2017 Round-up of Internet Archaeology

It’s been another busy year for Internet Archaeology. One of the reasons I manage to just about stay on top of things is the help of a small number of volunteers who have given up their time to work on a whole range of aspects of the journal production, promotion and management. So I gladly namecheck Erica Cooke, Lesley Collett and Hayden Strawbridge.

This lovely infographic was created by Lesley and sums up the 2017 visitors and page views of the journal very nicely. It’s good to know that all that content we work on actually gets read…a lot. And if page loading takes just a few seconds longer on a Tuesday, now you know why!

ADS Goes Live on International Digital Preservation Day

On 30th November 2017 the first ever International Digital Preservation Day will draw together individuals and institutions from across the world to celebrate the collections preserved, the access maintained and the understanding fostered by preserving digital materials.

The aim of the day is to create greater awareness of digital preservation that will translate into a wider understanding which permeates all aspects of society – business, policy making and personal good practice.

To celebrate International Digital Preservation Day ADS staff members will be tweeting about what they are doing, as they do it, for one hour each before passing on to the next staff member. Each staff member will be focusing on a different aspect of our digital preservation work to give as wide an insight into our work as possible. So tune in live with the hashtags #ADSLive and #idpd17 on Twitter or follow our Facebook page for hourly updates. Here is a sneak preview of what to expect and when:

Continue reading ADS Goes Live on International Digital Preservation Day

Meet the #OAFund winner!

To mark the 2017 Open Access week, we thought it would be a good time to introduce the winner of our first Open Access Archaeology fund award (see our original announcement here), decided on after much deliberation and consideration by the panel of 3 independent judges. So…

Meet Chris

Figure 1: Chris with his geophysics equipment. Image credit: C. Whittaker

Chris Whittaker carried out a survey at Breedon on the Hill, a multi-period hilltop site, as part of his undergraduate dissertation at Newcastle University, supervised by Dr Caron Newman. After graduating he worked outside archaeology in the technology sector. However conscious that his data was potentially at risk, he applied to the fund to help preserve the data and publish his findings. He has since started to study for a research master’s in settlement archaeology at Newcastle University.

The judges felt that Chris’ proposal – Breedon Hill, Leicestershire: an archaeological investigation at the multi-period hilltop site – was “an important site and methodically-collected dataset, which made good use of both Internet Archaeology and ADS, with the data having considerable potential for re-use to inform future fieldwork”.

About Breedon Hill
Breedon Hill, Leicestershire is a scheduled ancient monument. The hilltop was the site of a univallate hillfort present from the Early-Middle Iron Age. From the 7th century AD, a minster church was founded within the hillfort enclosure. Today, approximately two-thirds of the Iron Age rampart, and much of the hillfort interior, has been irretrievably lost due to quarrying (Figure 2). The investigation combined magnetometry and resistivity geophysical surveys, alongside digital terrain models (processed LIDAR data), to contribute to the understanding of the character and development of the hillfort interior and its immediate environment. Very little is known about the different phases of occupation at the hilltop, as previous excavations have primarily focussed on the ramparts, and so Chris’ investigation sought to address this issue.

Figure 2: Breedon Hill Quarry. Taken from http://www.geograph.org.uk/p/4597198 ©Anthony Parkes and licensed for reuse under creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0

The results of Chris’ geophysical survey reveal several phases of roundhouses and post-hole built structures, as well as several potential associated enclosures, in the south-eastern part of the hillfort interior. These will be published as part of a future open access article in Internet Archaeology and will link to a related digital archive deposited with the Archaeology Data Service. We are looking forward to working with Chris in the coming months.

The church at Breedon in relation to what remains of the western rampart. Image credit: C. Whittaker

Chris said “The work was undertaken while I was an undergraduate student, firstly as part of an independent summer research programme (processing the LIDAR data), and secondly as part of an undergraduate dissertation (undertaking the geophysical survey). Publisher or institutional paywalls are often barriers for local researchers to study the world around them. And I know from personal experience that projects such as the digitisation of volumes of the Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, preserved with the ADS, are of great benefit to local and school-level research alike. From a research perspective [open access] offers many opportunities for colleagues from different backgrounds to build on and potentially refine the resources preserved.”

