Making People and Worlds with Digital Archaeology

Dr. Colleen Morgan

University of York, UK

24 April 2024, 16.30-17.30 GMT

Within fiction and game creation, worldbuilding is the act of integrating history, ecology, geology to bring an imaginary world to life. I argue that archaeologists are intimately involved in worldbuilding, using archaeological remains to try to understand past lives. We bring together multiple lines of archaeological data to create representations of the past. The characterisation of archaeological interpretation as worldbuilding contrasts with the understanding of archaeologists as storytellers, those who create a narrative with a beginning and end, motivated by specific actors or events. To explore worldbuilding as a productive trope in archaeological investigation, I discuss examples from my research, including the OTHER EYES project, Catalhoyuk in Second Life, and working with artists as part of TETRARCHS and the Avebury Papers. Finally, I will note the political and prefigurative implications of worldbuilding, sometimes called worldmaking, in terms of queer and black envisioning of the future.

About the presenter

Dr. Colleen Morgan is Senior Lecturer in Digital Archaeology and Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. She is Director of the Digital Archaeology and Heritage Lab, the MSc in Digital Archaeology and the MSc in Digital Heritage.  Colleen is the PI on the UKRI-AHRC funded OTHER EYES project and the Co-I of The Avebury Papers with Professor Mark Gillings (University of Bristol) to creatively investigate the extensive personal and archaeological archive at Avebury. Her research contributions fall in three main areas: 1) bringing digital archaeology into conversation with current theory drawn from feminist, queer, posthuman, and anarchist approaches 2) multisensorial interventions and digital embodiment, with a focus on avatars of past people created from bioarchaeological data 3) issues surrounding craft, enskillment and pedagogy in analog and digital methods in field archaeology, including photography, videography.