93154 - Digital Archaeology (LM)

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Archaeology and Cultures of the Ancient World (cod. 8855)

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will know the new digital techniques to investigate, document, analyze and publicize monuments, sites and archaeological landscapes. They will know how to use GIS and Web-GIS systems, integrating information sources and mapping techniques. They will appreciate the value of the systematization and computerized management of archaeological data, databases and interpreted restitution. They will know about the potential of digital applications for archaeological research, towards a three-dimensional documentation of contexts, serving also for dissemination purposes and public use. They will use digital techniques and tools appropriately in archaeology. They will be able to choose the most correct approach in relation to the case study or archaeological goal.

Course contents

The course will discuss relevant aspects of digital archaeology, i.e., archaeological research conducted through methodologies and technologies derived from the digital revolution, with a critical perspective entrusted from time to time to the analysis of the most up-to-date scientific work.

In the first part of the course, the main basic elements of digital archaeology will be discussed:

- Data acquisition (surveying)

- Databases


- Remote Sensing

- The Web

- Statistical packages

In the second part, some of the areas in which the elements discussed in the first part make a decisive contribution to the creation of new knowledge will be presented through case studies based on the most recent scientific literature or currently ongoing projects:

- Intra-site GIS, Landscape GIS and Legacy Data Management

- Open Data, Big Data

- Digital publication: online journals, WebGIS, multimedia publications of large excavation contexts

- The management of three-dimensional data

- BIM for archaeology

- Virtual Reality, immersive archaeology, gamification

- Reflexive archaeology


A specific bibliography will be provided at each lecture from the most recently published literature. The following titles serve as a general introduction to Digital Archaeology and as a framing of the course topics

Digital Archaeology

Wheatley D., Gillings M., Spatial Technology and Archaeology. The archaeological applications of GIS, London and New York, 2002.

Lock G., Using Computers in Archaeology Towards Virtual Pasts, London, 2003.

Dell’Unto N., Landeschi G., Archaeological 3D GIS, London and New York 2022


Lock G., Pouncett J. 2010, Walking the Ridgeway Revisited: The Methodological and Theoretical Implications of Scale Dependency for the Derivation of Slope and the Calculation of Least-Cost Pathways, in Frischer B., Crawford J.W, Koller D. (eds), Making History Interactive. Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA). Proceedings of the 37th International Conference, Williamsburg, Virginia, United States of America, March 22-26 (BAR International Series S2079): 192-203. (http://dx.doi.org/10.15496/publikation-3304 [http://dx.doi.org/10.15496/publikation-3304] )

Mlekuž D. 2014. Exploring the topography of movement, in Polla, S., Verhagen, P. (eds.) Computational Approaches to the Study of Movement in Archaeology: Theory, Practice and Interpretation of Factors and Effects of Long Term Landscape Formation and Transformation. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter: 5-22. (https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110288384.5 )

Wheatley D., Gillings M. 2000, Vision, perception and GIS: developing enriched approaches to the study of archaeological visibility , in Lock G. (ed.), Beyond the Map . Archaeology and Spatial Technologies: 1-27

Fábrega-Álvarez P., Parcero-Oubiña C. 2019, Now you see me. An assessment of the visual recognition and control of individuals in archaeological landscapes, Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 104: 56-74. (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2019.02.002)

Murphy K.M., Gittings B., Crow J. 2018, Visibility analysis of the Roman communication network in southern Scotland, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Volume 17: 111-124. (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2017.10.047)

GIS and legacy data

Millet M. 2020, The Tiber Valley Project: retrospect and prospect, in Patterson H., Witcher R.E., Di Giuseppe H., The changing Landscapes of Romeʼs Northern Hinterland The British School at Romeʼs Tiber Valley Project. Oxford: Archaeopress: 302-307

Bonnier A., Finné M., Weiberg E. 2019, Examining Land-Use through GIS-Based Kernel Density Estimation: A Re-Evaluation of Legacy Data from the Berbati-Limnes Survey, Journal of Field Archaeology, 44:2: 70-83. (https://DOI: 10.1080/00934690.2019.1570481)

Landeschi G., Apel J., Lundström V., Storå J., Lindgren S., Dell’Unto N. 2019, Re-enacting the sequence: combined digital methods to study a prehistoric cave, Archaeol Anthropol Sci 11: 2805–2819. (https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-018-0724-5)

