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Fall 2000 The Big Dig
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Even when the best conservation efforts are practiced, the site of digs are forever altered by archaeological researchers. That is why it is imperative that the researchers document and disseminate what they learn. "If we dig the stuff up and don't publish, we're no better than looters," says Leventhal.

For years, UCLA has made a name for itself as a publisher of primary archaeological information - both its own and others'. More recently, the institute has taken the lead in the newer realm of digital publishing - a medium that enables archaeologists to broadcast their work in a more accessible, visual format, at a lower cost and with greater immediacy than traditional publishing allows.

"In traditional publishing, you end up with hundreds of pages of text, one or two pictures and a few maps," says Louise Krasniewicz, director of the Digital Archaeology Laboratory. "Now we're able to include thousands of images and hundreds of maps along with the text, and make it all interactive." The digital representations also provide far greater context. From a picture of the statues on Easter Island, for example, the viewer can turn 360 degrees, taking in the extinct volcano from which they were carved and the barren island where they sit.

Researchers in the digital lab, in consultation with a working group of computer-minded archaeologists from all over the world and with funding from the Ahmanson Foundation, have developed a digital-publishing template that is being freely released to the archaeology community this fall. "Rather than having to reinvent the wheel with every new project, archaeologists will be able to simply import their information into this template and have an attractive presentation," says Krasniewicz. Another major project in development at the digital lab is The Virtual Archaeologist, a CD-ROM for K-12 students and their teachers. Users interface with a three-dimensionally rendered laboratory, each station offering a different set of activities.

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