‘Digital technologies are developing at an unprecedented speed. As they do, they are opening up many new possibilities for the conduct and presentation of archaeological research and investigation. The digital realm is one which knows few borders and so the sharing of understanding about these new methods, techniques and possibilities across Europe is extremely valuable.’
That was the opening call to the 17th Europae Archaeologiae Consilium symposium. I was privileged enough to be able to film the session. As I now have a backlog of videos I am going to start posting videos on Fridays along with my weekly Wednesday posts. Here is the rest of the symposium abstract,
‘A call to action for Europe’s archaeology was set out in the Amersfoort Agenda. It identifies digital technologies and the expanding phenomenon of social media as key aspects of the future of archaeological endeavour through its three key agenda items:
- Use emerging digital technologies to share, connect and provide access to archaeological information; this will require improved collaboration and the development of (and participation in) European networks
- Encourage cooperation with other disciplines and share data in order to create a shared benefit
- Aim for the greatest possible access to digital archaeological resources for various user groups and exploit digital databases to their full potential, including uses for the greater public.
This Symposium will give EAC members and others a welcome opportunity to explore exciting developments in digital technologies and consider how they may become embedded in general archaeological policy and practice over the coming years.’
The conference was over two days so there was a lot to cover. I will post the first half of videos now and the second half to come next week.
The Rae Project: Digital Documentation of a Nation’s Heritage
The Rae Project seeks to digitally document in 3D all 345 heritage properties cared for by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) on behalf of Scottish Ministers, and the associated collections. The project is named after John Rae, the Scottish explorer who discovered the north-west passage, but was not duly recognised until recent times.
It is an ambitious project led by HES’s Digital Documentation Team, and encompasses all forms of digital documentation, from laser scanning and photogrammetry to gigapixel imaging, infrared thermography and UAV survey. The Rae Project will provide baseline survey data on the condition of the properties, which include such diverse sites as Edinburgh Castle and Skara Brae. The project will also generate digital assets which can be repurposed for conservation monitoring, heritage management, education, interpretation and other purposes. We are also now beginning to use Rae Project point cloud data as the basis for BIM models, to improve our facilities and asset management at key sites.
Digital documentation of the collections associated with the properties in care feature artefacts ranging from tiny ivory penguins to giant medieval canons. Data capture techniques are tailored to suit the particular object in each case, and the resultant digital models are often 3D printed for handling kits for educational groups and visually impaired visitors.
Capacity building and outreach are important aspects of the Rae Project, and we regularly have interns and trainees working with our team to share our knowledge and expertise. The paper will outline current projects, challenges and aspirations for the Rae Project.
Lyn Wilson, James Hepher – Historic Environment Scotland
High resolution remote sensing data and the mapping and analysis of the archaeological landscape
In Flanders (Belgium) during the last years a large amount of remote sensing data has been acquired and processed, including high resolution Lidar and multi/ hyperspectral aerial photography. This new data is contributing importantly to the detection of new archaeological sites and the characterization of the cultural-historical landscape. Furthermore, through analysis and modelling of this data combined with other landscape data (soil maps, augering data, geological and historical maps, aerial photographs) and the ‘Central Archaeological Inventory’, new tools can be developed for both scientific analysis and heritage management. These include the mapping of ‘preservation potential’ of the archaeological record, the detection of patterns in archaeological data, and the mapping of ‘threats’ to the historical landscape (for example erosion modelling).
The presentation will focus on a number of examples of the ways this data is being used in Flanders in the light of heritage management and scientific research, and will explore some possibilities concerning the development of new tools.
Erwin Meylemans1, Karl Cordemans2, Katrien Cousserier1, Isabelle Jansen1
1 Flemish Heritage Agency 2 Flemish Land Agency
Non-invasive archaeology in the Republic of Moldova
Over the last two decades the new non-invasive technics in archaeology have developed dramatically. In my paper I would like to present Moldovan experience in this area and to share our research results with colleagues from EAC network.
Non-destructive methods involve a multidisciplinary approach and a wide range of techniques through which we can explore archaeological sites without interfering with the ground. These methods include measurements of soil resistivity, electromagnetic, acoustic, magnetometry, Light Detection And Ranging (LIDAR), Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) etc.
During 2009-2015 “Ion Creanga” State Pedagogical University in partnership with the German RGK, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, National Museum of the Eastern Carpathians, Sf. Gheorghe, Romania and “Al. Cuza” University, Iași, Romania conducted several non-invasive surveys in the Republic of Moldova. Magnetometric survey results from Old Orhei, Soroca, Cubolta river valley facilitated impressive discoveries from prehistoric, ancient and medieval times.
Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) is revolutionizing the archaeological studies in recent years and become a tool increasingly popular for remote prospecting and discovery of new archaeological traces. In 2014 the American College of site Cultural Research and Management – CSRM, Baltimore, USA applied LIDAR technique for site Old Orhei, nominated for the WHL. LIDAR and multispectral data analysis of Old Orhei revealed numerous archaeological structures and landscape features, many of which were not previously known, such as traces of a new ancient hillfort on Butuceni promontory. At the same time we clarified the structure of other partially-known Maşcăuţi ancient hillfort.
