Electronic resources for archaeology: from databases to digital open data

Posted on July 30, 2015


To continue with CAA sessions here is another one:

Digital archaeology in the 21st century promotes an interdisciplinary approach, which requires to model complex systems in line with the policies of international research and in close connection with the socio-economic conditions of each country. New perspectives of investigation are offered by ICT solutions, through integrated platforms on which methods and resources of different disciplines can be managed simultaneously, contributing in this way to reconstruct cultural and social stratification phenomena.

From Lamp-light to Laser-light: Opening access to the historic and contemporary imaging of monuments

Abstract: LoCloud is a 3 year co-funded EU project which aims to build on the achievements of CARARE in establishing a repository-based aggregator for Archaeological and Architectural heritage (and which will, by the end of 2012 have contributed some 3 million items to Europeana); and of Europeana Local in its work with local institutions and their regional and national aggregators, which resulted in the contribution to date of well over 5 million items.
The specific goals of LoCloud are to: 1. Ease the task of enabling heritage organisations in making their contents accessible via Europeana, by using the cloud to provide services and tools which help to reduce technical, semantic and skills barriers. 2. Make it easier for digital content emerging from small and medium cultural institutions, and also through collaborative crowd-sourcing initiatives, to be made available to Europeana in order to increase the richness and representativeness of Europeana’s record of local history. 3. Improve the interoperability of relevant content from localities across Europe from institutional domains which in some countries act separately: namely the ‘heritage’ sector and the MLA (museums, libraries, Archives) sectors, in order to provide a more coherent ‘views’ of the history and heritage of a given locality. 4 Enable smaller institution types such as house museums, which currently fall outside most aggregation infrastructures, to contribute their content to Europeana. 5. Explore the potential of cloud computing for aggregation, enrichment and re-use, with a special focus on geographic location. 6. Explore and trial a cloud based architecture as a scalable platform for Europeana metadata aggregation and harvesting with higher efficiency and reduced maintenance costs. 7. Develop a portal and support service to serve the needs of content providers. Within Ireland, LoCloud is focusing its efforts on the assistance to small institutions which hold within their collection a range of historic and contemporary imagery which have recorded the monuments and archaeology of Ireland for more than 200 years. Some of the data sets which will be made available through LoCloud include: the 19th Century watercolour illustrations of monuments created by DuNoyer, some of the earliest remaining lantern slides of important Irish archaeology sites, historic aerial photography utilised for archaeology survey, contemporary recording of ogham stones using close range laser scanning. Before LoCloud, these archaeological resources were not available online, or not visible to the interested user. Through the activities of this project access through Europeana access will be made available for wider use. The project will also provide cloud based metadata enrichment services (Geolocation, vocabularies and languages, historic place names) which will enable those institutions providing the content create rich and detailed metadata records. LoCloud also offers those institutions with no dedicated repository for the online presentation of their digital assets with “LoCloud Online Collections” cloud based OMEKA service.

Authors: Anthony Corns, Louise Kennedy

From past to present: Reconciling years of Arctic archaeological data into a single visual database

Abstract: Creating a database housing metadata on an archaeological site is a crucial yet daunting enterprise faced by many archaeologists. Problems associated with the creation of these databases can include: multiple investigators, the amount of time elapsed from excavation to completion of project, and the loss of context. Despite these issues the completion of a project is often followed by publications and in most cases the storage of data both physical and digital. This is invariably followed by a lack of access or an overall degradation of data compounded by a lack of use and exposure. Many sites never see the ‘light of day’ following the publication stage making them invisible to the research realm. To combat this lethargy we have begun creating an online database housing 2D and 3D images, site data, excavation data and all other pertinent metadata of archaeological sites across the lower Alaska Peninsula. The beauty of this database is that it allows the researcher, educator, student or weekend observer to not only see these artifacts and data but perform research and analyses. Our process of data collection allows highly accurate (0.01mm) metric analyses to be performed on both 2D and 3D images with the capability of exporting metrics directly into spreadsheets from online content. This database is also designed to be plastic, in that it is directly transferrable and malleable to any research area or time period. This paper discusses our process of data acquisition using 2D and 3D capture, data reconciliation, and the movement of data into an online digital database.

