Crowd- and Community-fuelled Archaeological Research


Pioneering participatory models in research

This project, which runs from 2013-15, will use web-based, crowd-sourcing methods to allow traditional academics and other communities in archaeology to co-produce innovative open datasets, and thereafter pioneer a novel participatory model in which these same groups co-design and micro-fund follow-up research.

Archaeology has long been successful in piquing the interest of ‘professional’ practitioners, organised ‘amateur’ societies and the wider public alike. In the UK especially, it has benefited from a tradition of public engagement, volunteer fieldwork and special interest groups. However, beyond the trench edge or gallery case, co-operation on the creation of archaeological knowledge is rare indeed.

Crowd- and Community-fuelled Archaeological Research

This project explores the potential for massive online collaboration to create large numbers of 3D models of artefacts, enhance existing archaeological databases, add rich new content to images and micro-fund new collaboratively-developed research agendas.

The project team want to deepen and transform existing links between two major London-based research institutions, the UCL Institute of Archaeology and the British Museum, as well as with both well-established archaeological societies and the wider public.

The future health of our archaeological heritage lies in research that is more collaboratively designed and funded, more efficient in generating data of widely-perceived value, and more open in sharing it. The guiding rationale is that such goals are entirely achievable if enduring community and crowd connection scan be created and the right kinds of digital methods harnassed. 

Research Objectives

  • Via web technologies, to enhance the degree to which traditional academics, other organised communities of archaeological interest, and a wider ‘crowd’ of contributors can collaborate in the co-production of archaeological knowledge.
  • To develop a long-term crowd-sourcing platform for co-producing archaeological open data.
  • To capture research-quality, 3D information about large numbers of archaeological objects via participatory methods.
  • To explore, through crowd-sourcing, the co-design and sustainable micro-funding of projects that arise out of existing community collaborations and utilise co-produced data. 
  • To scope what kinds of relationships in archaeology are forged or altered when established communities of interest, traditional academics and wholly new contributors collaborate in the above ways.
Follow-On Project (2015)

MicroPasts Knowledge Exchanges follows from the original MicroPasts project to enable a programme of knowledge exchange and further evaluation to study and implement a community-led model of platform and project management that is sustainable in the longer-term and to inform heritage policy and practice in the UK, and guide private and public investments in participatory projects that use crowd-sourcing and/or crowd-funding.


Related outputs

Please see the MicroPasts website for full information

  • MicroPasts YouTube channel
  • Bevan, A., Pett, D., Bonacchi, C., Keinan-Schoonbaert, A., Lombraña González, D., Sparks, R., Wexler, J. and Wilkin, N. (2014) Citizen Archaeologists. Online Collaborative Research about the Human Past. Human Computation (2014) 1(2): 183-197. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15346/hc.v1i2.9
  • Bonacchi, C., Bevan, A., Pett, D., Keinan-Schoonbaert, A., Sparks, R., Wexler, J. and Wilkin, N. (2014) Crowd-sourced Archaeological Research. The MicroPasts Project. Archaeology International: 61-68. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/ai.1705
  • Bonacchi, C., Bevan, A., Pett, D., and Keinan-Schoonbaert, A. (2015) Crowd- and Community-fuelled Archaeology. Early Results from the MicroPasts Project. In Giligny, F., Djindjian, F., Costa, L., Moscati, P. and Robert, S. eds. CAA2014, 21st Century Archaeology. Concepts, Methods and Tools. Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Conference on Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology, Paris. Oxford: Archaeopress, pp. 279-288.
  • Bonacchi, C., Pett, D., Bevan, A., and Keinan-Schoonbaert, A. (2015) Experiments in Crowd-funding Community Archaeology. Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage, 2(3): 184-98. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1179/2051819615Z.00000000041
  • Keinan-Schoonbaert, A. 2014. MicroPasts - An Innovative Place for Progressing Research. British Archaeology 139: 50-55.
  • Wexler, J., Bevan, A., Bonacchi, C, Keinan-Schoonbaert, A., Pett, D., and Wilkin, N. (2015) Collective Re-Excavation and Lost Media from the Last Century of British Prehistoric Studies. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, Forum, 2(1): 126-142. DOI: 10.1558/jca.v2i1.27124
  • Wilkin, N., Bevan, A., Bonacchi, C., Keinan-Schoonbaert, A., Pett, D., and Wexler, J. (forthcoming) Crowd-sourcing the British Bronze Age: Initial experiences and results from the MicroPasts project. Proceedings of the Society for Museum Archaeologists Conference.


Project Team:

  • Andrew Bevan, UCL Institute of Archaeology (Principal Investigator)
  • Rachael Sparks, UCL Institute of Archaeology (Co-Investigator)
  • Daniel Pett, The British Museum, Portable Antiquities Scheme (Co-Investigator)
  • Chiara Bonacchi, UCL Institute of Archaeology (Postdoctoral Research Associate)
  • Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert, UCL Institute of Archaeology (Postdoctoral Research Associate)
  • Ian Carroll, UCL Institute of Archaeology (Archival Collections Liaison)
  • Neil Wilkin, The British Museum, Dept of Prehistory and Europe (Archival Collections Liaison)

Advisory Group:


Further information:

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