Pruning open-archaeo

I’ve been working with Joe Roe to analyze open-archaeo to better understand the community of practice around archaeological software development. This prompted us to go back and remove records that are arguably out of scope. We identified a few dozen items that don’t really fit with our objective of assembling software made by archaeologists for archaeological purposes. Many of these are general-purpose tools that happen to be relevant to archaeological use-cases, and whose contributors and primary maintainers are largely, if not entirely, comprised of non-archaeologists (e.g. xraylib, QField). Others deal with specific processes that form parts of methods from other disciplines that archaeologists have come to work with and rely on, such as genetics, ecology and earth science, but which seem too distant from archaeology to warrant inclusion in open-archaeo.

It’s a bit jarring to make such a big update — especially one that removes around 15% of the dataset — so soon after we published a data paper about it. However, that paper was meant to communicate the data collection methods, the data structure, and the rationale, purpose and value that underlie open-archaeo and its continued development. We have always been very clear and upfront that this is a live project, but it’s still a bit awkward trying to align our work with more traditional forms of scholarly communication that are suited for more stable outcomes than what continuous and open-source projects afford.

You can see the changes in this git commit. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or concerns. This is still a community effort and I could not do this without all of your contributions 🙂

open-archaeo data paper

Today, Joe Roe and I published a data paper in the Journal of Open Archaeology Data on open-archaeo, the comprehensive list of open source archaeological software and resources that we maintain. In this paper, we outline the data collection methods and conceptual model, and highlight open-archaeo’s value as a public resource and as a dataset for examining the emerging community of practice surrounding open source software development in research contexts. In fact, open-archaeo serves as the basis for an extended dataset in a study we are currently working on (investigating collaborative coding experiences) and we think there is a lot of potential for additional analysis in the future.

Open-archaeo: A Resource for Documenting Archaeological Software Development Practices

Open-archaeo ( is a comprehensive list of open software and resources created by and for archaeologists. It is a living collection—itself an open project—which as of writing includes 548 entries and associated metadata. Open-archaeo documents what kinds of software and resources archaeologists have produced, enabling further investigation of research software engineering and digital peer-production practices in the discipline, both under-explored aspects of archaeological research practice.

Conceptual model documenting relationships between data recorded in open-archaeo and other relevant information in the source material and elsewhere on the web.
Conceptual model documenting relationships between data recorded in open-archaeo and other relevant information in the source material and elsewhere on the web.

Recap: Digital Archaeology Bern 2023

Last week I travelled to Switzerland to participate in Digital Archaeology Bern (2023). The conference was themed “advancing open research into the next decade” and served as a way to take stock of developments since the 2012 World Archaeology Special Issue on Open Archaeology and Ben Marwick’s influential 2017 paper Computational Reproducibility in Archaeological Research, which came out 10 and 5 years ago, respectively. I think that the conference was a remarkable success, and all 50-60 participants were actively engaged in critical discussions on what it means to do open archaeology. You can find my slides and presentation notes on GitHub (

Although there were some elements of this, the conference was not just superficial open-boosting. Most, if not, all participants highlighted challenges and unanticipated implications of being open that they have recently experienced. Looking back, a few themes stood out:

  • Thinking about value proposition that openness entails, which necessarily involves accounting for specific use cases and imagined future stakeholders.
  • Thinking about the needs and values of all stakeholders involved in doing archaeology, including local and Indigenous communities, land-owners, archivists, government agencies, and related parties, and what openness means for them.
  • Thinking about how we might reconcile our values as archaeologists with the values demanded and afforded by the infrastructures and communities with whom we must work.

I got to meet so many interesting people. I already knew many of them from social media, virtually-hosted talks, or brief in-person interactions at the CAA back in 2018, and it was really great to put a face to each person’s name. Most serious work in digital archaeology, especially productive work developing open data infrastructures, is being done in Europe, and I was very grateful to have this opportunity to connect with that crowd (especially since I’m currently entering the post-PhD academic job market). I think my paper was well-received and valued, and it opened the door to many interesting discussions during the breaks between sessions and elsewhere.

I was also able to tack on a couple days at the start to work with Joe Roe on an article we’ve been writing for the better part of 3 years, about collaborative aspects of open source software development among archaeologists. We presented a paper at the 2021 CAA conference on the composition of open-archaeo, the list of open source software and resources made by and for archaeology that I maintain, and we’re trying to expand on it a little bit more with some network analysis type stuff. So this time together really gave us an opportunity to discuss what we really want out of the paper, to actually talk through the results, and generally helped motivate us to get this done. We still have some work cut out for us, but that probably warrants its own blog post.

Anyway, here are some cool pictures from the trip!