French archaeologist specialised in oriental studies and promoter of many important research projects in Central Asia. Drawing on a heterogeneous background of studies, since the 1950s Gardin was deeply involved in the formalisation of scientific languages and the modelling of archaeological constructs.
In 1957, after his experience as a member of the French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan (DAFA) and at the Institut français d’archéologie de Beyrouth (Mission de documentation méchanographique), he instituted and directed the CNRS Centre Mécanographique de Documentation Archéologique (then Centre d’Analyse Documentaire pour l’Archéologie), aimed at developing new methods of descriptive analysis and automatic processing of archaeological data. In particular, Gardin promoted the creation of “codes” for the description of archaeological artefacts and participated in elaborating the SYNTOL system (SYNTagmatic Organization Language), a specialised description language for automatic indexing, funded by EURATOM.
In 1962, Gardin started directing the seminar “Sémiologie et informatique” at the École des Hautes Études en Science Sociales (EHESS) in Paris, which addressed the relationship between the Humanities and the application of formal methods of automatic documentation. In 1971, he participated in the feasibility study of a World Science Information System, a UNESCO/ICSU joint project with the objective of facilitating the dissemination of scientific information (UNISIST: UNESCO’s World Scientific Information Programme).
Within the CNRS, in 1974 Gardin launched the Centre de Recherches Archéologiques located at Valbonne near Nice and focused his research work on two main issues: history of population in central Asia and theoretical archaeology. In particular, Gardin carried out surveys and excavations in Eastern Bactria, notably in Lashkari Bazar and the plain of Aï Khanum. During the 1970s, he published the books “Les analyses de discours” (1974) and the famous “Une archéologie théorique” (1979; English version “Archaeological Constructs”), in which readers can find the substance of Gardin’s theoretical speculations. Conversely, in “Le calcul et la raison. Essais sur la formalisation du discours savant” (1991) Gardin offers a synthesis of his approach to the dynamics of cognitive processes.
At the beginning of the new Millennium, Gardin was among the founding members of the European Association Arkeotek that was centred on an innovative form of archaeological publication, combining the principles of the logicist analysis and the computational paradigm of the information age. Important documents relative to Gardin’s research and institutional activity are now preserved preserved in Nanterre at the Service des Archives of the Maison Archéologie & Ethnologie, René-Ginouvès (now Maison des Sciences de l'Homme Mondes - MSHM).