Authors: Nicholas Andre Holmer, Buck Benson, Jesse Pruitt, Robert Schlader, Nicholas Clement, Herbert D.G. Maschner, Corey Schou, Jonathan Holmes

The Italian Manifesto for Open Data in Archaeology (MODA)

Authors: Francesca Anichini, Margherita Bartoli, Paola Liliana Buttiglione, Eleonora Delpozzo, Ilenia Galluccio, Gabriele Gattiglia, Clara Annarita Giannitrapani, Silvia Lischi, Saverio Giulio Malatesta, Flavia Morandini, Daniela Musmeci, Felice Perciante, Mariela Quartararo, Sara Linda Russo, Francesca Simi

Abstract The Italian Manifesto for Open Data in Archaeology arose from the experience of the Open School of Archaeological Data, promoted by the MAPPA Lab of the University of Pisa, a free school conceived to foster open data literacy in archaeology. The school encourages a civic hacking approach to archaeology, an open data approach that we define as ha(r)ckeology, i.e the act, conducted by archaeologists, of quickly improving the processes and systems of archaeology with new tools or approaches, or more simply the action of archaeologists working together quickly and creatively to improve archaeology. For reaching such a goal, the first step is to educate a new generation of archaeologists, a sharing generation able to work with a trowel, and to share and manipulate data, a generation that is aware that archaeological data must be open because they are public, and they must be reused. The Manifesto is based on the idea that archaeological heritage is a public asset of all citizens, therefore the data describing them must be public, and that archaeology is a research activity, and if the research is free – as stated in the Italian Constitution – the data and the results derived from it should also be free, so an open access to data must be a right and is essential for the development of modern archaeology and for the enhancement of good archaeological practices. Open access to archaeological data will be the basis for a new, conscious and shared management of collective goods, and for giving the archaeologists the necessary awareness to regain a strong social relevance and to truly be culture makers and promoters. As promoters of the Manifesto, we are aware that our society is gearing towards openness and sharing, so we decided no longer to limit ourselves to words, but commit ourselves concretely for the practical application of principles that are not mere statements of intent, in the name of a development of civic and cultural life. We are archaeologists, but basically crazy people. Crazy in wanting to propose a new approach to archaeology, to the point of putting us at the forefront to spread the idea of participative collaboration, because “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success” (H. Ford) and our aim is to succeed.

Digital resources for archaeology. The contribution of the on-line projects by ISMA-CNR.

Authors: Alessandra Caravale, Alessandra Piergrossi

Abstract: Are digital resources now a real support to the work of the archaeologist? What assets on the network can benefit the scholar of antiquities in his patient work of classification and comparison? The paper discusses some examples of electronic resources for antiquity sciences, outlining briefly the lines of development and focusing on databases, on-line publishing, portals useful to carry out research into the history of ancient art and archeology. The paper refers to the activities carried out in this field of study by our Research Institute of the National Research Council, the Institute for the Study of the Ancient Mediterranean, whose ancient origins date back to the late Sixties. Since then specific attention to the so-called “ancillary sciences” of archaeology has been manifested and the CNR has paid particular attention to the methodological renewal concerning archaeology, which started applying new tools for research borrowed from natural and social sciences. With regard to the application of computer techniques for the study and classification of archaeological artefacts, in the early Eighties our Institute gave rise to a dedicated line of research, which found a stable editorial point of reference and a place of convergence for theoretical as well as methodological debate in the international journal “Archeologia e Calcolatori”. As regards the data banks, the paper will focus in particular on the recent realization dedicated to the collection of bronzes Faina in the Orvieto Museum, realized using the Content Management System open source “Museo and Web”. This is a system created by the Technological Observatory for Heritage and Cultural Activities of Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism in order to develop and manage high quality web sites devoted to museums or cultural institutions. This tool facilitates the creation of a database of the objects kept in museums and makes use of metadata for the retrieval and access management of digital resources. For the open access publishing policy, ISMA contributes with the “Archeologia e Calcolatori” case. The journal, directed by Paola Moscati, is a peer reviewed open access journal as, since 2005, in addition to the paper format, is also accessible on-line, providing all articles published since 1998 in pdf downloadable and printable. We present also two web sites examples implemented by ISMA researchers, on Cerveteri and the Virtual museum of archaeological computing. The website devoted to the Cerveteri necropolis, was realized in 2004 when the UNESCO declared the Etruscan necropolis of Cerveteri and Tarquinia world Heritage. In this website, apart from the data on the Etruscan town, the territory, the necropolis and the museum, you can consult some virtual itineraries inside the Banditaccia necropolis. The website of the Virtual museum of archaeological computing is managed by Paola Moscati in cooperation with the Centro Linceo Interdisciplinare “Beniamino Segre” of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei and some ISMA researchers. This website aims at showing the roots and the development of this discipline, by pointing out the related institutions, studies and main actors, at an international level.

