Critique of Archaeological Reason
1. Introduction to the website

Publications and presentations

Giorgio Buccellati – May 2017

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The protracted history of the project was punctuated by a series of presentations and publications, through which the basic methodological guidelines were described and examples of its implementation were given. The whole process was closely linked to the progress of the work on the Urkesh website, and, within it, of the Urkesh Global Record (UGR) in particular.

Here, I will refer specifically to those items that have a more direct relevance for the Critique proper.

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The field setting at Tell Mozan offered the first regular opportunity not only to present the UGR system in its operational mode, but also to explain the methodological and even the philosophical issues that underlie it. This applied naturally to staff members, but also to the numerous colleagues who came frequently for field visits to the site. Understandably, the interest in the cultural results of the excavations took pride of place – yet, the methodological dimension was always prominently stressed.

A good example of this was the first “official” presentation of the full digital record of an excavation unit. It was in 1998, on the occasion of a visit by Peter Pfälzner and Heike Dohmann and their team, with the intent of showing them my approach to field recording, in preparation for their eventual joining us in the exacavation project. This was before the ready availability of an HTML format, and it found place in a CD (the original content of which will be published in the Urkesh website). What is of relevance for our current purpose was the statement in the Preface to the CD, as follows:

... the volume ... belongs within the Urkesh Stratigraphic Record since the stratigraphic documentation is indeed considered closed, whereas the typological component, ample though it may be in this particular instance, can be developed ever more fully. It bears tribute to our underlying philosophy, that the emplacement data, as first observed, should be presented as primary documentary evidence to which nothing more can, or should, ever be added, by either further excavation or further reflection.

Nine years later, in 2007, we presented a symposium at the Society for American Archaeology in Austin, TX, with the title: “Excavation and Web Applications: Real Time Link between recording and Publication: Digital Archaeology at Ancient Urkesh.” Three of the papers discussed theoretical aspects that are of interest here: “Theoretical Principles and Website Applications” (be the present writer), “Stratigraphy and the Dynamic Build-up of the Record” (by Federico A. Buccellati) and “Integration of Typological Analysis” (by Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati). The discussants, Willeke Wendrich and Monica Smith, helped in highlighting some of the distinctive features of the approach.

A number of other presentations were given in various venues, especially to small groups of colleagues at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology and in public lectures of which I will remember especially, for their theoretical import, the ones at

  • the Consiglio Nazionale della Ricerche, Roma, Italy – November 4, 2003 (by F. A. Buccellati, N. Dell’Unto and M. Forte)
  • the Ancient Orient Museum, Tokyo, Japan – March 18, 2006
  • the University of Florence, Italy – November 9, 2006
  • the University of Palermo, Italy – June 8, 2007
  • the University of Milan, Italy – December 4, 2009
  • the University of Pavia, Italy – December 11, 2009

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With reference to the digital approach to the Urkesh material, I have published several articles that deal with the theoretical aspects of the project, and are thus relevant to our concerns here. However, I have given no sustained presentation of the theory before the publication of the CAR volume.

  • “Beyond Clay and Beyond Paper,” in Backdirt Fall 2002 / Winter 2003, pp. 4-5.
  • “A Browser Edition of the Royal Palace of Urkesh: Principles and Presuppositions,” in P. Butterlin et al. (eds.), Les Espaces Syro-Mésopotamiens: Dimensions de l’experience humaine au proche-orient ancien, 2006, pp. 49-55.
  • “On (e)-tic and -emic,” in Backdirt, Winter 2006, pp. 12-13.
  • “Non-linear Archaeology,” in Backdirt, 2007, pp. 37-39.
  • “The Ceramics of Urkesh: Statistics for a Browser Edition,” Fundstellen. Gesammelte Schriften zur Archäologie und Geschichte Altvorderasiens ad honorem Hartmut Kühne, Wiesbaden. Harrassowitz, 2008, pp. 315-326 (with M. Kelly-Buccellati).
  • “The Question of Digital Thought,” for V. Ivanov Festschrift, Moscow, 2010, pp. 46-55.
  • “Digital Edition and Graphemic Analysis of the Ebla Texts,” in L. Milano, Archivi Reali di Ebla (ARED), Edizione Digitale, 1. Cybernetica Mesopotamica, CD 4. Malibu: Undena Publications, 2011.
  • “Towards A Linguistic Model For Archaeology,” in Revue d’assyriologie et d’archéologie orientale, 2012/1 Vol. 106, p. 37-43.
  • “The Digital Itinerary of the Ebla Texts,” in Paola Corò et al.(eds.), Libiamo ne’ lieti calici. Ancient Near Eastern Studies Presented to Lucio Milano on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday by Pupils, Colleagues and Friends, Alter Orient und Altes Testament, Vol. 436, Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2016. pp. 703-719.

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