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Reverse engineering and the archaeology of the modern world

Moshenska, G; (2016) Reverse engineering and the archaeology of the modern world. Forum Kritische Archäologie , 5 pp. 16-28. 10.6105/journal.fka.2016.5.2. Green open access

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Abstract

This paper explores the practical and conceptual connections between the archaeology of post-industrial societies and the process of reverse engineering. It explores common themes such as industrial decline, the loss of technical expertise, and the growing problem of obsolescence both in technological infrastructure and in the management of digital data. To illuminate the connections between the two fields it considers several examples. These include the implicit applications of reverse engineering in archaeology, such as chemical analyses of Egyptian mummification and alchemical equipment, as well as the use of archaeological concepts and terminologies in reverse engineering. The concept of archaeology as reverse engineering is examined with regard to military aircraft, post-industrial landscapes and so-called ‘non-places’. These illustrate the difficulty in inferring different forms of human activity and knowledge in past technologies, in particular so-called ‘tacit knowledge’. The final part of the paper discusses the potentials and limitations of building links between reverse engineering and the archaeology of the modern world, raising questions for further consideration.

Type: Article
Title: Reverse engineering and the archaeology of the modern world
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.6105/journal.fka.2016.5.2
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.6105/journal.fka.2016.5.2
Language: English
Additional information: This is a Open Access article published under the terms of the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Keywords: archaeology of the modern world; deindustrialisation; industrial heritage; reverse engineering
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1489637
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