Remaking the Academic Excavation Monograph

Since 2007, the Gabii Project has conducted studies and excavations in the ancient city of Gabii, located about 20 kilometers east of Rome, Italy. The project maintained a commitment to digital field documentation techniques, resulting in the accumulation of a large body of digital data ranging from a database of written field observations to photorealistic 3D models of architecture and stratigraphy.


In 2012, the project began planning the publication of the excavation results. The team aimed to develop effective and innovative ways to publish and share the project’s rich digital dataset, resulting in the “Gabii Goes Digital Project” (GGDP), which ran between 2013 and 2015, thanks to a grant. Approximately $ 50,000 initial from the National Fund for the Humanities Bureau of Digital Humanities. The GGDP provided the opportunity to develop innovative ways of publishing our data and to address broader issues in the communication and publication of non-traditional and digital data sources in the humanities and social sciences. The GGDP led to the prototype for the design of the average republican house Gabii (Opitz et al. 2016). This volume presents the archaeological history of a single Republican house at various levels of detail and refinement intended for different audiences, within a single digital product through a multi-layered textual narrative, a comprehensive searchable database and a 3D rendering. interactive of archaeological remains and reconstructions.

In trying to design a contemporary excavation monograph, we start from the principle that the reader’s experience is fundamental, trying to adhere to gender norms tightly enough to make the product still recognizable as a scholarship and as an excavation report. Although traditionally composed as a long linear prose form, providing a narrative of the excavation strategy, stratigraphic sequence, finds of key materials and various categories of complementary and supporting evidence, along with parallels with evidence from other projects, the excavation reports are rarely read as a story. . Rather, they skim and extract the information required by each reader. Pottery specialists focus on the quantifications and types of pottery, and someone excavating a nearby house jumps straight to descriptions of domestic architecture (McCarthy et al. 1992; Richards and Hardman 2008). This style of reading suggests that search functions and links will be essential and both are well supported by an interactive digital format.

The choice of a digital-only format for the Gabii Project’s series of excavation reports was further encouraged by the project’s substantial investment in digital recording and media, especially collections of photorealistic 3D models and images. The presence of an asset itself can serve as a pressure to take advantage of it, forcing us to incorporate our digital archive, including visual and 3D components, into publications. Digital publication of excavation archives is not new and many good examples can be found in archives such as The Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR), OpenContext and Archaeological Data Service (ADS), as well as individual university archives (Kansa 2016; Marwick 2017). However, most of these files remain relatively separate from monographs and reports presenting those same excavations and are provided or linked as a supplement or appendix (see the discussion in the context of the LEAP Project [Richards et al. 2011]; for a A recent and rich example of linking of reports and files, see Milner et al.2018a and 2018b). The publication of the excavation files should, we argue and we have done in this volume, be an integral part of the “main” publication. An expression of this is the presence of the interactive 3D model, which by default occupies half of the screen when reading, which contains the spatial data file in the form of 3D models and detected boundaries of stratigraphic units. The interactive presentation of the 3D file next to the text and the relative scarcity of descriptions

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