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2. Visual Creativity and Archaeology

2.1 The archaeological 'record' and digital data

Archaeologists have long been in the vanguard of visual creativity, and digital creativity is perhaps just the latest manifestation of this tradition. The inherently interdisciplinary nature of archaeological practice has made it particularly open to dialogue and discussion across the traditional discourses and practices of arts and humanities, social science and sciences. From its Antiquarian origins, visual recording has provided an analogue for textual methods of documenting the past (Moser and Smiles 2005; Pearce 2007). At one level, it can be argued that the sheer complexity of archaeological data has resulted in the discipline positioning itself at the forefront of the digital humanities (Dufrene 2014; Hermon 2012; and see, for example, the archive of the AHRC-funded Visualization in Archaeology project; Gibbons et al. 2014, as well as the newly established journal Virtual Archaeology Review). Yet a distinctive aspect of archaeological approaches to digital data also relates to profound philosophical differences between archaeology and other arts and humanities subjects in their belief about what constitutes 'authority' in their respective fields.

Archaeologists believe in the need to create systematic, detailed records of their discoveries that can be made available to others. The archaeological 'record' not only provides access to the empirical evidence to support archaeological hypotheses but also facilitates alternative reconstructions of the same evidence, as further information becomes available, and as theories and interpretations develop over time (Stocker 1992, 302). Archaeology's longstanding commitment to 'the authority of the record' has therefore made it particularly receptive to the democratic and participatory possibilities afforded by digital creativity. The Archaeology Data Service is perhaps the most compelling example of this initiative (Jeffrey 2010; Richards et al. 2013), providing a facility both for deposition of primary datasets and the interpretative or analytical reports that accompany them.


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