The approved roundtables for CAA2024 are listed here. Click on the session title for more information. Please contact the roundtable organiser for more information.

R1: Towards a future research agenda of archaeological practices in the digital era

R2: The expected and unexpected challenges faced by conservators in the preservation of world cultural heritage

R3: Exploring the Nexus of Robotics and Archaeology: Unveiling the Potential and Ethical Dimensions

R4: Unveiling the Past, Safeguarding the Future: Pioneering Technologies in the Battle Against Illicit Archaeological Looting and Trafficking

R1: Towards a future research agenda of archaeological practices in the digital era

Isto Huvila Uppsala University

Anne Hunnell Chen, Bard College

Stephen Stead, Paveprime Ltd


Abstract: The recent years have seen a growing interest in conducting empirical, theoretical and reflective research on contemporary and past archaeological practices. Such research has created new knowledge on the practicalities and underpinnings of archaeological work in the past and at the present, update of digital technologies and their impact on archaeological knowledge production, and much more. At the same time, as it has enhanced our understanding of archaeological practices, it has informed development of new tools and infrastructures, and creation, organisation, management and dissemination of archaeological knowledge. Beyond the domain of archaeology, the research on archaeological practices has resulted in insights that have transferred to other domains.

The aim of this roundtable is to invite researchers of archaeological practices and archaeological practitioners to discuss what next steps the studies of contemporary archaeological practices should take to advance the understanding of present, past and future archaeological work, use and development of existing and new digital tools and infrastructures and practices. Each participant is asked to propose and give a brief lightning talk highlighting one specific aspect of archaeological practices that needs to be studied in more detail in the future, a particular knowledge gap, a potentially useful method or theory in advancing the understanding of archaeological practices, or a issue or problem that could be addressed or solved by inquiring deeper into how archaeological or archaeology-related paid or voluntary, professional or non-professional practices are enacted, what are their underpinning factors, or implications. The invitation is especially extended to both senior and junior scholars and practitioners representing all genders and backgrounds, disciplines, and perspectives to studying or engaging with archaeological practices. After the lightning talks, the roundtable continues with a discussion on a future research agenda of archaeological practices in the digital era with the panellists and the audience, and closes with an invitation to continued work on developing the agenda.

The roundtable is organised in collaboration with the research projects CAPTURE ( and IDEA ( and the CAASIG ARKWORK on archaeological practices and knowledge work in the digital environment.

R2: The expected and unexpected challenges faced by conservators in the preservation of world cultural heritage

Rasha Shaheen, Egyptian Museum


Abstract: While we specialize in preserving cultural heritage – whether in historical sites or museums – we are exposed to many surprises that control and affect preservation and conservation plans. Therefore, the guardians of civilization and heritage face many challenges to preserve the sustainability of heritage. This planet includes many diverse civilizations (civilizations of the Near East, civilizations of the ancient world, civilizations of the West, and others) as each continent has a civilization and heritage that represents its identity and distinguishes it from other civilizations. Due to the different locations of civilizations on Earth, they are exposed to different challenges and the effects of different natural factors, so the impact of climate change on them is different, the map of earthquakes and natural disasters changes, other natural factors and effects.

This session sheds light on the challenges faced by the preservers of cultural heritage around the world, whether human or natural challenges and answers a number of questions: How were they faced, what change did they bring about, the result of this change, whether positively or negatively on the sustainability of cultural heritage?

This session aims to share with specialists and colleagues the challenges they face, as well as the expected or uncalculated challenges in preserving the sustainability of cultural heritage in different civilizations around the world. What is the addition made to the cultural heritage, will it ensure its survival for future generations?

In an ever-evolving world where cultural heritage is at risk from a multitude of factors, the role of conservators is more critical than ever. The conference session titled “The Expected and Unexpected Challenges Faced by Conservators in the Preservation of World Cultural Heritage” offers a comprehensive exploration of the challenges encountered by professionals dedicated to safeguarding our global cultural treasures.

Conservators, often described as the silent guardians of history, confront a myriad of known and unforeseen obstacles in their mission to protect and preserve cultural artifacts, historic sites, and artworks. This conference session serves as a vital platform for experts, scholars, and practitioners to engage in a meaningful dialogue about the complexities of their profession.

