Periculum in mora

Periculum in mora


(Tito Livio, Ab urbe condita; XXXVIII, 25)

Towards SCRIPTORIVM: OpenPompei at CAA2015 (II part)

As we have already told you, OpenPompei has taken part in the Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA) Annual Conference and, as desired, we met many “open archaeologists” to involve in SCRIPTORIVM. But especially we took part in the presentation of MODA, the Italian Manifesto of Archaeological Open Data. We want to support the rising archaeological community interested in opening and sharing data beyond our project’ end. We believe that OpenPompei is like an enzyma that can accelerate the building of a new management of Cultural Heritage based (also) on Open Data. So, as the name of the CAA Annual Conference recited, “keep the revolution going”! The Manifesto could be the first step in this direction!

#epicfail? Has Open Source in Archeology failed?

This is the provocative title of Mappa Project speech in ArcheFOSS session, in which it tries to answer this question: why in the last years the impact of Open Source in Archaeology has been so limited?

Two main reasons can be identified.

  1. the absence of  a more theoretical approach:  “Open source was a computer science issue, the transposition to archaeology was not associated with a strong theoretical approach. Open Source was not able to propose new development, new forms of doing archaeology, that include new ways, and standards, of handling, processing and modeling information. (…) Open Source in archaeology goes beyond the mere application of software, in fact, it represents an area where archaeologists can focus on discussion about the nature of archaeological data, their definition, representation and manipulation.”
  2. the absence of education and formation in Open Source skills: “it’s necessary to provide future archaeologists with a level of competency both in archaeology and computer science (…). Only proper training can permit them to engage in the development of new IT tools consonant with archaeological interests, and to foster a deeper conceptual understanding of how applications work as a necessary step towards the creation of new ones.”


MODA is a declaration of intent about the right of open access to archaeological data of entire citizenship. All archaeological remains are part of humanity’s legacy. As such, they belong to all of us, together with the information connected to.

It was born by a group of archaeologists from different backgrounds and arose from the experience of the first Open School of Archaeological Data, promoted by the MAPPA Lab of the University of Pisa in July 2014.

Everyone worked in different places, studied in different Universities, but all agreed about creating and sharing data in open format.

Another opportunity to broaden and strengthen the rising archaeological community was the STVDIVM, promoted by OpenPompei project. Educational meetings such as these, promote the birth of a community of practice, that is a network of informal communication, linking a group of archaeologists working and learning together.

Since October 29, 2014, 130 people have signed the Manifesto and also the following projects (besides OpenPompei): Wikimedia Italia, Mappa Project, Archeo ed Arte 3D – La Sapienza.

Why are Open Data so important in Archaeology?

Forty years of stratigraphic excavations have produced thousands, billions of data. Data-harvesting have an expansive cost. So, why do not we re-use data?

Through use and re-use of Archaeological Data, we will able to make really cost- effective our data-harvesting, optimizing production costs.

These practical considerations must be added to another one: opening and sharing Open Data generates a virtuous circle. By this one, both scientific community and citizens as a whole can benefit.

The virtuous circle of Archaeological Open Data consists of:

  • making data-harvesting process transparent through sharing Open Data:

an archaeologist works like an antenna receiving signals from the past, decoding and then retransmitting them. The signals were reduced by the long-time and are definitively destroyed by excavations themselves. We will able to verify several times the interpretation process: sharing Open Data we can ask them new questions, generating new knowledge;

  • working together quickly and creatively to improve archaeology:

with the increasing availability of more data processable we will able to create new perspective for the research;

  • encouraging ethical behaviour:

information sharing makes everyone responsable for protecting Cultural Heritage and leading the foundations for a shared management of Cultural Heritage itself;

  • promoting the development of innovative services saving time and costs in the management of Archaeological Heritage
  • create value and accountability for cultural institutions

We believe that in this way Archaeology regain a strong social relevance as a public service.

An European Manifesto

This is an Italian pilot project, but the instance of opening and sharing the raw data could be an instance of all european archaeologists. Every country have a different situation about attitude, laws and management of archaeological information. But the goal could be the same: reinforced our research-methodology in order to enhance historical landscape preservation.

SCRIPTORIVM: the next-live event!


This rising open archaeological community will meet again at SCRIPTORIVM. The participation of MODA’ members at this event is purposeful: we will go from theory to practice of ha(r)ckeology starting from a site of symbolic value as Pompeii!

Keep the revolution going!