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Ancient Mediterranean craft traditions to lead to new computing paradigm

Reconstructing a Greek pot (a local imitation of a Corinthian type perfume or oil vessesl) dating to the early 5th c. BCE, found at the site of San Salvatore, Comune di Bova, Calabria, Italy.

Ancient Mediterranean craft traditions to lead to new computing paradigm

Modern computing to help archaeologists understand ancient knowledge transfer and how it will help future computational systems

Issued 04 August 2008

• JPEG images available from pt91@le.ac.uk . Images can viewed by clicking here

A University of Leicester-led project, in partnership with the Universities of Exeter and Glasgow, combining archaeology and computer science has received £1.75M from the Leverhulme Trust for a major programme of research linking the ancient archaeological past with the development of a new paradigm for future global computing environments.

'Tracing Networks: Craft Traditions in the Ancient Mediterranean and Beyond' received the award under the theme of ‘Networks’.

Professor Lin Foxhall, Deputy Head of the School of Archaeology and Ancient History at Leicester and principal investigator of the project, explained that what brought the consortium together was a number of challenging questions.

She asked: “How do we gather knowledge about how societies came to operate the way they do? We can’t travel in time and observe how complex networks evolved, but we can collect, organise and interpret their remains. And, we can apply what we learn from the past to help us address pressing issues we face today.”

‘Tracing Networks’ combines archaeology, archaeological science and computer science to investigate networks across and beyond the Mediterranean region, encompassing Greek, Punic and other peoples, from the late bronze age through classical times (c.1500-c.200 BCE).

The research focuses on crafts-people, asking how and why traditions, techniques and technologies changed and crossed cultural boundaries. The period under investigation saw major developments, including the emergence of states, involving new ways of organising production and consumption.

Professor Foxhall commented: “We look at objects ranging from cooking wares and coins to wall paintings and loom weights. We trace the links between the people who made, used, and taught others to make them.

“By investigating many crafts, we explore the impact different technologies had on each other. For example, making a cooking pot isn’t so easy – how do craft workers come up with good ‘recipes’, shapes, and firing techniques for making convenient heat-resistant pottery.

“Where do they source their materials and sell their wares; and how do the recipes themselves travel, change, and improve?”

The researchers will apply their understanding of knowledge transfer in antiquity to propose new computing paradigms based on code and data mobility over wide area networks (usually known as global ubiquitous computing).

These provide the means for software components to take advantage of resources available in other nodes or of faster or more reliable distribution channels enabled by better connectivity, improving the quality of provided services.

“By studying the connectivity of ancient craft-production and exchange we aim to find good metaphors for new modalities of interaction and production in global ubiquitous computing. By harnessing the past, we aim to find new solutions for future computational systems that can operate in resource-limited environments,” said Professor Foxhall.

Note to editors: Further information is available as follows:

University of Leicester:

Prof. Lin Foxhall (PI), School of Archaeology and Ancient History, lf4@le.ac.uk, 0116 252 2773

Prof. José Fiadeiro, Department of Computer Science, jose@‎mcs.le.ac.uk

University of Exeter:

Prof. Anthony Harding, School of Archaeology and Geography, a.f.harding@exeter.ac.uk

University of Glasgow:

Prof. Peter van Dommelen, Department of Archaeology, p.vandommelen@archaeology.arts.gla.ac.uk‎

Investigators:

  • Prof. Lin Foxhall (PI), School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester
  • Prof Colin Haselgrove, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester
  • Dr Ian Whitbread, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester
  • Dr Ann Brysbaert, Department of Museum Studies, University of Leicester
  • Prof. José Fiadeiro, Department of Computer Science, University of Leicester
  • Dr Emilio Tuosto, Department of Computer Science, University of Leicester
  • Dr Effie Law, Department of Computer Science, University of Leicester
  • Dr Peter van Dommelen, Department of Archaeology, University of Glasgow
  • Prof. Anthony Harding, School of Archaeology and Geography, University of Exeter

The Leverhulme Trust

The Leverhulme Trust is one of the largest all subjects providers of research funding in the UK, distributing funds of some £40 million every year. For further information about all of the schemes that the Leverhulme Trust fund please visit their website at www.leverhulme.ac.uk

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