The session will cover a wide spectrum of topics, including:

  • Climate Change and Environmental Threats: With climate change becoming increasingly evident, conservators must grapple with the effects of rising temperatures, extreme weather events, and sea-level rise, all of which pose direct threats to heritage sites and artifacts.
  • Technological Advancements: The session will delve into the latest technological innovations and their impact on conservation efforts, from advanced imaging techniques to cutting-edge materials that can either assist or challenge conservators.
  • Cultural Diplomacy and Politics: The conference will highlight the delicate balance between the protection of cultural heritage and political agendas, examining how geopolitical conflicts can impact conservation efforts and cooperation on a global scale.
  • Community Engagement: Successful preservation often depends on the cooperation of local communities. The session will explore how conservators can navigate the complexities of community involvement and ownership in heritage preservation.
  • Pandemic Challenges: The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unique challenges for conservators, disrupting traditional workflows, limiting access to heritage sites, and straining resources. The session will examine lessons learned and strategies for future resilience.
  • Emerging Preservation Ethics: As societal values evolve, so do preservation ethics. This conference will provide a platform for discussing new ethical considerations in conservation practice, such as repatriation, cultural sensitivity, and inclusivity.
  • Natural Disasters: In a world prone to natural disasters, conservators must be prepared for sudden emergencies. The session will address strategies for disaster preparedness and recovery.

By fostering a dynamic exchange of ideas, case studies, and best practices, this session aims to equip conservators and heritage preservation professionals with the knowledge and tools necessary to navigate the multifaceted challenges they face in their critical mission to protect and conserve the world’s cultural heritage. Attendees can expect to gain valuable insights, network with peers, and contribute to the ongoing conversation about the future of cultural heritage preservation. Join us in this enlightening discussion, and together, let us chart a path towards a more resilient and inclusive approach to safeguarding our shared heritage.

R3: Exploring the Nexus of Robotics and Archaeology: Unveiling the Potential and Ethical Dimensions

João Marreiros, Leiza

Arianna Traviglia, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia


Abstract: In the tapestry of modern society, robots have woven their threads across diverse domains, functioning as integral components. Spanning healthcare, manufacturing, agriculture, and industries, robots are the linchpin that sustains and advances numerous systems. Notably, the field of archaeology has also embraced these mechanical collaborators, testing ways to employ them on archaeological sites, within laboratories, and even in public exhibitions. These robotic allies range from automated machine performing cultural heritage manipulation and scanning to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that probe depths and spaces beyond human reach, elevating the efficiency and reliability of archaeological and conservation practice endeavors. Recently, the use of robots in archaeological research has been extended to the field of experimental archaeology, in which controlled setups are used to test the properties of resources used on past human technologies. However, amidst these accomplishments, a pivotal question arises: Can we catapult robots to new heights within archaeology and the field of Cultural heritage at large, perhaps merging them with Artificial Intelligence, to craft an “Artificial Archaeologist”?

This dynamic roundtable delves into the current landscape of robotics within archaeology and Cultural Heritage domain, pushing the boundaries of possibility into the foreseeable future. We invite thought-provoking proposals encompassing a spectrum of insights, spanning both concrete case studies and theoretical reflections. Our exploration encompasses multiple dimensions:

– The Role of Robots in Archaeological Practice: Archaeologists have harnessed robotic technology across various scenarios. This session seeks to unveil the nuances of these interactions. What are the contexts in which robots prove indispensable, and what challenges do they alleviate? How do these mechanical aids impact archaeological processes, amplifying the precision of data collection, analysis, and preservation? Contributions on practical applications, from data collection during fieldwork to laboratory analysis, are invited to enrich the discourse.

– Robots and the Act of Excavation: An intriguing discourse revolves around the notion of robots as ‘fieldwork companions’. Could robots assume the role of human archaeologists in the excavation process? We aim to deliberate on the potential benefits and implications of this prospect, spanning efficiency gains, preservation of archaeological sites, and even the reshaping of archaeological narratives

-Robots as Architects of Archaeological Knowledge: Another compelling avenue to explore is the fusion of robotics with knowledge-building endeavors. How might robots serve as tools for  processing voluminous data, and constructing comprehensive archaeological narratives? We welcome explorations of how robotic technologies can augment the archaeological discipline, aiding in generating insights and perspectives previously unattainable.

