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On Earth, every human action leaves traces. Some things happened before or after other things. These traces—and their relative associations—assemble into contexts; every new event in the history of a site leaves new contexts which build up over time. Archaeologists peel the contexts backwards, removing them from most recent to latest. They look for patterns and interrelationships through and between those contexts, which enable a vision, a story, of the site to emerge.

So far, so good. But there’s archaeology off-world now. How do you excavate a contemporary archaeological site like a space station, when NASA won’t let archaeologists be astronauts? I am not a space archaeologist; I’m more what you might call space-archaeology adjacent. In this talk, I discuss how I came to collaborate with the International Space Station Archaeology Project ( led by Justin Walsh and Alice Gorman, and the question that animates my involvement: how do you record archaeology in space, anyway? One of the pleasures of academic work is being asked to suddenly think sideways about a problem you’ve never really considered. The answer, I think, involves image annotation, machine vision, networks, and graphs.

The Material Digital Humanities seminar is co-hosted by the Digital Humanities Research Hub, University of London, UK, and Star-UBB Institute of Advanced Studies, University Babeș-Bolyai, Cluj Napoca, Romania.

All welcome. This event is free to attend, but booking is required.