Publishing Archaeological Excavations at the Digital Turn

This article refers to repeated appeals within archeology for a new vision of the excavation relationship, contextualized by the transformation of academic communication taking place in the human and social sciences. This widespread transformation is rooted in a growing interest in viewing data alongside summaries and topics, the emphasis placed on audience participation, and the proliferation of digital platforms that enable creative presentations of academic articles.


In this context, we discuss our experience in producing an excavation report that attempts to integrate various forms of academic and public-facing communication into a single digital platform and aims to engage the public on multiple levels, facilitating communication. reuse of data and present authors’ current interpretations. We consider the advantages and challenges of producing a work in this way through the example of the production of the first volume of Project Gabii, A Mid-Republican House from Gabii, developed through a collaboration between the Project Gabii team and the University of Michigan Press. This experience is contextualized within the larger discourse around the changing expectations about open access, authorship and credit and the sustainability of digital research in academic publishing.
Digital publishing, humanistic scholarship and writing of archaeological excavations
This article reflects on the experience of producing an excavation report, A Mid-Republican House from Gabii (Opitz et al. 2016), which attempts to leverage the flexibility of current digital platforms to write and create content for the audience of interested members. from the public to the academic disciplinary specialist, and integrates the publication and presentation of basic data with synthesis and argumentation within a single work. This volume, the first report in Project Gabii’s planned series of major publications, was developed in collaboration between the Project Gabii team and the University of Michigan Press. Through the process of developing, publishing and revising this volume, we have engaged in aspects of the long and multifaceted discourse in archeology about how we communicate the excavation and research process and its results. Our effort follows in the footsteps of experiments in publishing archaeological excavations, many of which were carried out in the early 2000s. Key examples include excavation work at Çatalhöyük (discussed in Tringham 2004 and Tringham and Stevanović 2012), numerous linking articles and digital files as exemplified by those made in connection with the LEAP Project (Richards et al. 2011), p. Clarke et al’s publications (2007) on the Silchester excavations and the growing number of excavation project teams making their data and reflections available on the web through interactive sites and databases. Examples of the latter range from development-led work at Heathrow Terminal 5 ( to long-term research excavations at the Athenian Agora (http: / / www. agathe. gram). Our project also builds on active efforts in the humanities and social sciences to rethink data presentation and publication strategies. Archaeological excavation reports exemplify data-rich humanities publications and provide a useful lens for considering the ways in which the digital format can present increasingly complex, data-conscious humanities studies with that data in any form. shape takes. In this context, we are faced with issues related to debates on open access, authorship and credit, the sustainability of digital scholarship and the connection of diverse audiences with academic work, all topics of debate both in the domain of archeology and scholarship in general (eg, Seidemann 2006; Heath et al. 2008; Lake 2012; Kansa 2012; Kansa et al. 2013; Pratt 2013; Kratz and Strasser 2015; Moore and Richards 2015; Richards and Hardman 2017).

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