From Digital Archaeology to Data-Centric Archaeological Research
Since the end of the 20th century the widespread use of digital applications in archaeology has legitimized their inclusion in the archaeological toolbox. Together with archaeological sciences, databases, GIS and other computer-based methods are nowadays present in every respectable archaeological investigation. This makes archaeology a peculiar discipline, where the scientific method combines with the historical one to produce new knowledge. However, the large availability of archaeological data creates the risk of a data deluge and may suggest using online information just to collect previous interpretations rather than to re-use the data supporting them. A ‘Grand Challenges’ list compiled some years ago includes important research questions that undergird contemporary issues and require an appropriate digital methodology to be addressed. The present paper discusses the benefits, or better the absolute need, of a data-centric methodology to address large-scale research. It argues that an acritical use of the so-called ‘Big Data’ approach may be questionable. It suggests how the combination of artificial intelligence with human intelligence is the key to progress into the understanding of phenomena of paramount societal importance for researchers and for the public at large.