Archaeological Methods and Theory: Formalization, quantification, mathematics and computerization

The UISPP commission “Archaeological Methods and Theory” brings together all the disciplines and specialties of Archaeology that contribute to build a general theory (an epistemology) and methods to produce archaeological knowledge and validate it, by field surveys, archaeological excavations and laboratory studies. As such, it is concerned by work of historiography, research and synthesis on the following topics: - Formalization of the archaeological problems, - formalization of the description of objects, sites and territories, - formalization of reasoning, - formalization of scientific publication, - Ontologies, - Archaeological Information System, - Mathematical modeling, - Computational simulations, - Statistical studies applied to quantitative archaeology, - Geographic Information Systems, - Archaeological Data retrieval systems, - 3D Archaeology, - Methods of intrasite prospection and of surveys at a large scale, - Archaeological sampling,
- Excavation methods, - Stratigraphic methods, - Methods of relative and absolute chronology - Taphonomic studies, - Typological methods, - Methods of cultural identification, - Paleoanthropometric and paleogenetic methods, - Methods for specific studies in funerary archaeology, - Methods of intrasite spatial analysis - Methods of intersite spatial analysis, - Methods of identification of raw materials and manufactured goods, - Methods for analysis of the distribution and transport networks, - methods of landscape analysis, - Recording and archiving archaeological data, - Methods of archaeology of architecture, - Demographic methods, - Methods of reconstruction of palaeoenvironment and climate, - Archaeozoological and archaeobotanical methods, - Methods to study of geological and geomorphological archaeological sites, - Methods for the study of the prehistoric and Protohistoric art, - Deciphering of the lost writings and languages, - Critical study of the paradigms of archaeology.

La commission « Méthodes et Théorie de l'Archéologie » regroupe toutes les disciplines et spécialités de l’archéologie qui concourent à édifier une théorie générale (une épistémologie) et des méthodes pour produire des connaissances archéologiques et les valider, par la prospection de terrain, la fouille de sites archéologiques et des études en laboratoire. A ce titre, elle est concernée par des travaux d’historiographie, de recherches et de synthèses sur les thèmes suivants : - Formalisation de la problématique archéologique, - Formalisation de la description des objets, des sites et des territoires, - Formalisation des raisonnements, - Formalisation de la publication scientifique, - Ontologies, - Système d’information archéologique, - Modélisation mathématique, - Simulations informatiques, - Algorithmique, - Etudes statistiques appliquées à l’archéologie quantitative, - Systèmes d’Information Géographiques, - Systèmes documentaires, - Archéologie 3D, - Méthodes de prospection intrasite et de prospection à grande échelle, - Echantillonnage, - Méthodes de fouilles, - Méthodes stratigraphiques, - Méthodes de chronologie relative et absolue, - Etudes taphonomiques, - Méthodes typologiques - Méthodes d’identification culturelle, - Méthodes paléoanthropométriques et paléogénétiques, - Méthodes d’études propres à l’archéologie funéraire - Méthodes d’analyse spatiale de l’habitat - Méthodes d’analyse spatiale du territoire, - Méthodes d’identification des matières premières et des produits manufacturés, - Méthodes d’analyse des réseaux de distribution et de transport, - Méthodes d’études du paysage, - Enregistrement et archivage des données archéologiques, - Méthodes d’archéologie du Bâti, - Méthodes démographiques, - Méthodes de reconstitution du paléoenvironnement et du climat, - Méthodes archéozoologiques et archéobotaniques, - Méthodes d’études géologiques et géomorphologiques des sites archéologiques, - Méthodes d’études de l’art préhistorique et protohistorique, - Déchiffrement des écritures et des langues, - Etude critique des paradigmes de l’archéologie.

PRESIDENT: François Djindjian - VICE-PRESIDENT: Paola Moscati - SECRETARY: Katalin Biro - biro.​katalin@​mnm.​hu



Borillo M. & Bourelly editors L. (1976) : Banque de données et méthodes formelles en Archéologie préhistorique et protohistorique. (Commission IV sessions at the IX° UISPP Conference, Nice, september 1976. Preprints, 181 pages.

Cowgill, G. L., Whallon, R. and Ottaway B.S. (editors) (1981) : Manejo de Datos y Métodos Matemáticos de Arqueología. (Commission IV sessions at the X° UISPP conference, Mexico City, october 1981). Preprints.

