Jeffrey H. Altschul, Keith W. Kintigh, Terry H. Klein, William H. Doelle, Kelley A. Hays-Gilpin, Sarah A. Herr, Timothy A. Kohler, Barbara J. Mills, Lindsay M. Montgomery, Margaret C. Nelson, Scott G. Ortman, John N. Parker, Matthew A. Peeples, and Jeremy A. Sabloff
While our fascination with understanding the past is sufficient to warrant an increased focus on synthesis, solutions to important problems facing modern society require understandings based on data that only archaeology can provide. Yet, even as we use public monies to collect ever-greater amounts of data, modes of research that can stimulate emergent understandings of human behavior have lagged behind. Consequently, a substantial amount of archaeological inference remains at the level of the individual project. We can more effectively leverage these data and advance our understandings of the past in ways that contribute to solutions to contemporary problems if we adapt the model pioneered by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis to foster synthetic collaborative research in archaeology. We propose the creation of the Coalition for Archaeological Synthesis coordinated through a US-based National Center for Archaeological Synthesis. The Coalition will be composed of established public and private organizations that provide essential scholarly, cultural heritage, computational, educational, and public engagement infrastructure. The Center would seek and administer funding to support collaborative analysis and synthesis projects executed through Coalition partners. This innovative structure will enable the discipline to address key challenges facing society through evidentially based, collaborative synthetic research.