Applied Informatics: Digital Tools for Archaeology and Bioarchaeology



Archaeological and bioarchaeological sciences have embarked on a path of development that is now indelibly linked to, and dependent upon, applied modern technologies. It is unthinkable to conceive a research project that does not support informatics or an excavation that does not extensively use electronic or computerized surveys. Nowadays, stratigraphic excavation must employ a GIS linked to a geodatabase, or surveys carried out with precision electronic instruments. Similarly, no anthropological laboratory can acquire data without the support of an electronic archive, and no institution can disclose its research without relying on the Web. All of these tools are taken for granted, but only few professionals are able to use them skillfully and even fewer can develop them from scratch. Indeed, methodological issues have often hindered such an approach to the discipline, and most archaeology college students complete their training without possessing even basic skills in applied technologies.

Among the issues hindering the adoption of applied technologies, it is worth mentioning the following:

  • The vastness of the field covered by the disciplines of applied computing, which can intimidate and discourage the neophyte from undertaking a training course.
  • The technical language characterizing applied technologies is very distant from humanistic epistemology, often underlying archaeological thought
  • The difficulty intrinsic in turning theory into practice. In spite of the existence of numerous published references, only few people are able to apply the methodology of survey, reconstruction or, more simply, of storage to a specific project.
  • The constant evolution of information technology, which implies that analysis protocols, software or methods may become obsolete after a few years. In this sense, even those who already have acquired a certain degree of proficiency over the years should periodically update and improve their weaknesses.

In order to address and overcome these issues we have structured a preparatory course centered on the acquisition of basic working knowledge of the main applied technologies used in archaeological information management. Upon completion of the course, participants will possess the skills necessary understand a wide spectrum of practical knowledge, which they may apply to a variety of research and professional situations.

The course will be based on certain educational principles:

  • Provide students with an education aimed at learning issues collateral, but related to, their chosen field of study without notional overload. We therefore intend to use the parameters of a humanistic language that avoids computer technicalities unrelated to the archaeological-anthropological training of the participants.
  • Apply the concepts presented through educational workshops and field exercises directly to actual archaeological cases.
  • Use the latest generation of computing resources and, where possible, open source software.

May 2-13, 2016

Laboratories of the University of Pisa and archaeological site of Badia Pozzeveri.

The course is open to up to 10 undergraduate and graduate students in archeology, anthropology or allied disciplines from any country and institution.


The course will be offered in English (with optional Italian translation) in the following formats:

  • Lectures
  • Workshops
  • Field exercises


  • Earning of 6 ECTS through the University of Pisa
  • Certificate of participation from IRLAB
  • Certificate of participation from the University of Pisa


Housing is not provided by the Summer School; however, an help to find an accommodation in private apartments or in rooms provided by the University of Pisa at subsidized price will be provided. The price for an accommodation in a single/double room is on average 300 euro for a month.

Participants in the Summer School will be provided with a “dining card” to access the students’ cafeteria for lunch and dinner. Only 14 paid lunches are  included, the other meals at the students’ cafeteria of the University of Pisa costs €4.  Otherwise, students can prepare their own meals.





The lab will be held during May 2016 in Tuscany, Italy, in the laboratories of the University of Pisa.

Date Lectures hours
Monday 5/2 Introduction to the use of humanistic Informatics in archaeology 2
Survey methodology and data acquisition 5
Tuesday 5/3 Principles of vector drawing in CAD 7
Wednesday 5/4 CAD exercises 7
Thursday 5/5 Principles of Archaeological GIS 7
Friday 5/6 GIS exercises 7
Monday 5/9 Photogrammetry and 3D modeling 7
Tuesday 5/10 3D exercises 7
Wednesday 5/11 3D exercises 7
Thursday 5/12 Comprehensive exercises 6
Friday 5/13 On-site practical survey 8


Francesco Coschino, MPh
Assistant: Alessandro Cariboni


Cost: 700 $

The cost includes Summer School activities (lectures, laboratory activities, staff costs), a “dining card” to access the students’ cafeteria, including 14 paid lunches, the visit to the archaeological excavation of Badia Pozzeveri (train ticket and lunch). International travel to Italy and the notebook are not included in these fees and is the students’ sole responsibility.

Admission is limited to 10 students.


Should minimum attendance requirement of 5 students not be met, course will be cancelled.

The Summer School has no formal prerequisites; students will be fully trained for all the activities they experience. Students interested in applying to the Summer School must fill out and submit the online Application Form.

The application deadline is April 1st, 2016. However, applications are reviewed as soon as they are received and successful applicants accepted right away.

Curriculum vitae and/or reference letters (e-mails) may be requested. The staff reserves the right to verify any of the information reported in the application form and request supporting documentation (e.g., advising reports; references) in its sole discretion. Staff will make final decisions regarding enrolment.

Acceptance will be communicated by e-mail. Upon acceptance, students will receive detailed instructions on how to submit required documentation and payments:

•  Proof of Insurance: students must have valid international health and injury insurance (made available through student travel centers) and must provide the insurance provider’s contact information, as well as the policy number, including a proof of tetanus vaccination (or booster) within the last 10 years

•  Release form: all students must read and accept the terms of the IRLAB Participation Agreement to participate in the program; a signed release form must be submitted prior to the start date of the Summer School.

•  Fee Payment: Students will be required to pay fees in full within April 1st (or within two weeks of admission after  April 1st). In case of student withdrawal, all fees minus a non-refundable deposit of $350 will be refunded until April 10, 2016. After April 10, 2016 fees will not be refunded. In the unlikely event of course cancellation, fees will be refunded in full (any applicable processing fees may not be refunded). Failure to provide all the above-mentioned documents and payment within the terms specified at the time of admission will constitute an automatic forfeiture of the student’s place in the summer school.

Failure to provide all the above-mentioned documents and payment within the terms specified at the time of admission will constitute an automatic forfeiture of the student’s place in the summer school.

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