Voorrips A. & Loving S. Editors (1985) : To pattern the past. (Commission IV conference in Amsterdam, 1983). Pact 11. Strasbourg : Council of Europe.

Aldenderfer, M. S. Editor (1987) : Quantitative Research in Archaeology: Progress and Prospects. SAGE Publications, Newbury Park, CA. (Commission IV conference preceding the 1985 Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Denver, Colorado.)

Voorrips A. Editor (1990) : Mathematics and Information Science in Archaeology : a flexible framework. (Commission IV sessions at the XI° UISPP Conference in Mainz, Germany, september 1987). Studies in modern Archaeology, vol.3. Bonn : Holos Verlag, 1990.

Laxton R.R. & Voorrips A. Editors (1991) : Commission IV sessions at the XII° UISPP Conference, Bratislava, septembre 1991. vol. 1, p. 263-422. Bratislava : Académie des Sciences, 1991.

Johnson I. Editor (1994) : Methods in the mountains. Proceedings of UISPP Commission IV Meeting, Mount Victoria Australia, August 1993. Sydney : Sydney University Archaeological method series, n°2.

Bietti A., Cazella A., Johnson I., Voorrips A. Editors (1996) : Commission IV sessions at the XIII° UISPP Conference. Theoretical and methodological problems. Vol. 1, 240 pages. Forli : Abaco, 1996.

Johnson J. & MacLaren N. Editors (1997) : Vol 5: Archaeological Applications of GIS: Proceedings of Colloquium II, UISPP XIIIth Congress, Forli, Italy (September 1996). ISBN 1 86451 327.

Stančič Z. & Veljanovski T. Editors (2001) : Computing Archaeology for understanding the past. BAR Intern. Series n° 931, 2001. (meeting held jointly with the Computer Applications in Archaeology Group (CAA) in Ljubljana, April 2000).

Cowgill, G. L. & Kintigh K.W. Editors (forthcoming) : When Archaeological Problems Demand Quantitative Methods. (Commission IV conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, November 1998.)

Djindjian F. & Moscati P. Editors (2002) : Proceedings of the commission IV symposia 1.3, 1.5, 1.8 & 1.10. XIV congress of the International union of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences (Liege, Belgium, September 2001). ARCHEOLOGIA E CALCOLATORI, vol.13, 2002. FIRENZE : ALL’INSEGNA DEL GIGLIO

Anonyme, 2004 Les nouveaux problèmes de l’Archéologie ». 2 volumes, Ukraine Academy of Sciences : Kiev, 2004, (in Russian)

Fischer-Ausserer, K., W. Börner, M. Goriany and L. Karlhuber-Vöckl (eds) 2004. Enter the Past. The E-way into the four Dimensions of Cultural Heritage. CAA 2003. Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (BAR International Series 1227). Archaeopress, Oxford

Djindjian F., Noizet H., Costa L., Pouget F. Edts (2008): Webmapping in the Historical and Archaeological Sciences. Archeologia e Calcolatori, n°19, 2008

Djindjian F., Kozlowski J. & Bicho N. Edts. (2009): The concept of territories in European Upper Paleolithic. Le concept de territoires pour les chasseurs cueilleurs du Paléolithique supérieur européen. Proceedings of the XVth Congrès UISPP (Lisbonne, 4-9 septembre 2006), Vol.3, session C16. BAR International Series, n°1938, 262 p.

Djindjian F. & Oosterbeek L. Edts. (2009): Symbolic Space in Prehistoric Art. Espaces symboliques dans l’art préhistorique. Proceedings of the XV Congrès UISPP (Lisbonne, 4-9 septembre 2006), Vol.40, session C28. BAR International Series, n°1999, 120 p.

Archambault de Beaune S., Coolidge F.L., Wynn Th. Edts. (2009): Emergence of cognitive abilities: Cognitive Archaeology and Human Evolution. Cambridge University Press, 185 p.

Velho A. & Kammermans H. (2009) : Technology and Methodology for Archaeological Practice: Practical applications for the past reconstruction. Technologie et Méthodologie pour la pratique en Archéologie: Applications pratiques pour la reconstruction du passé. Proceedings of the XVth World Congress UISPP (Lisbon, 4-9 September 2006) Volume 37, session C04. BAR International Series n°2029, 135p.

