Archaeology and knowledge: teaching and sharing information

Sharing selected knowledge with various audiences is a critical issue for archaeology today.

Beyond those dealing specifically with the research, protection and management of cultural heritage, many related professions need an introduction to archaeological methods and an easy access to an organized, concise and comprehensive information.

For students and scholars with logistic constraints, belonging to remote and/or less-developed areas, access to qualitative and well-documented information is also a major issue, crucial to the development of vocations. A solution to these problems can be offered by e-learning courses, as long as they are user-friendly, easy adaptable, reusable, interoperable and complex from a content point of view.

The issue of sharing knowledge among professionals and the wider public is also related to the way information is published and disseminated. The World Wide Web has become the obvious mode of dissemination for vast volumes of information related to commercial, government and scientific data.

From the perspective of archaeology however, two issues arise:

• Firstly, most archaeological data is still disseminated in paper form, such as journals and monographs.
• Secondly, the material that is published on line essentially follows the paper model with regards to how the data is structured.

The result is that most archaeological knowledge is comprehensive only for a professional audience and therefore often inaccessible to the general public.

There lies an important opportunity for archaeologists to address these two issues directly by moving to the web as a favoured mode of dissemination and secondly by using the full potential of the web. This opportunity carries with it exciting possibilities for bringing the dissemination of archaeological knowledge into the twenty first century and directly addressing the needs of public audiences while at the same time linking archaeological publication with the digital archival material.