Project", conducted by the
Istituto di Studi sulle civiltà italiche e del Mediterraneo antico
in the framework of the CNR "Cultural Heritage" Special Project,
represents the pinnacle of the outstanding research activity promoted and carried out by Mauro Cristofani (who died prematurely in 1997),
in the urban area of the Etruscan town.
In order to conduct an international comparison of research, the first step of the Caere project was the circulation of an online
questionnaire, aimed at gathering general information concerning the
application of GIS in archaeology, with particular reference to their use in excavations. All collected information was published in
the 9th special issue of Archeologia e Calcolatori, under the supervision of an international Scientific Committee, whose members are
among the most distinguished scholars in this field of study.
The goal of the project was not so much as to obtain an exhaustive census of all the projects, difficult to achieve in any event, but
rather to get a panorama, as complete as possible, of the activities carried out, highlighting several technical and methodological
issues common to many projects and noting, where present, particular trends within various countries. In addition to a general outline
of the ongoing projects and a specific survey of the situation in different countries, the initiative provoked the investigation of
specific topics, such as the definition of GIS and their basic methodology and the central problems relevant to archaeological cartography.
The analysis of computer applications in archaeology and the relevant theoretical debate conducted over the last thirty years have
allowed for the identification of some fundamental steps, necessary for the correct establishment and implementation of research projects.
The so-called "computerisation" of archaeology requires the definition of those sectors open to automatisation and whose automatisation
brings real benefits to research and documentation. Once these sectors have been identified, a sensitive stage follows: the representation
of information and the definition of a logical model according to which data must be structured. The subsequent stage consists of the choice
of tools to be used, input of data and retrieval of information, which allows users to validate their procedures.
The theme “Choice, representation and structuring of information” – i.e. the subject chosen for the 5th special issue of
Archeologia e Calcolatori – is therefore of fundamental importance for the implementation of archaeological computer projects within
the framework of different methodological approaches.
The success of this editorial initiative has allowed for some clear general conclusions to be made of the impact of Information Technology on
archaeological methodology. The considerable progress achieved by computer applications has been demonstrated. This progress should be
considered both in relation to the ever-growing number of sectors involved and methodological advancements resulting from the introduction
and development of computers in archaeology.