CAA Tübingen 2018 – travels to southern Germany for digital archaeology!

CAA Tübingen 2018 – travels to southern Germany for digital archaeology!

Last month I travelled to the university city of Tübingen in Germany for the international Computing Analytical and Quantitative Analysis in Archaeology conference. I saw the sessions proposed last year and knew it would be really useful to present there and learn more about 3D recording methods being used for different research projects – so many sessions were directly relevant to my PhD!

I submitted a paper to Session 11: Untapping the value of old fieldwork records, as my PhD is looking at previous records of the Iron Age sites as well as collecting new 3D data. I wanted to present the methodology of my project, and how it ties the old and new datasets together to look at different aspects of the dry-stone construction of the Shetland broch sites. I thought it would be really valuable to get feedback on my ideas and to find out how other researchers are using old imagery, so I applied for the CAA Student Bursary, which I was lucky enough to receive.

my pres
Very atmospheric lecture theatre for my presentation in the Neue Aula at the university

This really helped make it more affordable for me to attend. I do get research funding for my PhD but as many archaeologists will know it costs a lot to travel to distant places for work, especially when you have a lot of specialist kit to take and look after, and with my summer fieldwork at Jarlshof and Old Scatness coming up this summer, I need to make that funding count!

This was my first conference outside of the UK and with an international audience of archaeologists attending I was a tad nervous! But it was very warm and friendly – the wonderful evening reception and ice-breakers really helped and I spoke to more than the target of 5 new people, as Axel Posluschny, Chair of CAA, challenged everyone in his opening speech. In fact I think I ended up speaking to more than 5 new people each day of the conference, so I did some decent networking! I met up with colleagues who I hadn’t seen for quite a while, and it was great to see other University of Bradford researchers presenting too: Micheal Butler and Andy Fraser of the Lost Frontiers Project both presented about aspects of their PhD research.

My presentation was on the morning of the first day of papers and went down very well. I was luckily in a very grand lecture theatre with a huge screen which did justice to the fantastic imagery of Mousa Broch point cloud that me and James Hepher from Historic Environment Scotland had been working on a few weeks before. I can’t wait to get to grips with all of this 3D information, it’s finally piecing together and we’re viewing the broch in ways that have never been seen before – like taking a slice out of it to see all the details of the interior!

The conference also had workshops. I attended one on using structured light scanners, as I’m not really familiar with them (they are for smaller scale objects whilst I’ve happened to end up recording bigger things!). Now at least I know how they work and even had a demo! I also had a go with some newly developed VR experiences – I know I’m in the right kind of conference when there’s a whole session devoted to developing virtual reality programs for archaeological research and dissemination! Sessions on modelling historic structures and discussions about 3D data managing gave me so many ideas for my own work…

VR experience
Trying out archaeological VR experiences developed by researchers

Having never been to Germany before it was great the organisers had welcome events in historic venues in Tubingen, including the Alte Aula and Schloss Hohentübingen. Tübingen is a beautiful medieval city. I arrived late in the evening and walking around the quiet lamp-lit streets with snow falling down was magical! We were given a tour around the collections of the Museum Alte Kulturen based in the castle, and it was fascinating to hear about the famous Ice-Age carved figurines, the world’s oldest 3D art forms, which were discovered in excavations run by the university (the famous horse figurine is the image at the top!).

Pretty market square at night, with Tubingen’s Rathaus


I also went on the conference excursion to some of the caves in the Swabian Jura which have been excavated, and from which some of the Ice Age figurines were found. In the small, picturesque medieval town of Blaubeuren is an archaeological museum which houses some of these finds.

pretty Blaubeuren
Blaubeuren town with it’s well preserved medieval buildings
Swabian caves
Deep down in the excavation levels of an Ice Age cave!

I’m a proper foodie and always like trying the local cuisine of any place I visit, and the hearty Swabian fare was ideal for the chilly weather (it snowed lightly for most of the week!). Highlights were maultaschen, spätzle noodles and the huge roast pork knuckle with sauerkraut I had on my last night!

I’d like to thank CAA conference organisers and committee for funding me with the Student Bursary. I would definitely like to present at the international conference again! (And I’m attending the UK one this October!