Fontana L., Chauvière F.-X. & Bridault A. eds. (2009) : In Search of Total Animal Exploitation. Case Studies from the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic. Proceedings of the XVth UISPP Congress (Lisbon, 4-9 September 2006), vol. 42, Session C61. BAR International Series n°2040

Biro K. edt (2010): Quantitative Methods for the Challenges in 21st Century Archaeology. Conference of the commission 4 UISPP, Budapest, 5-6 June 2009, Archeologia E Calcolatori, 2010, n°21, 400p.

Giligny F., Costa L., Djindjian F., Ciezar, P., Desachy B. (2012). JIAP 2010. Acts of the second Days “Computer and Archaeology in Paris (11-12 of June 2010). Archeologia E Calcolatori, 2012, supplemento n°3, 450p.

Djindjian, F.; Robert, S. (eds. 2013). Understanding Landscapes, from Land Discovery to their Spatial Organization. Oxford: Archaeopress, BAR- IS 2541, XVI UISPP congress series vol. 4

Figueiredo, A.; Rambelli, G.; Calippo, F. (eds. 2014). Underwater Archaeology, Coastal and Lakeside. Oxford: Archaeopress, BAR- IS, XVI UISPP congress series vol. 5

Kamermans, H.; Gojda, M.; Posluschny, A.G. (eds. 2014). A sense of the past: studies in current archaeological applications of remote sensing and non-invasive prospection methods. Oxford: Archaeopress, BAR- IS 2588, XVI UISPP congress series, vol. 7

Costa L., Djindjian F., Giligny F. (2014). JIAP 2012. Acts of the third Days “Computer and Archaeology in Paris (June 2012). Archeologia E Calcolatori, 2014, supplemento n°4, 450p.

Giligny F., Djindjian F., Costa L., Moscati P., Robert S. (eds 2015) : CAA 2014. 21st century Archaeology, concepts, methods and tools, Proceedings of the 42th CAA conference, Paris, April 2014, Oxford, Archaeopress

Download here the meetings and conferences list.

Download here the uispp commission 4 newsletter N°19

Nous avons le regret de vous annoncer le décès de Bert Voorrips (1940-2019), ancien président de la commission 4 (Théorie et méthodes de l’archéologie, anciennement intitulé Informatique et mathématiques appliquées à l’Archéologie) de l’UISPP. Membre depuis 1976, à la création de la commission, il avait succédé à Robert Whallon dans le poste de président. Hamilcar Bieti lui avait succédé à l’occasion du XIII° congrès UISPP de Forli. Bert Voorrips avait organisé en 1984 avec Susan Loving, à Amsterdam, un colloque de la commission 4 en dont les actes ont été publiés en 1985 : "To Pattern the past /ed A. Voorrips, S.H. Loving". En 1986, au IX° congrès UISPP de Mayence, il avait organisé la session de la commission 4 dont le résultat fut un Etat de l’Art publié en 1990 avec les contributions des spécialistes mondiaux de la spécialité : Mathematics and Information science in Archaeology : A flexible framework/ Ed A. Voorrips". Il avait également participé comme enseignant au mémorable Cours intensif européen que nous avions organisé en 1983 à Valbonne et Montpellier sur le thème « Informatique et mathématiques appliquées à l’archéologie ». Bert Voorrips était un membre assidu de la commission 4 et des congrès UISPP depuis 1976. Il était encore des nôtres à Paris en 2018 avec Susan Loving. Hans Kamermans ancien vice-président de la commission 4, nous a fait la gentillesse de nous donner le texte du discours qu’il a donné en mémoire de Bert Voorrips et que nous reproduisons ci-dessous.

