Counts publishes Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future

Professor and chair, Derek Counts, co-edited a new book, Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future: The Potential of Digital Archaeology, with his colleagues Erin W. Averett (Creighton University) and Jody M. Gordon (Wentworth Institute of Technology).

Read the full press release:

The study of the ancient world requires the most contemporary tools.

In the 21st century, archaeology is no longer the domain of shovels, picks, pith helmets, and sharpened trowels, but a high tech enterprise. Archaeologists now take high-powered laptop computers, tablets, drones, and sophisticated software and workflows in the field with them. Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future: The Potential of Digital Archaeology, edited by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Professor of Art History, Derek B. Counts, with Erin W. Averett (Creighton University) and Jody M. Gordon (Wentworth Institute of Technology), brings together 20 papers authored by the most creative thinkers on technology and archaeological field practice. Introduced by a sweeping survey of the intellectual and practical issues surrounding digital practices in archaeology and anchored by two critical reflections, the volume is more than a survey of new technology, but stands as an enduring monument for a discipline undergoing rapid and dramatic changes.

Counts notes: “Mobilizing the Past originated as an effort to understand the potential of digital tools in archaeological workflows, stemming from our own experience with mobile technology on the Athienou Archaeological Project in Cyprus. With support from the NEH, we pulled together archaeologists and other specialists working on projects around the world to discuss how these new, cutting-edge tools are impacting our excavation workflows, as well as how we train the next generation of archaeologists.”

mtpworkshopThis book emerged from a workshop (funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, for which Counts was a co-principal investigator) held in 2015 at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston that convened many of the leading practitioners of digital archaeology in the U.S. for a weekend of dialogue. The papers and conversations from this workshop formed the basis for the case studies presented in this volume and demonstrate the tremendous diversity in the digital tools used in archaeological field practice. From drones in the Andes to iPads at Pompeii, digital workflows in the American Southwest, and examples of bespoke, DIY, and commercial software, technology now provides solutions and crafts novel challenges for field archaeologists.

Averett, who co-edited the volume, adds: “This book captures a vital and critical moment in our discipline as it moves from paper-based recording methods to new digital methods, which are just beginning to impact our understanding of the past. The assembled papers not only provide an up-to-date assessment of ‘digital archaeology,’ but also offer countless insights into where it’s heading.”

Published by the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. Mobilizing the Past is available as a free, open-access download with online supplemental material or in paper form from

Bill Caraher, the publisher and a contributor, remarks: “It was particularly important to develop and release this book as an open-access, peer-reviewed publication because so many of the most technologically-sophisticated archaeologists have embraced the open-source and open-access movement. It’s great that the book appears during International Open Access Week.”