Moldo-American and Moldo-German Partnerships ensure transfer of experience and knowledge of modern methods of archaeological research. Especially since the use of non-destructive archaeological research methods fits perfectly in the context of the international conventions. ICOMOS Charter for the Protection and Management of the Archaeological Heritage (1990) mentions “Non-destructive techniques, aerial and ground survey, and sampling should therefore be encouraged wherever possible, in preference to total excavation”.
Sergiu Musteata (Moldova)
Ultra-sonic research on submarine hulls
As a contribution to commemorations associated with the First World War, Historic England has devised a project to assess and understand the location of 3 British and 44 German submarines known to have sunk within UK territorial waters adjacent to England. We are particularly interested in researching, surveying and diving 11 of these on account of their special interest, rarity and archaeological group value.
In order to provide data to support its protection and to test the application of new acoustic equipment for archaeological research we recently commissioned an innovative Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) survey of the remains of the U-8, lost in 1915 some 10 nautical miles off Dover in the English Channel in the dangerous marine traffic separation zone.
Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) have been used offshore for some time and the development of smaller systems has opened up a range of inshore opportunities for archaeological investigation. With recent advances in technology, these small AUV systems boast a suite of remote sensors that can include impressive underwater survey tools: side-scan sonar, multibeam echosounder, sub-bottom profiler, magnetometer and an underwater camera.
Although the submarine wrecks are not new discoveries, this paper will present the preliminary results of our acoustic-survey programme in which we are beginning to understand the current condition of the 11 submarines on the seabed, the extent of their survival and the current chemical and physical threats to them.
This increased understanding will help to inform Historic England’s archaeological management and protection options which might be considered in order to help this and future generations understand the conflict through its tangible remains. The project will run throughout the Centenary period.
Mark Dunkley (UK)
Survey2GIS – A flexible, open source solution for transferring survey data into GIS
Despite positive and exciting new developments in high-tech archaeological surveying and information capture over recent years (terrestrial laser scanning, LIDAR, SFM rtc.) much archaeological surveying still takes place on the basis of tachymetry or RTK-GPS measurements. Also, high-tech techniques still rely on conventional surveying for anchor points and to integrate their results into existing systems. To this end – and also to combat the high costs of proprietary systems – the Landesamt fuer Denkmalpflege (Cultural Heritage Department) of the South Western German Federal State of Baden Wuerttemberg has, during the last three years, headed a project to develop freely available software for just such tasks. Written from scratch and distributed freely under an open source license, this software, Survey2GIS, is a compact and flexible solution for handling topographic survey data. It is capable of processing 2D or 3D point measurements into complex geometrical objects (points lines and polygons), including multipart features and polygons with holes. The output generated by Survey2GIS is ideal for direct use in GIS. Input data consist of one or more survey data files with coded coordinates. This data can come from a variety of sources: Data collected in the field using, for example, a total station or GPS device or even preexisting cadastral files. Output data is the common ESRI(tm) Shapefile format (2D or 3D), according to geometry type and with complete attribute data. This process can be fully steered using a user-definable parser, thus allowing flexible adaptation to individual survey workflows and data structures.
The software is user friendly, easy to learn and feature rich with detailed protocolling to support quality assurance and consistent documentation of all processed data. During its development, high priority has been given to the generation of topologically correct output, suitable for quantitative analysis in GIS. This includes functions for the elimination of duplicate points, snapping to vertices and to polygon boundaries and modeling inset polygons Survey2GIS runs under Windows (XP – 10) and linux. Survey2GIS is especially comfortable as a plugin for the open source desktop GIS gvSIG-CE.
This software is distributed under the GNU General Public License and is freely available for all to use.
David Bibby (Germany)
Historic Building Information Modelling
The UK Government Construction Strategy was published in 2011 within which was announced its intention for “collaborative 3D BIM on its projects by 2016”. Although a stimulus for change and investment across some related sectors most focus still remains on new-build construction meaning that adoption of Building Information Modelling – BIM for existing buildings, heritage and archaeology is still unclear.
This presentation will discuss existing work to assess the relevance and potential adoption of BIM across the English Heritage historic estate and the impact of BIM on the external advice now provided by Historic England. It will also cover the geospatial technologies, such as laser scanning, Structure-from-Motion photogrammetry and drone acquired imaging, that typically supply the base BIM-ready survey datasets and, once constructed, the digital outputs and potential areas of application that BIM may have across archaeology. Although project application of BIM across the UK heritage sector still remains low, such background work has allowed Historic England to increase its knowledge on BIM and formulate targeted research relating to Historic Building Information Modelling (HBIM) that will widen appreciation of its respective benefits and target some current areas of concern across an archaeological context.
