Cyber-Archaeology: Notes on the simulation of the past

Maurizio Forte


Thirteen years after the book “Virtual Archaeology” (Forte, 1996, 97) it is time to re-discuss the definition, the key concepts and some new trends and applications. The paper discusses the introduction of the term “cyber-archaeology” in relation with the simulation process deriving from the inter-connected and multivocal feedback between users/actors and virtual ecosystems. In this new context of cyber worlds, it is more appropriate to talk about simulation of the past rather than reconstruction of the past. The multivocality of the simulation opens new perspectives in the interpretation process, not imposing the final reconstruction, but suggesting, evocating, simulating multiple output, not “the past” but a potential past.

New epistemological models of cyber archaeology have to be investigated: what happens in a immersive environment of virtual archaeology where every user is "embodied” in the cyber space? The ontology of archaeological information, or the cybernetics of archaeology, refers to all the interconnective relationships which the datum produces, the code of transmission, and its transmittability. Because it depends on interrelationships, by its very nature information cannot be neutral with respect to how it is processed and perceived. It follows that the process of knowledge and communication have to be unified and represented by a single vector. 3D information is regarded as the core of the knowledge process, because it creates feedback, then cybernetic difference, among the interactor, the scientist and the ecosystem. It is argued that Virtual Reality (both offline and online) represents a possible ecosystem, which is able to host top-down and bottom-up processes of knowledge and communication. In these terms, the past is generated and coded by “a simulation process”. Thus, from the first phases of data acquisition in the field, the technical methodologies and technologies that we use, influence in a decisive way all the subsequent phases of interpretation and communication. In the light of these considerations, what is the relationship between information and representation? How much information does a digital model contain? What sorts of and how many ontologies ought to be chosen to permit an acceptable transmittability? Indeed, our Archaeological communication ought to be understood as a process of validation of the entire cognitive process of understanding and not as a simple addendum to research, or as a dispensable compendium of data.


Cyber-archaeology; Interactivity

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