–  Ethical Considerations in Robotic Archaeology: The surge of robotic engagement in archaeological practice mandates a critical examination of ethical dimensions. What concerns arise when technology interweaves with cultural heritage preservation? This round table aspires to stimulate conversations on ethical implications such as data ownership, the potential displacement of human expertise, and the preservation of archaeological integrity. As we venture into the nexus of robotics and archaeology, this round table seeks to map the contours of this evolving collaboration, unraveling its current standing and paving a path toward its future potential. It serves as an invaluable platform for showcasing ongoing work, fostering dialogue, and receiving constructive feedback. In embracing diversity and nurturing fresh perspectives, this session promises to be a fertile ground for the exchange of novel ideas.

R4: Unveiling the Past, Safeguarding the Future: Pioneering Technologies in the Battle Against Illicit Archaeological Looting and Trafficking

Arianna Traviglia, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia

Michela De Bernardin

Riccardo Giovanelli


Abstract: The pressing global concern surrounding the decimation of archaeological sites due to illegal excavations and cultural heritage vandalism has sparked fervent initiatives from governments, cultural institutions, and concerned citizens alike. In the wake of pivotal contemporary events such as the 2004 Iraqi war, the 2011 ‘Arab Spring’, the rise of ISIS in the Middle East and North Africa, the disruptive impact of the COVID pandemic, and the tumultuous 2022 Ukraine conflict, the international antiquities market has been inundated with a distressing influx of looted items. In response to this escalating crisis, the past decade has witnessed an unprecedented surge in computer-aided technologies geared towards the surveillance of looting activities and the intricate web of art markets. These technological innovations have emerged as essential tools for detecting and deterring unlawful behaviors. Remote sensing technologies, synergized with multispectral imagery (Tapete and Cigna, 2021), alongside manual and automated recognition of looting patterns (Casana and Panahipour, 2014; Contreras, 2010; Stone, 2008; Lasaponara and Masini, 2021), harness the power to unmask illicit excavations. Moreover, the integration of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data (Tapete, Cigna, and Donoghue, 2016; El Haji, 2021) and multi-temporal analysis (Agapiou, 2020) elevates the sophistication of detection methodologies. A remarkable breakthrough has been the utilization of very high-resolution (VHR) imagery time-series through platforms like Google Earth, revolutionizing the identification and tracking of looted sites on a global scale (Contreras and Brodie, 2011; Parcak et al., 2016; Zerbini and Fradley, 2018), thereby paving new avenues for innovative recognition mechanisms. Harnessing the power of cutting-edge computer vision and machine learning, researchers are delving into their potential for analyzing web-scraped content (Huffer and Graham, 2018; Huffer, Wood, and Graham, 2019; Graham et al., 2020) to trace illicit online transactions. Leveraging network science methodologies, researchers have unveiled criminal networks within the antiquities trade (Tsiriogiannis and Tsiriogiannis, 2016) and actors entrenched in the ‘grey market’ of antiquities (Bowman, 2008; Mackenzie, 2019; Mackenzie and Yates, 2016). Intriguingly, artificial intelligence models are under development to identify looted archaeological items surfacing in the market (Winterbottom, Leone, and Al Moubayed, 2022). In a remarkable turn, vigilant monitoring of social media platforms, online forums, marketplaces, and even the elusive deep web is yielding vital intelligence about the shadowy realm of the illicit market, employing both quantitative and qualitative content analysis (Al-Azm and Paul, 2019; Hardy, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018; Paul, 2018; Giovanelli, 2018; Altaweel and Hadjitofi, 2020; De Bernardin, 2021). Forward-looking enforcement units like Italy’s Comando Tutela Patrimonio Culturale and INTERPOL have formulated databases of stolen objects and initiated due diligence protocols (Arma dei Carabinieri, 2016). The integration of 3D imagery-powered blockchain technologies (Gandolfi and Cox, 2018) holds great promise for fortifying future interventions.

