Tools of an archaeologist, like brushes. Photo by Trnava University on Unsplash

What is a Digital Archaeologist?


For a jubilee volume in honour of Reinhard Bernbeck’s 65th birthday, I was invited to write a chapter about whatever I wanted and that connected me to my former PhD supervisor. Naturally, I wrote about Digital Archaeology and what it means to be a Digital Archaeologist. In my opinion, there is a major difference in being a Digital Archaeologist and using Digital Archaeology.

Why this chapter?

So at the time of writing the chapter, I was freshly coming back from the International CAA in Oxford. During the CAA, I was participating in a session organized by Lorna Richardson and Catriona Cooper. This session was discussing the question what it means to be a Digital Archaeologist. I wasn’t able to participate actively in that session due to reasons, but I was participating in the discussions afterwards.

There, I already proposed my idea, that there is a huge difference between someone doing Digital Archaeology and someone using Digital Archaeology. I think this distinction is not really clear in day-to-day practice and everything using a database and a laser scanner is called Digital Archaeology these days.

What is it about

In the chapter I first start by explaining what Digital Archaeology actually is and how it developed since the 1950ies. I also get into how others like Jeremy Huggett or Colleen Morgan define Digital Archaeology. I then explain how Digital Archaeology is taught these days. Initially based on self-taught specialists, DA is also taught in specialised programmes all over the world. Of course I use the example of our programme in Cologne to explain my point.

I also talk about the restrictions of practicing Digital Archaeology. As this field is using digital technology and software, it is quiet obvious, that not everyone can actually use it. This creates an imbalance of power in knowledge production and is something to look out for. Also, there is the point of the research focus. I think here we actually get to the point. For me a Digital Archaeologist is someone developing methods in Digital Archaeology, not using them. This basically also concludes the chapter with my preliminary answer.

Where to get it

The chapter is part of the already mentioned jubilee volume in honour of Reinhard Bernbeck’s 65th birthday. It is titled “What does this have to do with archaeology?”, which in my opinion is a very fitting title for the volume. Reinhard Bernbeck asked this question many times and I guess many chapters try to answer it in their own way. It is published by Sidestone Press and available as a paperback and as a hardback and totally free online!

Hageneuer, S. 2023: “What is a Digital Archaeologist?”, in: Editorial Collective (Eds.), What does this have to do with archaeology? Essays on the Occasion of the 65th Birthday of Reinhard Bernbeck. Sidestone: Leiden. DOI: 10.59641/c2g2395e.



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Sebastian Hageneuer

Hi! My name is Sebastian. I am an archaeologist, a university lecturer, freelancer, guitarist, and father. You could say I am quiet busy, so I learned to manage my time and energy to build good habits and still have space for myself and my family. Sounds difficult? Read here how I do it. Every Friday.

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