Paul Bryan (UK)
Archaeology in the GIS portal of the National Heritage Board of Poland
National Heritage Board of Poland was responsible for implementation of the INSPIRE directive in the field of cultural heritage (Protected Sites). The implementation was not only about digitising almost 80 000 listed monuments (including over 7700 archaeological sites), but also about a change of approach to data by adopting the yes/no mode instead of “about” and “probably”. After having built the data model, created thesauri and digitised paper documentation we felt that the visual result compliant with the INSPIRE specification would be highly unsatisfactory with regard to the data and the amount of work. Improved presentation available on our map portal (www.mapy.zabytek.gov.pl) was created in cooperation with Warsaw University of Technology.
The paper will discuss the scope of the visible data, reasons behind the visual classification, the pros and cons, current possibilities of the use of the data and prospective development of the portal.
Digitalizing the Archaeological Process in Sweden
In 2014 The Swedish National Heritage Board initialized the DAP program in order to create a more seamless digital process for information generated through archaeological surveys, excavations and site management. The main aims of the project are to increase the quality of the data and to create more effective management of the information for the use of officials and archaeologists, as well as companies and authorities working with planning and development in general. Nowadays most of the documentation from archaeological projects is digital, but since publishing and archiving is still based on analog principles it is time consuming to use the data when new excavations are planned. Moreover, as the digital data is stored only by the excavation companies there is no guarantee that this original documentation will be available for use in the future.
These are some of the problems DAP is intended to resolve, and the program is therefore building new services to make information about excavations more available to both professionals and the public. Building new digital services is only half the job, however. Just as important is re-examining the roles and responsibilities of the people producing and using data from excavations and heritage sites, including those working at the National Heritage Board. We will present our work to connect the various operators in the archaeological process (decision makers, excavators, collection keepers, development planners), and the services we are developing with them and for them with the aim to make better use of digital information.
Åsa M Larsson (Sweden)
Why the historic environment needs a Spatial Data infrastructure
The INSPIRE Directive (2007) mandates European Union countries to share environmentally related datasets so that they can be easily accessed by other public organisations within their own and neighbouring countries to inform policies or activities that may impact on the environment. Key to delivering INSPIRE is the establishment of Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDIs) providing frameworks for coordinating the policies, infrastructure and standards needed to acquire, process, distribute, use, maintain and preserve spatial data through discovery, view and download services by 2020.
Archaeological information is inherently spatial yet, despite the environmental focus of INSPIRE, guidance is limited and ambiguous for archaeological datasets and consequentially there is limited engagement from data curators. Although Protected Sites is an INSPIRE theme does it cover only those formally designated through legislation or include sites managed through legal or other effective means?
INSPIRE publishes data to help inform environmental policies and if data is unpublished there is a risk it will simply be ignored. Complex modelling of environmental change through Ecosystem Services remotely consuming web services is already happening but the lack of published reference datasets from the historic environment compromises consideration of the resource in decision making processes.
Development of SDIs for heritage can bring wider benefits for the profession. Too often fieldwork extents and results are confined to paper publications or reside in project archives. Consequentially we lack a spatial record of fieldwork activities. Although cultural heritage data often has a strong spatial component, the full potential of the geographies created through discovery, recording and analysis is far from being realised. Harmonisation and publication of spatial data to consistent standards through an SDI is an essential pre-requisite for mainstreaming the use of heritage data in 21st century to get cultural heritage to work for Europe.
Peter McKeague (Historic Environment Scotland), Anthony Corns (The Discovery Programme), Axel Posluschny (University of Bamberg)
Switching to digital tools. Archaeological heritage evaluation for preventive archaeology in Hungary
In the last decade preliminary tasks for large-scale constructions and archaeological excavations became more and more important: the stakeholders realized that it is remunerative to spend more to the assessment phase instead of paying more due to problems because of an ill-planned project. Thorough knowledge of the size and characteristics of the sites can save cultural heritage, not to mention time and money.
From 2011 Preliminary Archaeological Evaluations should be made as a mandatory part of the permitting process of large-scale constructions (with a total cost of above 1.600.000 EUR). These evaluations consist of desktop studies as well as field data with the cost up to 0.35% of the total construction budget. The goal is to make a precise archaeological project plan, assessing the optimal mitigation process.
Forster Centre – and its predecessor – is responsible for the coordination and execution of such evaluations since 2013 in Hungary, making it possible to collect data on the same level. In recent years we established and tested a GIS-based method which we find effective in large-scale investments and which – due to financial constraints – relies greatly on non-invasive methods as tools to help our former investigation strategies.
Our current strategy relies on three interdependent tasks: using GIS-based field survey, closely integrated large-scale magnetometer surveys and targeted trial trenching afterward. We are also free to do supplementary surveys when needed, such as coring, aerial archaeology or GPR survey. The scale of our tasks is challenging and demanding at the same time: investigating large areas with various methods gives us substantial and reliable data on archaeological landscapes. Accumulating and comparing this GIS-based information on a nationwide scale gives us an opportunity to examine the most effective methods to identify and save archeological heritage. One of the most promising opportunities is the database where geophysical surveys and excavations from several hundreds of hectars are available on a comparable basis throughout the country and constantly growing. Using the results we can make an archaeological geophysics database library, making our prospections more accurate and our methods more targeted. In this paper we will share our experiences and the results of these tasks.
Máté Stibrányi (Hungary)