Digital Publications

Opitz R.S., Johnson T.D. 2016, Interpretation at the Controller's Edge: Designing Graphical User Interfaces for the Digital Publication of the Excavations at Gabii (Italy), Open Archaeology 1: 274–290 (https://doi.org/10.1515/opar-2015-0017 )

Big Data and Archaeology

McCoy M.D. 2017, Geospatial Big Data and archaeology: Prospects and problems too great to ignore, Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 84: 74-94. (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2017.06.003)

A(rchaeo)BIM and 2.5D, 3D, 4D: the many faces of spatial data

Conti A., Fiorini L., Massaro R., Santoni C., Tucci G. 2022, HBIM for the preservation of a historic infrastructure: the Carlo III bridge of the Carolino Aqueduct. Appl Geomat 14 (Suppl 1), 41–51. (https://doi.org/10.1007/s12518-020-00335-2)

Garagnani S., Gaucci A., Gruška B. 2016, From the archaeological record to ArchaeoBIM: the case study of the Etruscan temple of Uni in Marzabotto, VIRTUAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW, VOL. 7 NO. 15: 77-86

Van Leusen M., Van Gessel S. 2016, Towards 3D GIS. Notes from the 2012 CAA NL/DE chapter session “from 2.5 to 3 spatial dimensions, in Kamermans H., de Neef W., Piccoli C., Posluschny A., Scopigno R. (eds.), The Three Dimensions of Archaeology. Proceedings of the XVII UISPP World Congress no. 7. Oxford: 33 37.


Poiron P. 2021, Assassin's Creed Origins Discovery Tour. A Behind the Scenes Experience, Near Eastern Archaeology 84(1): 79 85

Birley B., Davison R., Stock C. 2022, (Re)living Vindolanda : Designing Educational Computer Games for Outdoor Environments, in Bertoldi S., Mariotti S. (eds.), The past as a digital playground. Archaeology, Virtual Reality and Video Games: 8-24.

Reflexive archaeology

Berggren Å., Dell’Unto N., Forte M., Haddow S., Hodder I., Issavi J., Lercari N., Mazzucato C., Mickel A., Taylor J.S. 2015, Revisiting reflexive archaeology at Çatalhöyük : integrating digital and 3D technologies at the trowel’s edge, Antiquity 89: 433 448

Boyd M.J., Campbell R., Doonan R.C.P., Douglas C., Gavalas G., Gkouma M., Halley C., Hartzler B., A. Herbst J.A., Indgjerd H.R., Krijnen A., Legaki I., Margaritis E., Meyer N., Moutafi I., Iliou N.P., Wylie D.A., Renfrew C. 2021, Open Area, Open Data: Advances in Reflexive Archaeological Practice, Journal of Field Arc haeology, 46,2: 62-80

Roosevelt C.H., Cobb P., Moss E., Olson B.R.,Ünlüsoy S. 2015, Excavation is Destruction Digitization: Advances in Archaeological Practice, Journal of Field Archaeology, 40:3, 325-346

Teaching methods

The structure of the course is organized with both face-to-face lectures and moments of discussion between the students and the teacher, in order to involve as much as possible the active participation of the students, prompting them to focus on different aspects of the scientific debate concerning Digital Archaeology. Every week of the course will consist of a one day (2 hours) seminar debate in which students will be asked to discuss the topics covered in the previous week's lectures, based on an article chosen from a dedicated bibliography, and 2 days (2 hours + 2 hours) frontal lecture given by the teacher with the help of PowerPoint slides.

Assessment methods

Assessment of students will be based not only on the final exam (technical skills), but also on their active participation throughout the course, their understanding of the proposed papers, and their interaction with the class (soft skills).

The final exam will consist of:

- PowerPoint presentation on a specific topic (group work) followed by in-class discussion. Students will be evaluated for the quality of their project, the clarity of their PowerPoint, their oral presentation and their participation in the final critical discussion.

- Short scientific paper (individual work) based on one of the methodological approaches touched upon during the course. Students will be evaluated for quality of content, text structure and bibliography.

Students not taking the course will be required to write a paper on a topic agreed with the teacher and will be required to take an oral examination on a bibliography agreed with the teacher.

Teaching tools

Frontal lectures will have PowerPoint presentations.

During seminar discussions, based on pdf documents provided by the teacher the previous week, the teacher will serve as a moderator in a discussion designed to engage all students.

Office hours

See the website of Cristiano Putzolu