SITAR: starting point, challenges and future development of an archaeology data sharing platform

Abstract: The Geographic Archaeological Information System of Rome (SITAR) is a project of Ministry for Cultural Assets and Activities and for Tourism of Italy, developed since 2007 by the Special Superintendence for Archaeological Heritage of Rome. SITAR has the aim to create the first “archaeological digital cadastre” of the metropolitan area of Rome, in which archaeological data are integrated with the modern city, and in which every record provides the detailed topographic location of the archaeological finding, together with a descriptive sheet containing administrative informations (type of survey, commissioning body, executing company) and scientific ones (type/function, chronology, description, etc.). The informations provided correspond to a “minimum level of knowledge”, which is adequate to allow an aware re-use of data for aims of research, conservation, urban planning, by both researchers, public bodies, professionals and citizens. The project data are accessible on the web through a webGIS platform, which allows the easy consultation and download of information to a wide range of users. From the outset, the project has been developed with a special regard to the open access to the information and to open data formats, in line with the european prescriptions for public data repositories. Thanks to the Special Superintendence for Archaeological Heritage of Rome, administrative and financial independence, public funding has guaranteed in the first seven years of the project the system design and development, as well as its implementation. For the future, public financing will ensure the economic sustainability of the project and will ensure future service efficiency and technology update, aiming to create a complete repository of the entire archaeological heritage of Rome. The SITAR contribution to Europeana and ARIADNE, in the prospect of sharing information with other european cultural databases, will provide mutual enrichment of knowledge; interoperability between databases, content sharing and knowledge are indeed the ultimate goal of the project.

Authors: Valeria Boi, Mirella Serlorenzi, Ilaria Jovine, Milena Stacca

The Past and Future of Open Access in Archaeology

Authors: Doug Rocks-Macqueen

Abstract: This paper examines the work of the Open Access Archaeology project and its website OpenAccessArchaeology.org (OAA) over the last few years and future plans. A brief history of why the website was set up and its early development will be given. The successes and failures of some ofthe early initiatives will be reviewed like:
• The creation of a searchable database of OA ArchaeologyJournals.
• A custom search engine to search for OA Archaeology articles.
• Multiple web bots to disseminate OA publications on social media platforms.
However, the purpose of this paper is not to focus on the past of Open Access and Archaeology but its future together. With the very rapid expansion of OA through government mandates like those found in the US and UK the publishing environment is shifting very rapidly. Some of these changes have resulted in OAA reaching some of its initial goals. However, the rapid changes occurring in publishing has presented new challenges to Open Access and Archaeology. This paper will focus on what these challenges are and how archaeologists can deal with them. Ideally, presenting a roadmap to the future.

Use of cartographical Open Data in the context of the project SITAN

Abstract: The aim of this paper is to take stock of the availability, integration and use of cartographic Open Data within the research project of the Department of Architecture, Design and Urbanism (DADU) of the University of Sassari named “Creation and activation of the Sardinian node of the national network for the collective construction of the Web GIS of the national archaeological heritage – SITAN”. The research project was conceived within a national debate carried on by two Interdepartmental Commissions of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism (MiBACT) and the Ministry for Instruction, University and Research (MIUR) over the past decade. Particularly, the second Commission, active from 2009 to 2011 and chaired by Giuseppe Sassatelli, issued a final document, still unedited, that dictates the directives for the definition of an archaeological Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) based on a national research network. An experimentation was initiated in Sardinia from 2012, through an academic research project, involving different universities, the peripheral institutions of MiBACT (Superintendence for Cultural Heritage and Regional Directions) and Sardinia Autonomous Region (RAS). Due to the great number of actors involved in the definition of a common project, the problem of the interoperability of the data, and of the need to get to a common reference cartographic base, arose. In this sense, open cartographic bases provided by National Cartographic Portal (PCN) of the Ministry for Environment and by the Geoportal of the RAS were chosen. The European Community established common rules in the field of Cartographic Open Data through the directive INSPIRE (2007/EC), directive transposed in Italy from 2010 (D.Lgs. 32/2010); particularly, the RAS provides its cartographic data through a distribution Italian Open Data License 2.0 (IODL). All these data are published online according to the protocols defined by Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and they are usable regardless of available software and hardware architectures. Particularly, reference is made to the use of the protocols Web Map Service (WMS), Web Map Tiled Service (WMTS), Web Feature Service (WFS) and to dedicated plug-ins on client platforms GIS Open Source for the structuring of client based GIS projects connected to the network of the SITAN experimentation, defined through OGC Standards. The research project for experimentation of SITAN contemplates an architecture of storage of data on server based on RDBMS PotgreSQL with geographical interface PostGIS, and the use of GIS Open Source client qGIS for the implementation of the data by the different actors/users contributing to the production of the archaeological datum. Particularly, the data interexchange between DADU and Soprintendenza per i Beni archeologici per le Provincie di Sassari e Nuoro was encoded through a framework agreement that standardizes all procedures relating the experimentation of the SITAN. Finally, on the basis of Ministry directives, the project aims to realize a cartographical apparatus characterized by a minimum set of required standardized data, a “zero degree” of information, a geographical and alphanumeric “Greatest Common Denominator” contemplating an open distribution, complying with European and National directives.