As the loss of archaeological contexts and cultural heritage items continues to accelerate, the pace of research quickens. While these technologies exhibit increasing specialization, they often lack the sophistication necessary for robustly combating illicit trafficking. This conference session invites original research contributions in the aforementioned realms—remote sensing, network sciences, computer vision, machine learning, data mining, blockchain, and social media data analysis. Beyond showcasing advances, the session aims to fuel a critical dialogue on the effectiveness, advantages, and limitations of established and emerging technologies. By identifying effective approaches, this Round Table endeavors to lay the groundwork for constructing resilient systems that effectively thwart and prevent the looting and illicit trade of cultural heritage objects.

The call for submissions extends to pioneering methodologies and applications that remain untapped within the realm of countering cultural property trafficking, particularly in the unexplored intersection of Network Sciences and Graph Theory. The Round Table caters primarily to researchers immersed in the expansive field of antiquities crimes, encompassing both traditional and computational methodologies. Simultaneously, professionals engaged in the described technologies and methods—such as remote sensing and machine learning—are invited to contribute within the broader context. A pre-conference position paper will be published by the organisers of the session approximately 3 months ahead of the conference, and perspective participants to the Round Table will be invited to submit a written response in advance or to participate in a structures, open-forum discussion during the conference.

The session is seamlessly integrated into the HORIZON EU RITHMS (Research, Intelligence, and Technology for Heritage and Market Security) project framework. The initiative endeavors to craft an innovative, interoperable, and multifunctional Social Network Analysis (SNA) digital platform, tailored to pinpointing criminal networks engaged in cultural property trafficking. Within the framework of this collaborative endeavor, stakeholders engaged in the battle against looting and cultural heritage trafficking will gain access to invaluable recommendations. These insights will amplify ongoing efforts to prevent future criminal activities, ultimately fortifying the protection of cultural heritage.


Al-Azm, A and Paul, K A 2019 Facebook’s Black Market in Antiquities. Trafficking, terrorism, and war crimes. (June). Agapiou A 2020 Detecting Looting Activity through Earth Observation Multi-Temporal Analysis over the Archaeological Site of Apamea (Syria) during 2011-2012, Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology, 3(1): 219-237. DOI:

Altaweel, M and Hadjitofi, T A 2020 The sale of heritage on eBay: Market trends and cultural value, Big Data & Society, 7(2). DOI:

Arma dei Carabinieri 2016 PSYCHE : THE PROTECTION SYSTEM FOR CULTURAL HERITAGE HOME/2011/ISEC/AG/PRUM/4000002157. 2016. Available at   

Bowman, B A 2008 Transnational Crimes Against culture: Looting at Archaeological Sites and the ‘Grey’ Market in Antiquities, Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 24(3): 225–242. DOI:  

Casana, J and Panahipour, M 2014 Satellite-Based Monitoring of Looting and Damage to Archaeological Sites in Syria, Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies, 2(2): 128–151.

Contreras, D A 2010 Huaqueros and remote sensing imagery: assessing looting damage in the Viru Valley. Peru., Antiquity, 84(324): 544– 545.

Contreras, D A and Brodie, N 2011 The Utility of Publicly-Available Satellite Imagery for Investigating Looting of Archaeological Sites in Jordan, Journal of Field Archaeology, 35(1): 101–114. DOI:×12707320296838.

De Bernardin, M 2021 Palmyrene Funerary Portraits: a ‘Conflict Antiquities’ Case. In: Traviglia, A, Milano, L, Tonghini, C and Giovanelli, R (eds.) Stolen Heritage. Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage in the EU and the MENA Region. Venice: Edizioni Ca’ Foscari, pp. 79-95. DOI:

El Hajj, H 2021 Interferometric SAR and Machine Learning Using Opens Source Data to Detect Archaeological Looting and Destruction, Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology, 4(1): 47-62. DOI:

Gandolfi, E and Cox, G 2018 New approaches to Open Data in Archaeology: the blockchain revolution. Paper presented to 2018 Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA) international conference, Tübingen, 19- 23 March, 2018. Available at  [Last accessed 17 June 2019].

