Blog & News

Deep Impact (through the barricades)

23 noviembre 2016

In Archaeology, the Academic Institutions and the Labour market are often on different sides of the barricade.

This happens even if archaeological research has developed ICT tools supporting the field and documentation work of archaeologists (GIS and 3D scanning, for example, are common working tools in many archaeological campaigns), and the number of professional archaeologists far surpasses that of academics. Several studies such as DISCO (Discovering Archaeologists in Europe) have permitted to estimate that approximately 33,000 professional archaeologists now work across Europe as a whole, representing 0.006% of the combined total workforces of Europe. The largest estimated populations of archaeologists are in the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy, with more than 4,000 individual archaeologists working in each of these countries. Outside Europe, 11,350 people works as professional archaeologists in the USA (2010), 6,255 in Japan (2008), and between 500 and 600 in Australia.

The question is: can an archaeological project funded by the European Union have a deep impact on labour market?

Under Horizon 2020 Reflective Societies call, the European Union is funding Innovation Action (IA) projects. Innovation Actions are more focused on closer-to-the-market activities such as prototyping, testing, demonstrating, piloting, scaling-up etc. aimed at producing new or improved products or services, and include limited research and development activities. This means that Innovation Action are market oriented, and require the creation of consortia of partners from industry and academia.

ArchAIDE is funded by the European Union, under H2020 Reflective-6-2015 call, and, as explained here, aims to create a new system for the automatic recognition of archaeological pottery from excavations around the world. Today, this characterisation and classification of ceramics is carried out manually, through the expertise of specialists and the use of analogue catalogues held in archives and libraries. The goal of ArchAIDE is to optimise and economise this process, making knowledge accessible wherever archaeologists are working. In simple terms, ArchAIDE project aims to impact the professional archaeological labour market.

Indeed, one of the purposes of ArchAIDE is to move archaeologists from spending time on routine tasks, like recognition and classification. Given that the majority of the archaeological costs are on the salary costs, which represent 60% of the costs of running an archaeological organisation, the automation of routine processes could reduce time and costs for archaeological companies, and (leaving unchanged the total costs) professional archaeologists could be paid to produce new knowledge or could invest more money in R&D, bringing positive effects on the whole sector.

Whether ArchAIDE will reach this scope or not will depend more on the ability to gain the support of the archaeological professional community, than on technical issue.

We hope to be able to do it.

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Tim Evans