Authors: Federico Nurra

Exploring sustainable publication and the web: a case -study from the Villa Magna Project

Abstract: Within the past decade, new platforms for creating and managing archaeological data during fieldwork have seen both widespread adoption and increasing intricacy. Although effective data management is now a necessary component of most field projects, the lives of these complex systems after the project has ended are less certain. Institutional concerns including basic software requirements, system upgrades, and web security can derail digital publication and result in largely static, albeit sustainable, archives – downloadable CSV files, simple HTML pages, and, occasionally, PDFs. These formats are only one piece of the puzzle, a necessary aspect of sustainability that, when used alone, can limit the functionality of these data for future researchers. How can we ensure the open, online publication of archaeological data while also maintaining the complexity of original field systems? What steps can we take to address institutional concerns while publishing information in interactive formats that facilitate later use and reuse? This paper considers some of these questions through the lens of a single case-study at the site of Villa Magna, Italy. A programme of fieldwork was completed at this Roman imperial villa and later medieval monastery from 2006-2010, and included geophysical survey, pedestrian survey, and open-area excavation. Complex data were managed on-site using the Archaeological Recording Kit (ARK), accessible to the project team during the off-season through the ARK system’s online interface. The project is on schedule to publish these results in 2015 in a hybrid print/digital publication – a printed monograph containing site background and narrative interpretation, and an interactive online companion for stratigraphic reports and object catalogues. By looking at some of the difficulties the project has faced in finding a longterm home for its online component, and the steps toward automatic system updates and data security the project team has taken to ensure greater longevity, this discussion will explore some future options for the sustainability of digital data publications.

Authors: Andrew Dufton, Michael Johnson, Elizabeth Fentress

GQBWiki goes open

Abstract: In 2005 the team at the University of Siena working in Gortys started using wiki software as a digital documentation platform for the archaeological excavation and the broader research project. We chose MediaWiki, a fortunate choice in retrospect, with the aim of tackling two main problems: 1) all the 10-15 team members should able to work on the same content platform at the same time 2) when fieldwork is over and everyone is in a different place, even country, we should be able to continue working seamlessly. This collaborative web-based approach is common, and perhaps just good practice in the mid ‘10s, but was admittedly experimental and, at times, problematic when we started to understand the routine of it. Today GQBWiki is still our platform for the management of data and information, and it also keeps the historic memory of the archaeological interpretation and how it came into essence, thanks to page history. After more than ten years of research on the field, we are ready to publish our results and and release our data alongside a traditional publication ‒ that will be inevitably a synthetic and narrative one. In the meantime GQBWiki is the base of our knowledge and it will be published on its own as an open access repository (under a CC BYSA license) where data and metadata are really the same. From the point of view of digital data, the 2000+ pages in GQBWiki are a handbook case of linked data, with a unique URI for each stratigraphic unit, journal entry, archaeologist, and significant find. A thin ontology was created using Semantic MediaWiki: while this serves very practical purposes and bridges the gap between a wiki and a database for structured queries, it also helped us solving one of the main problems for publication, that is the accessibility of information for external users, both human and machine, by improving the ability to explore our knowledge base, through web browsing and state of the art linked open data practice. Collaborative authorship has been a challenge both in the material practice of creating content and in the obvious distance from traditional academic publication when considering publication, peer review and attribution. A wiki is a different kind of “manuscript”, by definition a multivocal product, where every single page is built by many users, each one with a different background and level of commitment. While internal review of the content has worked well for us, an actual peer review process seems a daunting task and opening the wiki is likely going to spur only minor feedback in the near future. The very process of making our work open is one kind of alternate attribution mechanism, imperfect but appropriate since we’re publishing a living body of knowledge that will continue to evolve.

