An enchantment of digital archaeology

Dreamers, necromancers and modellers in archaeology rejoice: an enchantment of digital archaeology is published.

Shawn Graham’s new book is about simulation, agents, gaming, AI and archaeology. What? I was sceptical as I started reading, but the huge value of Shawn’s enchantment message dawned on me half way through the first chapter. I’m allowed to wonder, to be in awe, to dream, whilst doing good computational archaeology. In fact, Shawn argues we should do more of it. At the very least, we should avoid the disenchantment that can be invoked by traditional data collection and analysis, which we do just because we feel we have to as ‘serious’ academics.

Raising the Dead with Agent-Based Models, Archaeogaming and Artificial Intelligence

by Prof. Shawn Graham

Here are my thoughts on the book.

This book discusses and illustrates how digital archaeology can and should be enchanting. The focus on enchantment justifies the many personal thoughts and stories throughout the book: it is really the personal experience of and engagement with digital experiments that leads to enchantment. The author does a great job in transmitting his enthusiasm and is not afraid to highlight his failures. Indeed, in many parts of the book failed experiments take centre stage to showcase that the scholars’ learning process and surprise matters hugely when doing digital archaeology. But also that the author’s engagement with traditional data collection and attitudes to doing archaeology led to disenchantment. Many readers of this book might share this disenchantment: they will find in this book inspiration and encouragement to pursue those ideas they previously discarded as wacky, frivolous or “not academic”; they are allowed to play, fail and be enchanted. There is huge value in this message.

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