Microsoft

Digital Archaeology

My digital archaeology work seeks to document the formative years of digital culture and raise the profile of digital preservation. My main focus is Web 1.0 but I’m also interested in early video games, computer art, and CGI. This is my day:

6.10am Woken up by my one-year-old. He’s obviously very excited about the Day of Archaeology 2014.

7.05am Arrange a courier to pick up an original Ruby Red iMac I bought on Ebay. I just need the elusive Blue Dalmation (the spotty one) and I’ll have a full set of the original 13 colours. Yes, I’m a geek.

8.10am Put in an order for Hearth, a toddler proof LED fireplace and future digital artefact (maybe) made by John Popadic and Harry Denholm.

9.30am Bought four brand new CRT monitors, still in their boxes.

10:20 Headed to The Barbican where I’ve curated the Digital Archaeology section of the Digital Revolution exhibition. Giving Paul Alexandrou a tour, a friend of mine exploring the impact of the social web on language.

Digital Archaeology at The Barbican

Digital Archaeology at The Barbican

11:00 Into the exhibition. The first exhibit is Ralph Baer’s Magnovox Odyssey, the first games console and the inspiration for Atari’s Pong. It was also licensed by Nintendo in Japan, their first venture into video games. Two giants of the video games industry owe their success to this plastic box. Nice one, Ralph! He also invented Simon, the first rhythm action game, making it Guitar Hero’s grandaddy.

11:10 Next up is Ed Catmull and Fred Parke’s student project from 1972, A Computer Animated Hand. Ed and Fred went on to found the company that became Pixar. 

11.15 The Aspen Moviemap is playing on the video wall: in 1978 a bunch of MIT students pretty much made Google Street View.

11.20 Then on to Game & Watch, the first mass-market clamshell product and Tetris on Gameboy – the first/ultimate casual game?

11.25 Quick look at the machines that defined the sound of the ’80s – The Fairlight CMI, LinnDrum, and Atari ST.

11.35 Paying our respects to the face that launched the Apple Mac, Susan Kare’s interpretation of the Japanese woodblock print, Lady Combing Hair. Susan Kare then went to NeXT, where she designed the interface that TBL used to make the first website, then on to Microsoft to design the deck of cards used in Solitaire and then a suite of Facebook icons. Not bad, Susan!

Digital Archaeology at The Barbican

Digital Archaeology at The Barbican

11.45 Another iconic image of a woman used to sell computers to young men – a portrait of Debbie Harry created by Andy Warhol on the Amiga 1000. One year earlier Steve Jobs had taught him to use a mouse at Sean Lennon’s 9th birthday party.

11.50 A glance at the Quantel Paintbox, the machine used to make Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” video (directed by Steve Barron who also directed the A-ha vid “Take On Me” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” before directing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).

11.55 Net Art! JODI, Olia Lialina and Alexei Shulgin, Masters of the Temporary Autonomous Zone, as Shulgin called the Web in the mid-’90s (my favourite pieces in the show).

12.15 Loads more in between, but another favourite is João Wilbert’s Exquisite Clock, a crowd-sourced, er clock made by João and my old lecturer Andy Cameron at Fabrica.

12.20 The final exhibit is Angry Birds, which signifies the end of digital culture (digital culture just became culture once everyone started carrying a pocket-sized PC with them wherever they went.

Digital Revolution continues with works by Umbrellium,Universal Everything, Chris Milk, Aaron Koblin, Björk, Daniel Rozin, Zachary Lieberman, and a load more of incredible creatives. These are the real stars of the show; my digital archaeology section tries to bring to life the culture they emerged from.

Now over to my studio In Hackney Wick, opposite the Olymic Park, where I have ten old machines to boot up and test.

14.15 Lime Green iMac G3 – doesn’t work – darn

14.35 Tangerine Orange iMac G3 – can’t find the hard drive – not a good start

14.55 Twentieth Anniversary Mac – I know this one works, running Netscape 3 – beautiful

15.20 Snow White iMac G3 – works but a bit beaten up, running OS X, need to downgrade to OS 8.5

15.45 Graphite iMac G3 – works, also running OS X, need to downgrade

16.05 Flower Power iMac G3 – please let this one work- yes! Also running OS X, darn these people who update their machines

16.25 Bondi Blue iMac G3 – works, also been upgraded

16.55 Packard Bell – not a Mac for a change – nice, Windows 98 and Exporer 5 – loving the Pipes screensaver

Digital Archaeology at Fish Island Labs

Digital Archaeology at Fish Island Labs

17.15 Two Macintosh Performa 5200s – both working running Mac OS 7 – more like it!

17.30 It’s Friday! Having drinks with my new colleagues at Fish Island Labs!

A Day in Japanese Archaeological Laboratory

I’m an archaeologist living and working in Japan. I’m a researcher of Meiji University Archaeological Investigation Unit. This unit is organized for preventive excavation within university campus.

