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Leila Araar

Research project

Research project title: Digital Recording, Fieldwork, and Craft at Museum of London Archaeology

Supervisors - Colleen Morgan (UoY)  and Louise Fowler (MOLA)

Funding - Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP)

Summary of research project

This PhD research investigates the impact of digital recording methods on the documentation, interpretation, and dissemination of archaeology within the context of development-led archaeology. With the advent of portable computing, digital recording has been introduced in archaeological fieldwork and frequently hailed for its speed, efficiency and accuracy. However, while digital methods have been celebrated, concerns have been raised regarding the impact of these technologies on training and their potential to lead to the deskilling of fieldworkers by further streamlining archaeological documentation. Digital systems often mirror paper-based approaches without considering how these novel datasets contribute differently to the analysis and dissemination of the archaeological record.

Using the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) as a primary case study, this research evaluates the effects of digital recording on the production of archaeological knowledge. Previous studies of digital methods have largely focused on academic projects that lack the scope, impact or specific challenges faced by the large, ongoing commercial projects performed regularly at MOLA. To gain a holistic understanding of the role of digital methods in the field, the study will use a mixed-method approach to explore current practices of archaeological recording within commercial archaeology. By employing both qualitative and quantitative methods, the project will perform an ethnographic study of development-led archaeology that focuses on digital knowledge creation.



I am a PhD candidate enrolled in a joint project between the University of York and the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) exploring the impact of digital technologies on archaeological knowledge production.

Following the completion of an Illustration and Design diploma in Montreal, I continued my studies in London where I obtained my BSc(Hons) in Archaeology from University College London (UCL). During my undergraduate studies, I identified early on an interest in the potential of digital technologies to change the way we undertake and understand archaeology. My dissertation explored the possibility of combining multispectral imaging with 3D objects. By applying UV textures onto photogrammetric models, the subject could be viewed and compared in both real and UV light; the developed methodology was then used to assess the effectiveness of adhesive removal from ceramic vessels. 

I went on to pursue a MSc(Distinction) in Digital Heritage at the University of York, where I hoped to continue my exploration and development of digital methods. For my masters dissertation “3D Reconstruction and Visualisation of Umm-an Nar Domestic Architecture”, I explored the potential of 3D modelling as an investigative tool by reconstructing Arabian Bronze Age architecture in SketchUp. Archaeological data was collated within a single model and presented the opportunity to question the validity of theories, explore hypothetical scenarios and experience the site in a dynamic manner.

Throughout my studies I have participated in a number of fieldwork opportunities, including research projects in the UK, Jersey, Spain, Morocco, Uganda and (soon) the UAE. During my undergraduate studies, myself and another founded the student-led heritage outreach project “Learning Through Artefacts”. Through a series of workshops, the project used object-based learning mixed with arts and crafts to encourage critical thinking in children using both ethnographic and archaeological collections at UCL. More recently, I have worked as part of the Sicily in Transition project, where I was employed to design and develop the basis of an archaeological trail for public engagement.

Research Interests

  • The use of digital and analogue media in archaeological knowledge production
  • Photogrammetric 3D modelling
  • 3D modelling and visual media
  • Augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality
  • Heritage, pedagogy and public engagement
  • Bronze Age Eastern Arabian Archaeology
  • Illustration, Graphic, and Visual Design

photo of Leila Araar

Contact details

Leila Araar
Research Student
Department of Archaeology
The University of York
Kings Manor