Citizen archaeologists. Online collaborative research about the human past

Andrew Bevan, Pett Daniel, Bonacchi Chiara, Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert, Daniel Lombraña González, Rachael Sparks, Jennifer Wexler, Neil Wilkin


Archaeology has a long tradition of volunteer involvement but also faces considerable challenges in protecting and understanding a geographically widespread, rapidly dwindling  and every-threatened cultural resource. This paper considers a newly launched, multi-application crowd-sourcing project called MicroPasts, whose focus is on enabling both community-led and massive online contributions to high quality research in archaeology, history and heritage. We reflect on preliminary results from this initiative with a focus on the technical challenges, quality control issues and contributors motivations.


crowd-sourcing, crowd-funding,transcription,computer vision

Full Text:



Allahbakhsh, M., Benatallah, B., Ignjatovic, A., Motahari-Nezhad, H.R., Bertino, E. and S. Dustdar 2013. Quality control in crowdsourcing systems. Issues and directions, Internet Computing IEEE 17.2: 76-81. URL:

Bevan, A. 2012a. Spatial methods for analysing large-scale artefact inventories, Antiquity 86.332: 492-506.

Bevan, A. 2012b. Value, authority and the open society. Some implications for digital and online archaeology, in C. Bonacchi (ed.) Archaeology and Digital Communication: Towards Strategies of Public Engagement: 1-14. London: Archetype.

Bevan, A., Li, X.J., Martinón-Torres, M., Green, S., Xia, Y., Zhao, K., Zhao, Z., Ma, S., Cao, W. and T. Rehren in press. Computer vision, archaeological classification and China’s terracotta warriors, Journal of Archaeological Science.

Bland, R. 2005. Rescuing our neglected heritage: the evolution of the Government’s policy on Portable Antiquities and Treasure, Cultural Trends 14.4: 257-96.

Bonacchi, C. (ed.) 2012. Archaeology and Digital Communication: Towards Strategies of Public Engagement, London: Archetype.

Bonacchi, C. 2014. Understanding the public experience of archaeology in the UK and Italy: a call for a sociological movement in Public Archaeology, European Journal of Post-Classical Archaeologies 4: 377-400.

Brohan, P., Allan, R., Freeman, J.E., Waple, A.M., Wheeler, D., Wilkinson, C. and S. Woodruff 2009. Marine observations of old weather, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 90.2: 219-230.

Causer, T., Tonra, J., and V. Wallace 2012. Transcription maximized; expense minimized? Crowdsourcing and editing The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham, Literary and Linguistic Computing 27.2: 119-137.

Ducke, B., Score, D., and J. Reeves 2011. Multiview 3D reconstruction of the archaeological site at Weymouth from image series, Computers and Graphics 35: 375-382.

Dunn, S. and M. Hedges 2012. Crowd-sourcing Scoping Study. Engaging the Crowd with Humanities Research, Report for the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council Connected Communities Scheme. URL:

Haythornthwaite, C. 2009. Crowds and communities: light and heavyweight models of peer production, in C. Haythornthwaite and A. Gruzd (eds.) Proceedings of the 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. Los Alamitos, CA: IEEE Computer Society. URL:

Hück, S. 2011. Be prepared for the coming ”War for Co-Creators”, Open Business Council blogpost (August 22, 2011). URL:

James, M.R. and S. Robson 2012. Straightforward reconstruction of 3D surfaces and topography with a camera: Accuracy and geoscience application, Journal of Geophysical Research 117: F03017.

Johnson, M. 2011. On the nature of empiricism in archaeology, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 17: 764-87. URL:

Kansa, E., Kansa, S. and E. Watrall (eds.) 2011. Archaeology 2.0: New Approaches to Communication and Collaboration, Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology. URL:

Lake, M. 2012. Open archaeology, World Archaeology 44.4: 471-8.

Latour, B. 1990. Visualisation and cognition. Drawing things together, in M. Lynch and S. Woolgar (eds.) Representation in Scientific Practice: 19–68. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

MacLeod, N. 2010. Alternative 2D and 3D form characterization approaches to the automated identification of biological species, in P.L. Nimis and R. Vignes Lebbe (eds.) Tools for Identifying Biodiversity: Progress and Problems: 225-229. Trieste: University of Trieste.

Masinton, A. in press. Human guinea pigs and casual collaborators: crowdsourcing archaeological data, Computer Applications in Archaeology 2012.

Needham, S., Bronk Ramsey, C., Coombs, D., Cartwright, C. and P.B. Pettitt 1998. An independent chronology for British Bronze Age metalwork: the results of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator programme, The Archaeology Journal 154: 55-107.

Simon, N. 2010. The Participatory Museum (Museum 2.0). URL:

Snavely, N., Seitz, S.M. and R. Szeliski 2008. Modeling the world from Internet photo collections, International Journal of Computer Vision 80: 189-210.

Terras, M. 2010. Digital curiosities: resource creation via amateur digitisation, Literary and Linguistic Computing 25.4: 425-438.

Verhoeven, G., Doneus, M., Briesec, C. and F. Vermeulen 2012. Mapping by matching: a computer vision-based approach to fast and accurate georeferencing of archaeological aerial photographs, Journal of Archaeological Science 39: 2060-2070.

Wheat, R.E., Wang, Y., Byrnes, J.E. and J. Ranganathan 2013. Raising money for scientific research through crowdfunding, Trends in Ecology and Evolution 28.2: 71-72.



  • There are currently no refbacks.