Several members of the TETRARCHs team (Sara Perry, Holly Wright, Nicolò Dell’Unto, James Tayor, Indrė Jovaišaitė-Blaževičienė, and Anna Simandiraki-Grimshaw) participated in the CHANSE Kick-off conference in Tallinn, Estonia, on 1-2 June 2023.
TETRARCHs Project Leader, Dr. Sara Perry, presenting at the conference on the inspiration and goals of the project. Photo by Anna Simandiraki-Grimshaw.
Project Leader Perry presented the premise and goals of the project to the rest of the conference participants, as well as engaged with informal discussions and feedback.
Below you will find a short video with Sara’s presentation, encapsulating the principles of the project, its importance for multiple stakeholders, and its potential impact on people’s lives.
The conference was also an opportunity for TETRARCHs to meet and discuss in person not only the project’s progress, but also wider issues: AI, stakeholders, as well as digital transformation in archaeology within the wider context of digital developments in Europe and beyond. The TETRARCHs team members were able to meet and liaise with other participants in both formal (lectures and discussions) and informal (networking) ways, in order to understand their different perspectives and research challenges.
Team members at the conference: (from R to L) Indrė Jovaišaitė-Blaževičienė, Sara Perry, Holly Wright, Nicolò Dell’Unto, James Tayor, Anna Simandiraki-Grimshaw. Photo by Blen Taye.
Hello all. My name is Sara Perry. I am project leader on ‘Transforming Data Reuse in Archaeology’, or TETRARCHs for short, and I am going to take you through a brief introduction to the TETRARCHs project using a set of slides that we deployed at a conference a couple of days ago in Tallinn, Estonia, the Kick-Off Conference of Collaboration of Humanities and Social Sciences in Europe, or CHANSE, which is the scheme through which TETRARCHs and 25 other European projects focused on digital transformations, are being funded.
So, I wanted to start by having us do a little bit of an imaginative activity and maybe you wanna close your eyes, or maybe you just wanna conjure up your thinking and I would be grateful if you can spend a moment reflecting on what comes to your mind when I refer to archaeology, what comes into your head when I use the term ‘archaeology’.
- What does archaeology evoke for you?
- What does the practise of archaeology make you feel?
- What thoughts, what kind of imaginings does archaeology conjure up for you?
- What does archaeology mean to you?
Now some of you may hear the word ‘archaeology’ and absolutely nothing comes to your mind. Maybe archaeology is meaningless to you.
Others might be thinking: “Ohh, I’m reminded of a movie or video game that I or a family member, friend has played. Or, I’m thinking about a book that has an archaeological theme.” Or maybe you’re reminded of the experiences that you’ve had in a museum or a historic site that you’ve visited. Or you’re thinking about an artefact that you’ve heard of. Or perhaps you’re thinking about stories on the news or social media about new finds that have emerged through archaeological excavations. Perhaps you’re actually thinking about stories of the destruction or appropriation of your own or others’ cultural heritage. Whatever you do or do not think about archaeology, it is around us all the time. Wherever we go, we are literally standing atop, or sat atop it right now. It will have been removed from or destroyed to make way for the place where you are sat or standing at right now. You yourselves or the belongings that you have on you right now might become future archaeological finds. Archaeology is the material remains of our lives and it is incredibly powerful in the sense that the narratives it can tell us about humans and materials and relationships to the environment can make us completely rethink what it means to be human and how we live our lives now and in the future.
The problem is that most archaeological data is not actually accessible and what is accessible has usually been stripped of most of its humanity and complexity, and therefore its capacity to express critical narratives about different ways of life, because of how we have acquired and structured archaeological data. The fallout here is that archaeology thus tends to be conceived of simplistically. It is regularly reduced to stereotypes, and it is therefore easily deployed in propaganda in conspiracy theories and in oppressive manoeuvres to control and subjugate and polarise people and planet.
So this is what TETRARCHs or ‘Transforming Data Reuse in Archaeology’ is all about. It’s about rethinking how we acquire and structure archaeological data in order for it to be the basis of evidence and narratives and experiences that can create a more just, equitable, and complex, but still hopeful present and future for European citizens. We are a team of nearly 20 researchers and professionals from cultural institutions, charities, business and university, working across six countries. We are variously experienced at deploying digital data acquisition technologies, for example, LIDAR or 3D capture or geospatial modelling, and other digital illustrative and photographic tools and software. We are experienced in developing and critiquing vocabulary and ontologies and schema for structuring data, as well as in building and housing data in local and international data repositories. We are also highly experienced in working across communities, especially communities that have been historically disadvantaged or undermined by people in power, including by archaeologists themselves. We’re experienced in working across these communities to understand and facilitate different, more productive and beneficial relationships between them and the institutions and individuals that control or shape connections to their own cultural heritage.
In the end, on TETRARCHs we are working to reach and impact three main audiences.
- For heritage professionals, including archaeologists, we are seeking to develop new methods for gathering and structuring, or not structuring as the case may be, archaeological data in ways that are more just and equitable, and therefore that are conducive to generating more just and equitable narratives about the past.
- For cultural institutions, we are creating reference materials to support them in integrating these data and narratives into their everyday practices, ensuring that archaeology is actually used as it should be: to think more critically, complexly, and in evolving ways about the world around us.
- And for creative and media practitioners and local citizens, we are developing a platform and providing incentives for all of these individuals to use this platform in order to search for and create more meaningful narratives from archaeological data.
I hope I’ve managed to pique your interest about TETRARCHs and please do get in touch, as there’s so much more to say and we’d love to hear from you. Reach out on hello[at]tetrarchs.org or through our website www.tetrarchs.org