Graham, S, Lane, A, Huffer, D and Angourakis, A 2020 Towards a Method for Discerning Sources of Supply within the Human Remains Trade via Patterns of Visual Dissimilarity and Computer Vision, Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology, 3(1): 253-268. DOI:

Giovanelli, R 2018 Provenance non verificabili nel mercato di antichità romane: case study sui 300 oggetti di più alto valore in vendita in eBay US, Archeomafie, X: 115-135. Available at:

Hardy, S A 2014 Using Open-Source Data to Identify Participation in the Illicit Antiquities Trade: A Case Study on the Cypriot Civil War, European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 20(4): 459–474. DOI:

Hardy, S A 2015 Is looting-to-order “just a myth”? Open-source analysis of theft-toorder of cultural property, Cogent Social Sciences, 1(1): 1–22. DOI:  

Hardy, S A 2017 Quantitative analysis of open-source data on metal detecting for cultural property: Estimation of the scale and intensity of metal detecting and the quantity of metal-detected cultural goods, Tong, S. (ed.) Cogent Social Sciences, 3(1): 1–49. DOI:

Hardy, S A 2018 Metal-Detecting for Cultural Objects until ‘There Is Nothing Left’: The Potential and Limits of Digital Data, Netnographic Data and Market Data for Open- Source Analysis, Arts, 7(3): 40. DOI:

Huffer, D and Graham, S 2018 Fleshing Out the Bones : Studying the Human Remains Trade with Tensorflow and Inception, Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology, 1(1): 55–63. DOI:

Huffer, D, Wood, C and Graham, S 2019 What the Machine Saw: some questions on the ethics of computer vision and machine learning to investigate human remains trafficking, Internet Archaeology, DOI:

Lasaponara, R and Masini, N 2021 Remote and Close Range Sensing for the Automatic Identification and Characterization of Archaeological Looting. The Case of Peru, Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology, 4(1): 126-144. DOI: 

Mackenzie, S 2019 White-Collar Crime, Organised Crime and the Challenges of Doing Research on Art Crime. In: Hufnagel, S. and Chappel, D. (eds.) The Palgrave Handbook on Art Crime. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK. pp. 839–853. DOI:   

Mackenzie, S and Yates, D 2016 Collectors on illicit collecting: Higher loyalties and other techniques of neutralization in the unlawful collecting of rare and precious orchids and antiquities, Theoretical Criminology, 20(3): 340–357. DOI:  

Parcak, S, Gathings, D, Childs, C, Mumford, G and Cline, E 2016 Satellite evidence of archaeological site looting in Egypt: 2002 – 2013, Antiquity, 90(349): 188–205. DOI:

Paul, K 2018 Ancient Artifacts vs. Digital Artifacts: New Tools for Unmasking the Sale of Illicit Antiquities on the Dark Web, Arts, 7(2): 12. DOI:  

Stone, E C 2008 Patterns of looting in southern Iraq, Antiquity, 82(315): 125–138. DOI:

Tapete, D, Cigna, F and Donoghue, D N M 2016 ‘ Looting marks ’ in space-borne SAR imagery: Measuring rates of archaeological looting in Apamea ( Syria ) with TerraSAR-X Staring Spotlight, Remote Sensing of Environment, 178(April): 42–58. DOI:

Tapete, D and Cigna, F 2021 Satellite Technologies for Monitoring Archaeological Sites. In: Traviglia, A, Milano, L, Tonghini, C and Giovanelli, R (eds.) Stolen Heritage. Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage in the EU and the MENA Region. Venice: Edizioni Ca’ Foscari, pp. 155-167. DOI:  

Tsiriogiannis, C and Tsiriogiannis, C 2016 Uncovering the Hidden Routes: Algorithms for Identifying Paths and Missing Links in Trade Networks. In: Brughmans, T., Collar, A., and Coward, F. (eds.) The Connected Past Challenges to Network Studies in Archaeology and history. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 103–122.

Winterbottom, T, Leone, A, Al Moubayed, N 2022 A deep learning approach to fight illicit trafficking of antiquities using artefact instance classification, Scientific Reports, 12, 13468. DOI:

Zerbini, A and Fradley, M 2018 Higher Resolution Satellite Imagery of Israel and Palestine: Reassessing the Kyl-Bingaman Amendment, Space Policy, 44–45: 14–28. DOI: