A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Seinfeld? Never watched it. Last movie seen in a theater? Manhattan Murder Mystery in 1993. Entertainment? Simultaneously watching the Weather Channel and any three football games, a warm remote in hand. Can such a person find happiness in the world of archaeological CD-ROMs? Would innovative technology bring me as much delight as a Randy Wayne White suspense novel? I was going to find out.
I quickly learned that the most difficult part of running a CD-ROM was finding my computer's removable disk drive. I finally located it in a drawer under some tax receipts, popped it into my laptop, dropped in a CD-ROM, and found myself in a new world. My first stop was the FLK-Zinj site in Tanzania where in 1959 Mary Leakey made her famous discovery of Zinjanthropus (now known as Australopithecus boisei). If Investigating Olduvai takes the classroom to the field, Excavating Occaneechi Town brings the field into the classroom, not to mention the office library.The excavations, data gathered, and interpretations of information and artifacts are brought to the viewer in extensive text, more than 1,000 color maps and photographs, and short movies.
As CD-ROM producers realize that archaeology intrigues a broad audience, I believe there will be less emphasis on video game-like gimmicks and more on CD-ROMs as easy-to-use computerized books that use sight and sound along with the written word. Are CD-ROMs going to supplant textbooks? I don't think so. Nor are they going to replace television, movies, or novels. But they are a powerful, interactive tool for teaching archaeology and the past. If these two archaeology CD-ROMs, both sophisticated forerunners in an expanding field, are any evidence, the future for this new technology is bright indeed.
Jerald T. Milanich is curator of archaeology in the department of anthropology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville.