Archaeological theory in the light of contemporary computing conference

I have been selected to give a paper at this years Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG) conference at the University of Southampton (southern England) in the <TAG 2.0/>: Archaeological theory in the light of contemporary computing session.

Title : Building on Fear?
The role of Digital Archaeology to aid the study and analysis of structural carpentry techniques in central southern England, c1180 – c1500, the era of the Black Death and successive plagues.

Abstract : To date, there are approximately 108 timber-framed buildings, in Hampshire, that have been dendrochronologically dated to between 1244 and 1530. A survey has been carried out on these buildings to record the different types of joints used in their construction. These joints have been grouped, by type, to provide a chronology, informed by scientific dating methods. Once the chrono-typologies have been produced and cross- referenced with Hewett’s Essex data, the effects, if any, of the Black Death (1348-50) on carpentry techniques and technologies will be analysed.

The project utilises digital technologies to collect, collate, manage, query and ultimately disseminate data relevant to the study of timber joints. Such technologies include:
•       Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
•       Global Positioning Systems (GPS)
•       Database Management Systems (DBMS)
•       3D modelling

The 3D modelling provides a means to explore how joints interact with each other, whilst also forming a visual database. This database can be disseminated through various mobile devices, supplying researchers with a real-time, portable, dating aid, for comparison in the field. The creation of the visual database also allows us to question how to represent a generic “3D joint”, through various 2D devices, to researchers that are not familiar with computer visualisations and the “clean world” which they portray.
The combination of GPS and GIS enable the data to be analysed spatially to understand how the buildings work within a landscape context.
This then permits the answering of the question “building on fear” by applying theory to the science. Are the houses being built to protect the occupier from war, famine and plague or are they just projecting status and society?

About TAG

The Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG) was founded as a national body in 1979 with the aim of promoting debate and discussion of issues in theoretical archaeology. Its principal activity is the promotion of an annual conference, traditionally held in December and organised so as to be accessible at low cost to research students and others.

TAG is managed and steered by a National Committee that meets annually and comprises a representative from each of the university departments that have hosted a TAG Conference. Convening and organizing National Committee meetings, and administering TAG finances, is the duty of the TAG Trustees who are:

  • Colin Renfrew (1979 – date)
  • Andrew Fleming (1979 – 2001)
  • Timothy Darvill (2001 – date)

The main TAG website is hosted by ANTIQUITY.

The TAG 30 website is here.

TAG meetings are now occurring in the United States of America as well. In 2009 it will be held at Stanford, their website can be found here.


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