Authors: Stefano Costa, Alessandro Carabia, Enrico Zanini

Archaeological contents: from open access to open data

Abstract: The activity of the researcher takes place within a global process of development of the scientific knowledge, which lies on data sharing. He needs both to access existing data (sources, publications), and to distribute his own production. Open access provides the suitable tool for reaching these two objectives. Researchers must also overcome new challenges: selecting relevant information within the huge quantity of data and ensure optimal visibility and re-usability for the data they produce. In this context, open access is not sufficient, hence the emergence of the concept of open data, which deals with technical interoperability, quality of referencing and permanence of access. Persée is a French, public-funded, program for the digitization and online publishing of printed academic journals in the field of Humanities and Social Sciences. Beyond the publication of a huge digital collection, Persée endorses the core principles of the open data movement (open access, handle/DOI, standard formats, SEO, interoperability, long term preservation). The original mission of Persée is now expanded to a new project: producing and disseminating scientific content beyond published journals. Persée will apply its savoir-faire on corpus composed of heterogeneous material. A wide range of tools is being developed in order to process, disseminate, share, and allow scientific uses of these bodies of documents. Among the collections that will be processed with these new tools in 2015, two are dedicated to

– The collection “Monuments of Cairo” is about the the digital publication of the minutes and reports of theCommittee for the Conservation of the Monuments of Arab Art (published from 1882 to 1953). We intend to enrich the original material with a multilingual index for toponyms and monuments. This index uses international standards and proposes to associate to each entry the several ways it is mentioned over the whole collection.
-The collection about the excavation of “Salamine de Chypre”, is about the study of material and architectural remains. It aims at univoquely identifying artifacts and establishing links between several resources related to these objects: catalogs, photographs, publication, index cards.

These two projects will demonstrate the potential brought by an open data regarding the constitution of digital collections. One of our objectives is to build a large scale platform that will both federate data and be enriched, project after project, by a collection of tools addressing the researchers needs. Both data and tools will be fully and freely available to the community.

Authors: Monteil Aurélie, Bouletreau Viviane

Legacy Data – Open strategies for closed data

Abstract: Archaeological geophysics surveys have been conducted by groups based in Bradford for in excess of 40 years. GSB Prospection combined with the School of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford have an archive of reports both analogue and digital stretching back this far, many of which have been viewed by only a select few. Spurred on by a project to
catalogue the late Professor Arnold Aspinals project archive and a need to update GSB’s internal database and archiving systems, GSB and Postgraduate students in the school of Archaeological Sciences have embarked on a project to digitise, re-georeference and disseminate work that can be made available in the public domain. The project is built primarily on open source software and database systems and wherever possible will be made available to those seeking to replicate the work we are doing.
The Open aspects of the project break down into three key tasks, these are: Bringing historic data into a format that can be utilised on current systems. Batch Process historical word, CAD and data archives to ensure the contents are converted to and stored in freely available formats. Historic archives have been lost when proprietary formats become obsolete. Salvage born digital data from archives only available in printed analogue formats. In salvaging archives that currently only exist in paper or legacy formats it safeguards the data for future use. Ensuring the location of surveys can be easily determined from datasets Compare digital mapping information with project metadata to verify georeferencing information in historical CAD archives. If georeferencing information is incorrect automatically identify known features that correlate with open mapping data, to position the historic local grid within the world view. If no automated georeferencing is possible flag the site for review Make datasets available in the most appropriate way Categorise surveys to determine those that are commercially sensitive and those that have previously migrated into the public domain. If accurate georeferencing has been possible make data only previously available in printed form available on a google maps type service.
If only an approximate georeferencing has been possible add a Pin to a map linking to a web viewable report. Undertake consultation to determine if the final display should contain data ‘tiers’ in order to protect uninvestigated archaeology. The first tier being an approximate location pin with basic survey details, leading to a final tier of fully georeferenced data and interpretive plots that can be accessed on request.

Authors: Finnegan Pope-Carter, Graeme Attwood

If you have any feedback please leave a comment and I hoped you enjoyed them. To see more videos like these please go to the YouTube channel Recording Archaeology- http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC08QKQO1qs6OPQs9l1kMQPg

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