Session: #260

Theme & Session Format

3. The new normality of heritage management and museums in post-Covid times
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Probatio Diabolica: Absence of Evidence Is Not Evidence of Absence
The general understanding that Cultural Heritage documentation shows only the things that have been identified leads us to a diabolical proof (Probatio diabolica) that lack of evidence fails to prove the absence of something. Now this is fine where it is likely that our knowledge is incomplete (Romans in Tywi Forest in Wales) but becomes more of an issue where it is either very unlikely (Romans in Venezuela) or where comprehensive research shows no evidence (Blind-tooled decoration on a book with well-preserved covers).
This session is intended to provide an opportunity for practitioners grappling with documenting absence to talk about their approaches. Papers are invited to discuss:
a) how researchers establish complete knowledge in specific areas of their domain to argue with certainty that there is absence of a feature,
b) how researchers evaluate conclusions in their domain while being uncertain whether lack of documentation means absence of a feature,
c) how researchers come up with criteria to help them choose which features to document as absent,
d) what is the kind of automatic reasoning that researchers can compute based on knowledge of absence of a feature.
The session will include invited papers about initiatives from the CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model Special Interest Group (CIDOC CRM-SIG) to help make data about documented absence interoperable and reusable.
So if you are wrestling with recording sterile deposits or areas that show no remains after intensive field survey or missing features during finds conservation we want to hear from you!
CIDOC CRM, Documentation, Absence, Negative Evidence
Session associated with MERC:
Session associated with CIfA:
Session associated with SAfA:
Session associated with CAA:
Session associated with DGUF:
Session associated with other:
CIDOC CRM Special Interest Group (CRM-SIG)


Main organiser:
Stephen Stead (United Kingdom) 1,2
George Bruseker (Greece) 3
Athanasios Velios (United Kingdom) 2
1. Paveprime Ltd
2. University of the Arts London (UAL)
3. Getty