In Japan, all archaeological sites are conserved under the national law. Local governments develop a registration map of archaeological sites and check all land development. In order to keep to the law, all developer and constructor – not only commercial sector but also public/administrative sector- must make an effort to conserve archaeological sites within their development/ construction area. If they cannot change their plans, they must do excavation. More than 95% of excavations carried out in Japan are this type – preventive excavation…documentation before destruction of sites for those 40yrs.

As you know Japan has large population- about 120 million- in small land. Most parts of our landscape are hilly or mountainous, so our living spaces are definitely limited and overlaid on ancestor’s lived space. This is the cause of so many excavations – more than 8,000 in average/year and the peak was about 12,000 in 1996…- have done every year.

In 2004, our project was started. It was for the construction of new buildings of the university affiliated junior-high and high school. At first we did survey and sounding in total 40,000 sq-meters area, then begun excavation in 18,000 sq-meters area. The excavation continued for 2 years and 5 months – more than 800 days. We unveiled Modern Age (including Imperial Japanese Army and occupation Allied Force sites during WWII ), Jomon Age (mostly Middle Jomon, 6-4.5ka) and the Upper Palaeolithic Age (32-16ka). Now I’m constructing web-site for our excavation (https://sites.google.com/site/japarchresources/ :it’s not completed) .

aerial view of our excavation area in 2005

aerial view of our excavation area in 2005

excavation of the Upper Palaeolithic living floor

excavation of the Upper Palaeolithic living floor

excavation of a shelter for air fighter of Imperial Japanese Army during WWII

excavation of a shelter for air fighter of Imperial Japanese Army during WWII

documentation of the Late Pleistocene staratigraphy

documentation of the Late Pleistocene staratigraphy

Our excavation was finished in Dec,2007. However it means finishing just the first step only in the field… we have more than 500 containers filled with artefacts such as: 5,000 potsherd and 40,000 pebbles of Jomon, 25,000 lithics and 90,000 pebbles of the Upper Palaeolithic, more than 200GB of digital images and measurement datum by total station system… and so on.

Since 2008, we’re engaging with the post-excavation procedure and it will continue until 2015. We have published the 1st volume of our excavation report this May and will publish other 5 volumes over 5 years.

This is our background. And here I show our habitual day in post-excavation laboratory of our investigation unit. Now we’re tackling with Jomon and the Upper Palaeolithic materials.

The first section is for Upper Palaeolithic pebble refitting work. We uncovered more than 300 stone heaps composed with 90,000 pebbles. Most of pebbles are burnt and fragments. These stone heaps are assumed for cooking, as in the Pacific ethnography.

This work has started in 2010 and will continue for the next 2 years. There are many pebbles in containers waiting for their turn…

Upper Palaeolithic pebble refitting

Upper Palaeolithic pebble refitting

Upper Palaeolithic pebble refitting(2)

Upper Palaeolithic pebble refitting(2)

These workers are from the commercial company engaging in preventive archaeology.

more pebbles are waiting their turn...

more pebbles are waiting their turn...

all containers are fulfilled with material

all containers are fulfilled with material

The second section is for Upper Palaeolithic stone tools (lithic technology) refitting. This work has started in 2007 and will finished this year.

Basically we start from distinguishing chipped stone tools and debitages into petrological classification and making sub-divisions acording to their colour, texture, micro-structure and other characteristics. This is very empiric but very efficient method. Up to now we have documented more than 6,000 cases of refitting in 25,000 specimens of lithic material. In some cases, we can reconstruct original shape of nodule and decode total sequence of knapping technology. Of course, to determine source of raw material, we apply archaeo-scientific analysis.

Lithic refitting work(1)

Lithic refitting work(1)

Lithic refitting work(2)

Lithic refitting work(2)

arrange debitages with raw material, texture and other character

arrange debitages with raw material, texture and other character

documenting which pieces are and how they are refitting in sequence

documenting which pieces are and how they are refitting in sequence

The third section is computer application for managing the database, drawing maps and artefacts, geo-spatial analysing and editing publications. We use Microsoft(R) Access(2007)(R) for database managing; Inteli CAD(6.0J) for arranging and original drawings measurement survey datum, 3-dimensional distribution maps of artefacts; Adobe(R) Illustrator(CS5)(R) for drawing artefacts and finising maps and other figures for publication; Arc GIS<sup>(R)</sup>10 for geo-spatial analysing; Adobe(R) InDesign(CS4)(R) for editing publications. Some part of these computer works are put out to commercial companies, those which have specific technique and systems.

computers in our laboratory

computers in our laboratory

a drawing of stone tool (Upper Palaeolithic backed blade)

a drawing of stone tool (Upper Palaeolithic backed blade)

drawing distribution map of Upper Palaeolithic lithic concentration

drawing distribution map of Upper Palaeolithic lithic concentration

database for chipped stone tools of Upper Palaeolithic

database for chipped stone tools of Upper Palaeolithic

geo-spatial analysing of Jomon inter-site components

geo-spatial analysing of Jomon inter-site components

Post-excavation laboratory working continues…however I hope to go back to the field…yep I should!!!!