An inspiring experience at the 50th CAA International Conference, Amsterdam

Von Yunyun Yang

Crowded block with inclined houses, viewing from a canal cruise boat in Amsterdam | Foto ©Yunyun Yang

Back in 1973, the CAA conference, at the University of Birmingham in England was held for the first time. Half a century later, the 50th CAA annual conference has been hosted in Amsterdam, Netherlands, from April 3rd to 6th. Thanks to the financial  support from Ernst-Reuter-Gesellschaft, I was able to  participate in the conference and gain  inspiration for the development of  my current doctoral project “Transformation of subsistence economy and landscape dynamics in Inner Mongolia from the Neolithic Age to the Early Iron Age”, which is being conducted in the doctoral program “Languages and cultures of the Silk Road”, BerGSAS at Freie Universität Berlin. This was my second time attending the CAA conference and it was a fantastic experience in the beautiful city of Amsterdam with its rich cultural heritage, advanced digitization and great innovations that are closely connected to everyday life.

The CAA conference is about Computational Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology and aims to bring together archaeologists, mathematicians, and computer scientists at an interdisciplinary interface to discuss methodologies, present research, showcase technologies, and exchange ideas and skills. It is an annual event, usually held in springtime around the Easter. The conference commonly consists of workshops, poster and thematic paper sessions, roundtable discussions, and post-conference excursions. Both well-established scholars and young researchers like us doctoral students are welcome to attend the conference. Together, people/they create a friendly and supportive environment which lead to wide-ranging topics and stylish presentations.

From databases to Computational Network Analysis and Machine Learning

A start page of CAA 2023 App.

The CAA 2023 conference in Amsterdam kicked off with a full day of workshops at Vrije University Amsterdam, followed by three days of presentations at the RAI Congress Centre . The workshops mainly covered different software learning, from QGIS to Field, CRMArcheo, Blender, ABM, Deep Learning, GitHub, 3D Storytelling, GigaMesh. A fascinating feature of the conference is its wide range on a huge variety of topics. This year there were forty-four sessions relating on  databases, FAIR Guiding Principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable), Geographic Information System (GIS), mobile GIS with a focus on open-source software e.g., FAMIS 3.0, Computational Network Analysis, Agent-based model (ABM), Chronological Modelling such as OxCal, BCal and R packages used for radiocarbon dating calibration applying Bayesian modelling, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Deep Learning (DL), Remote Sensing (RS), 3D models and data visualizations, archaeogaming, etc.  The conference gave me a lot of information in a short time; nonetheless, it was very enjoyable, and it broadened my horizons in many ways. It was always fun to ask questions, join discussions after a session and meet people with similar research interests. The conference ended with optional excursions either to Utrecht De Meern and Archeon or following the Roman frontier from the coast to Germany.

Exploring Amsterdam

Outside the knowledge zone, there were always a lot of fun things to explore in Amsterdam. During the conference I met some former colleagues from Uppsala University in Sweden. We went to the Icebreaker party together at  the Zuiderkerk, a 17th-century church that nowadays serves as a municipal information centre. While inside, it constantly gave us a holy feeling and made me feel proud of doing academic research.

During the one-hour lunch break, we would quickly buy some sandwiches or snacks from the nearby supermarket and sat in the neighbouring Beatrix Park by the river to enjoy the early spring sunshine. we were lucky enough to have good weather throughout our stay. At the nearby square, there was always a long queue for tulips tourism, which is one of the best scenes in Netherlands at this time of year.

Amsterdam is an impressive big city with its numerous canals, massive number of bikes, a high digitization level, and good English skills. A canal cruise is a top attraction and provides a great opportunity to see the medieval history and ancient buildings. On a cruise boat, there is often an audio guide telling the stories behind the buildings at each spot and a lovely captain pointing at the buildings. Another way to explore the historic city properly is to download the ArchaeoTrail  application on your smartphone to visit archaeological sites. Via this app, we have added a trail called “Medieval Amsterdam” which is a route 2.9 km long and contains fourteen checkpoints to learn about the medieval buildings in the city. Its starting point is a creative exhibition lying in between two escalators at Rokin metro station. You can always get more information from the website Below the surface: the Rokin displays. The high digitization level not only shows in the professional field but also daily life. It happens sometimes that you get stuck at the station exit with your purchased tickets in the mobile phone app; however, there is no staff to help you out due to the highly digitized technology and expected self-service. Another interesting thing is that people cycle a lot and extremely fast, especially during rush hour. It was not only me who got the feeling that I could easily get “killed” by a biker. The positive side is the city is so supportive to bikes and cycling is both environmentally friendly and good for health.

Archaeologists in the wild

As archaeologists, how would it be possible to miss visiting sites or museums? Of course, I joined a one-day excursion to Hoge Woerd and Archeon during the post-conference. Hoge Woerd is a modern reconstruction of a Roman fortress which is located nearby the UNESCO World Heritage Roman Limes. Museum Hoge Woerd exhibits a, due to the waterlogged situation, well-preserved Roman ship “De Meern 1”, with preserved furniture, tools, and personal objects in the cabin. Researcher Ronald Visser told us the ship was built from huge oak trees, and they could estimate from radiocarbon dating that it had been used for about 50 years before it sank.

Archeon Museum Park is a living history exhibition of the Netherlands. The park exhibits reconstructed houses and associated lands or farms in a chronological order from prehistoric times, Roman Period, Viking Age, to Middle Ages. At each site, people dress in the custom of the period represented and perform daily life activities, for instance, cooking, knitting, canoeing, fishing, making fires with flints, carrying out temple ceremony, sword fighting, feeding livestock, etc. It was astonishing to view various cultures from different timelines in such a vivid and interactive way. Our group chose to visit backwards in time from Roman period to Mesolithic Age, like a time travel. When we stepped into the backyard of a Funnel culture house, it felt like we had snuck in while the hosts were not home. Most of our time was spent at the Restoration Yard Roman Zwammerdam Ships. It is always a tough and long-term job trying to assemble fragmented, shrunken, distorted wreck pieces, much more challenging and harder than a popular puzzle game. Anyway, I would say that this park is a must-visit site no matter if you are a kid or an adult, an archaeologist, or a non-archaeologist. It is also a place you will want to come back to again.

To sum up

It was a great experience for me. I felt so refreshed and inspired after the conference. If you want to be informed about the latest research trends in digital archaeology, if you are searching for interdisciplinary cooperations, if you are willing to network with colleagues, this is a great place to go. Next year the CAA 2024 conference will be held in Auckland, New Zealand from April 8th -12th. It is important to mark all deadlines in your calendar in advance. If you are a student, you can always apply for bursaries from the CAA conference to support travels to participate the conference.

Diesen Blogbeitrag zitieren
teamredaktion (2023, 23. Mai). An inspiring experience at the 50th CAA International Conference, Amsterdam. Berliner Antike-Blog. Abgerufen am 22. Juni 2024, von

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