A brief guide to computers in Archaeology

This is an electronic copy of the printed version available from CTICH. It is not as up-to-date as the CTICH Web pages, which should be used for following links.

Table of Contents


Computers have been used in archaeology for many years, and have now become an almost universal tool for archaeologists, even if for no more than word-processing. Other major uses include:

Printed resources

The major source of papers on computing in archaeology is the proceedings of the annual conference Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA1-22, covering 1972-1996). These have been published by a variety of publishers, most recently by British Archaeological Reports. The most recent are:

Shorter notes and more frequent publication is undertaken quarterly by the Archaeology Computing Newsletter, published by the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford. The majority of occasional papers incorporating computing applications (whether explicitly or implicitly) appear in such journals as World Archaeology, Archaeological Prospection, American Antiquity, Science and Archaeology, Journal of Archaeological Science, Archaeometry, Oxford Journal of Archaeology, Scottish Archaeological Review, and Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.

Some general introductory books on the use of computers in archaeology are:

CTICH produces a guide in printed and electronic form which lists useful resources:

Everett, J 1996 Handlist of Electronic Resources for Teachers of History, Archaeology & Art History.

Internet resources

A huge volume of resources are freely available to Higher Education staff and students over the internet. A selection of the most relevant are given below. A general gateway to many resources is NISS (National Information Services and Systems).

1. Electronic Mail

Discussion lists use electronic mail (Email) to enable a group of people (subscribers) to exchange information, ask questions and debate issues. Lists can be open to all messages, or moderated (censored) to avoid trivial or irrelevant messages. Some lists can produce large numbers of messages, though usually it is possible to receive a summary or digest of messages at regular intervals. The major lists used by archaeologists are:

There are many more lists which specialise in particular topics or areas. A guide is available on URL http://lucy.ukc.ac.uk/afaq.html which gives details of how to subscribe (or see also Craft 8: 10-11, and current issues for details of new lists). A guide to all British academic lists is available from the Mailbase WWW site. Bulletin boards and newsgroups are alternative types of mailing, but these tend to be used by non-academics and are rarely worth investigating.

2. World Wide Web and gopher sites

If you have access to Internet Explorer, Netscape or other WWW client, or to gopher, there are many resources available. Most archaeology departments, academic institutions, museums and projects now have basic information on their staff, research projects, courses etc., available. Some of these which give good links to other sites are:

There are also more specialised sites e.g. ROMARCH on Roman art and archaeology

3. Data and software

Large amounts of extremely useful software, both public domain and shareware, is available from the Higher Education Software Archive (HENSA), for all computer platforms. Users have to have their PCs registered (contact your Computing Service and ask for DNS registration) within a UK Higher Education Institution. Two items not on HENSA which are of especial interest to archaeologists are:

Electronic Data is becoming increasingly available, particularly site excavation data. See:

4. Electronic publishing

An increasing number of journals are appearing in electronic form alone, or as electronic versions or summaries of printed versions, and the number is liable to increase as one means of overcoming the cost of conventional publishing. At present classics and classical archaeology are strongly represented. There are also projects to set up excavation and other archaeological archives. As well as being available on the Internet, these materials could be distributed using media such as CD-ROM. A single CD-ROM disk has the potential to hold all the excavation archive of a site, including the text, data, drawings, photographs and video footage.

Examples of electronic journals are:

5. Bibliographic services

As well as accessing your own library catalogue, it is possible to search those of other libraries (COPAC) and also use the central BIDS (Bath Information & Data Services) system for searching citation indexes. You will have to register with your university library in order to use this system.

Computers in teaching archaeology


The Funding Councils' Teaching & Learning Technology Programme (TLTP) has sponsored the Archaeology Consortium to produce computer-assisted learning materials for undergraduates. These high quality interactive resources cover a wide variety of subject areas, and a separate leaflet is available giving full details. The materials are available at nominal cost to the UK Higher Education sector. For more information contact the Project Co-ordinator Dr Ewan Campbell, Department of Archaeology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ. Tel: 0141 339 8855 ext 8313/8329. Email: enc@archaeology.gla.ac.uk. The modules can be downloaded from our ftp site after signing a licence. Details of the modules are available at http://www.gla.ac.uk/~archtltp. Some other subject consortia have produced material relevant to archaeology. For example Land Use have produced a module on soils, Biodiversity one on human evolution, and History plan some on medieval topics, and details can be obtained from the relevant CTI Centre.

2. Commercial CD-ROM products

Most CD-ROMs at present are produced for the home PCs market in 'edutainment', and are not of academic standard. Some are more scholarly, including:

3.  World Wide Web Exhibitions

A handful of WWW sites that illustrate the use of the web as a medium for dissemination.  See "World Wide Web " for links to many other sites

The Wroxeter Hinterland Project.
A project which studies rural - urban relationships between the Roman town of Viroconium Cornoviorum (present-day Wroxeter, near Shrewsbury, county Shropshire) and the area around it from the Later Pre-Roman Iron Age to the sub-Roman period, centering on the processes of Romanisation. The site includes material useful for teaching, such as a virtual tour, and further online exhibitions are planned.
"This Web page is designed for those interested in the ongoing excavations at Çatalhöyük. Its aim is to provide information about the activities of the Trust and of the different aspects of the research being conducted at Çatalhöyük." (Includes VRML 3-d models).
Caistor Roman Town, Norfolk
- A virtual tour
Durham Cathedral
- A 'virtual' tour

4. General computing and IT training skills

The Funding Councils' Information Technology Training Initiative (ITTI) project has produced several sets of training products for IT skills which are available at cost price. As well as basic skills, the materials cover applications, multimedia production and other professional skills. For details contact Jean Burgan at CVCP/USDU Tel: 0114 272 5248, Email: j.burgan@sheffield.ac.uk . A selection which can be recommended are:

Other CTI Centres in cognate disciplines

CTI Centre for Geography
Dept of Geography
University of Leicester
Leicester LE1 7RH
Tel: 0116 252 3827
Email: cti@le.ac.uk

CTI Centre for Land Use
& Environmental Services
MacRobert Building
University of Aberdeen
Aberdeen AB9 2UB
Tel: 01224 273752
Email: CTICLUES@abdn.ac.uk

CTI Centre for Biology
Donnan Laboratories
University of Liverpool
PO Box 147
Liverpool L69 3BX
Tel: 0151 794 5118
Email: CTIBiol@liv.ac.uk

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Written by Ewan Campbell
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Last modified: July 27, 2000