I have just returned from the Computer Applications in Archaeology’s (CAA) 50th annual meeting in Amsterdam. Believe it or not, this was my first CAA conference, and I must say that I had an absolute blast! I have long known that the CAA was “my” kind of organization, but being a North American archaeologist, it has always been difficult to get to the CAA because it is very often in Europe and falls literally the week after the SAA meetings. The two times it was in North America, I could not attend for various reasons, and so I had never had a chance to participate. When I saw that this year was the 50th anniversary of the meeting, and happened to coincide with my first sabbatical semester, I finally decided that this year would be the year I made it to the CAA.
The experience was more than I had expected! It was so wonderful to simply engage with like-minded folks, and not have to worry about explaining the technical aspects of my work, or having to provide “excuses” about the digital and computational approaches I take. Not only that, but I got to finally meet in person people who’s work I’ve followed for years, and got to meet many new people in the computational and digital archaeology sphere. The sessions were engaging, and seeing all the excellent computer-based archaeological work was really reinvigorating. This was especially exciting as this was my first in-person conference (and first air travel) since the pandemic. It was just the sort of experience I needed to help me reorient and restart in a post-pandemic world.
I will embed a slide show of my CAA talk below, but the main point I want to make with this brief blog post is that if you are a computational or digital archaeologist, or even if you are just “computational curious,” and you have not attended a CAA meeting, I strongly encourage that you put it high up on your list of priorities. Now that I’ve done one, I really can’t believe that it took me so long to do it. Now, all that being said, the two main issues complicating regular attendance for North/South America-based archaeologists still remain: 1) schedule proximity to the SAA meetings, and 2) difficulty of getting to Europe. The first issue seems like it will be perennial for me: I cannot take two weeks out of the term to attend both (and my conference travel stipend would not cover the costs of attending both), and the SAA is still a very important conference for me to attend. So my solution will be to alternate one year at the SAA, and one year at the CAA – more or less – depending on the location of each. Being based on the West Coast, traveling to Europe is a lot harder, longer, and more expensive than those who are based on the East Coast, so the difficulty of reaching Europe for regular attendance of the CAA is always going to be pretty high for me. That said, the CAA does move around the world (it will be in Auckland, NZ, next year, eg.), so there is a chance that it will come back to North America sometime soon (I heard rumors of a future meeting in Mexico!), and this would greatly reduce this second barrier. Finally, during the meeting I became aware of the various national chapters of the CAA, and so my hope is to become more involved with the North America chapter of the CAA. Another way to stay involved will be through engagement with one or more CAA Special Interest Groups, which I also hope to do.
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