Conference paper Open Access

TIPOM 2011: l'archeologia del software in archeologia

Costa, Stefano; Bianconi, Luca; Starnini, Elisabetta

Typometry is a methodology for the dimensional analysis of chipped stone artefacts (blanks), that was developed in the 1960s by B. Bagolini. The basic assumption behind typometry is that physical dimensions like length, width and thickness of such artefacts can give us an insight of their technology, chronology and the culture which produced them; moreover, by processing large amounts of such measurements the researcher will be able to group finds in discrete categories. Typometry was done by hand on paper until the 1980s, when a software program called TIPOM was written to automate the plotting and reporting in DOS environment. This software was written in BASIC and it is now very difficult to use it with the most common operative systems, nevertheless it's still popular among specialists. We present here a clone of the original program, written in the GNU R programming environment and available under the GNU GPLv3. During the process of studying this "archaeological" piece of software, we realised how poor is the knowledge we have about the history of archaeological computing, and the opportunities that could arise from collecting obsolete pieces of software, for both teaching purposes and the ability to analyse data that was collected twenty or thirty years ago. We argue that the most significant change in how archaeologists deal with making software has not been a technical change, but rather a move from a "small world" where lots of researchers were crafting their own home-made tools, towards a global world where everybody should be using the same tools. The net result is a huge loss in the number of people who are still able to craft programs that do exactly what is needed. Finally, we propose the creation of an open archive where such programs can be shared publicly, both as source code and original research data.
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