François Djindjian Président de l’UISPP

My name is Hans Kamermans, I worked, until recently, for the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University. I was consecutively student, assistant and colleague of Bert. I will tell you some stories about all these phases in our lives. Susan asked me to keep it a little bit cheerful, so I will do my best. I met Bert for the first time halfway the 70th of last century when I started studying Prehistory at the Institute for Pre- and Protohistory, the IPP, the University of Amsterdam. Bert was known as one of the first archaeologists in the Low Countries who used statistics and computers in archaeological research. Part of his training had been in the USA and there he became part of the tradition which we call now processual archaeology. He was a pioneer in Europe with only some colleagues in England and France who on the same level. He was active in international organizations in particular the UISPP commission 4. This was a select international group of famous and highly intelligent researchers. We as students looked up at these people; it was as if there were members of a secret society… Was Bert a good teacher? He was teaching statistics at the IPP. Statistics is a difficult topic and Bert made no effort at all to make life for us students easy. He had started his teaching with an exam to separate the wheat from the chaff if that had been possible. He was very demanding, marks were low and most students did not reach the end of the course. A big part of our time we devoted to correct the mistakes in the book Bert was using, Figuring Anthropology by David Hurst Thomas. What a teacher Bert was! He stood so far above the material that on every page of the handbook he corrected the author! This was academic teaching; this was what you expect at a university! How Bert would have hated the current situation! Soon I became Bert’s student assistant. Now he was not only my teacher but also my boss. Was Bert a good boss? He didn’t give orders; he simply threw you in the deep. We did all kind of research in the field of statistics and databases. In those days, the second half of the seventies, nobody had a computer. Nobody! The University of course had one, a mainframe computer, room full of equipment at SAR A in the Watergraafsmeer. You communicated by way of punch cards, which I had to bring to SARA at the back of my bicycle. Of course we made many mistakes and I had to cycle up and down a lot. In the end we got our own computer at the IPP! A Data General Nova 3; a computer without a screen. You would type your commands on a teletype, a typewriter that also printed the answers of the computer on paper. Very cumbersome, but it worked! Of course the machine got a nickname, and of course it was Ernie. We analyzed Danish grave fields for Klaus Ransborg. We made databases for fieldwork in Syria where you could very clever store your data but it proved to be impossible to retrieve the information. We worked for a database for the legendary dig at the Hazendonk. Those were the days. If Ernie was number crunching or sorting and we had nothing to do we played the computer game Adventure on the mainframe. If we did not know how to continue because a furious dwarf with an axe was blocking our way and the command kill dwarf did not do what we expected it would do, we phoned the help desk in the USA with our so called magic telephone. That was a telephone in our building for which no one seemed to pay the bill. Magic! Many years later the bill popped up at the horror of our financial people. It didn’t help to improve the financial situation of the IPP. Bert plan was to write a book called How to Become a Famous and Useful Archaeologist and he was writing a program to generate random titles for archaeological articles (topic, period, area etc). All you have to afterwards was to write the article belonging to that title. Bert was, together with Roel Brandt and Sander van der Leeuw, one of the angry young staff members from the Assendelver Polder project. In this project sampling played a big role and I still remember the face of one of our English excavators filled with horror when we told him that he could stop excavating the rest of the Iron Age trench, full of pottery and fibulae, because the sample was big enough. “But all these finds”, he stammered. The next day he left the excavation never to return to the Netherlands. My relation to Bert and those days was one of master and companion. He took me to International conferences in the UK and introduced me to famous foreign colleagues. He decided that I would fit better in CAA (Computer Applications at Archaeology) then in UISPP commission 4, the real savants. I think he was right. During the 80th, we directed, together with Susan Holstrom Loving, the Agro Pontino survey, a field survey in a coastal zone south of Rome. Halfway that period I moved to Leiden University and became a colleague of Bert, no longer his student or his assistant. With this project we really wrote history. We did everything according the latest American methods. Of course we had a sampling design and used many other statistics. We wanted a representative sample to make statements about habitation in the Agro Pontino during the Paleolithic. Every other year we took with us a group of students and computers. Of course we collected everything during our field work. We walked on transects from the sea to the mountains, chosen randomly. The first year we were so focused on Paleolithic material that we did not find any Roman remains. Pay attention, here we were, 80 kilometers south of Rome on a fertile plain, and no Roman material what so ever! The next season we returned with students who studied Classical Archaeology and all of a sudden there were Roman sites all over the place. You don’t see what you don’t know! How we loved these field surveys! Hard work during the day, then to the beach, go for a swim, and finally eat and drink a lot of fantastic Italian food. I remember the discussions we had who could drive the bus full of drunken students back to our home in the mountains at the end of the day, through all these hair pins. The three of us were all convinced that we were somber enough to do it… The outcome of the Agro Pontino Survey was impressive; many presentations, articles and books, among them my thesis. Above all we inspired many to follow in our footsteps. For almost twenty years Bert played an important role in my life. I can talk about it for hours. About the parties in Assendelft were we used the tapes with data from Ernie to play on a music cassette deck. It sounded like house. We were so far ahead of everybody. About, but I will not do that. For Bert it doesn’t matter anymore. He now has all the time in the world, but we have to continue. We have to continue in world that is a lot emptier now we will miss such an intelligent and conspicuous person like Bert.

Hans Kamermans Faculty of Archaeology Leiden University