And now, we start all over again…
As you know, the Open Access Archaeology fund is made up of donations, set aside to support the digital archiving and publication costs of those researchers for whom funding is simply not available despite research quality and whose digital data is potentially at greater risk.

Thank you to everyone for your support for our #OAFund which is now being used to support the open access dissemination of Chris’ work. Of course, in making the first award, we now need to start all over again to raise sufficient funds for the next round to help more early career and independent researchers like him. So please consider donating today and help to reduce the barriers to open archaeological research and advance knowledge of our shared human past.

https://www.yorkspace.net/giving/donate/archaeology-fund

We want to send out lots more of our little USB trowels just like last year and we have an extra special gift for everyone who sets up a recurring monthly or annual gift!

Open Access Archaeology Fund ready to make its first award!

Nine months ago, we launched our Open Access Archaeology Fund. We have sent our little USB trowels all over the globe by way of a ‘thank you’ and we have been thrilled with everyone’s generosity, not least in such austere times.

So, it makes us even happier to say that sufficient funds have now been accrued and we are in a position to make our first award to cover costs of an unfunded proposed archive or article. (Full details of eligibility can be found here)

So if you or someone you know, has already submitted an article proposal or approached ADS about an archive for which you have no funding, then you can apply to the fund today.

Have you donated yet?
The successful application will likely deplete the fund substantially but we did not want to delay making the first award – it is infinitely preferable that the benefits of the fund can be fast and tangible. However we need more donations to do it all again in 6 months time!

Every donation you make helps to ensure that more archaeological research is open and accessible.

Donate today

The PUBLICAN project

Internet Archaeology and the Archaeology Data Service are working together on a project concerning the current and ongoing impact of our activities on publication policy and practice (which we are calling PUBLICAN for short). We’re especially interested in the impact digital archiving and publication has had on the commercial sector.

Can you help us to compile a national picture of how digital has changed and affected professional practice?

Some further background information to the project can be found in this recently recorded Archaeology Podcast Network podcast https://www.archaeologypodcastnetwork.com/arch365/118

And the survey itself (short!) can be found here:

http://intarch.ac.uk/projects/publican/

Last orders? … The survey link will be closed on 30th June.


Halfway House at Gweedore, Co. Donegal, probably by Robert French
c.1884. National Library of Ireland on The Commons, Ref.: L_ROY_01372.
No known copyright restrictions

ADS Library: BETA version now online!

The ADS, Historic England and the Council for British Archaeology are pleased to announce the beta release of ADS Library.

Weaving a web of references.

The ADS Library is the fusion of existing datasets. These include journal and series backruns archived with the ADS, the Library of unpublished fieldwork reports (aka the Grey literature library) which is mostly populated with reports from OASIS and last but not least the British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography  (BIAB) which is in itself a collection of different datasets which have been collected over the last hundred years.

The project to get these references online as a single resource has involved cleaning, mapping and enhancing the data from the different datasets. Allowing them to share the same data structure and hopefully give users as consistent information about each item listed in the library. Some records simply show the existence of a report or publication and others link out to the publication itself where available. There was some overlap in the combined datasets and we have endeavoured to merge records where appropriate in order to limit the existence of duplicates in the lists of results.
Continue reading ADS Library: BETA version now online!

Call for papers: EAA session sponsored by ArchAIDE

The annual EAA Conference will be held this year in Maastricht, the Netherlands from 30 August to 3 September. The ArchAIDE project would like to invite papers related to the topic of automation in artefact recognition. Papers are encouraged which not only highlight technical possibilities, but also challenges facing artefact recognition by archaeologists working across Europe. Session details are available below:

 

Session 166: Automation in artefact recognition: perspectives and challenges in archaeological practice

Theme: Interpreting the archaeological record

Session format: Papers, maximum 15 minutes each

Deadline Extended to 25 March, 2017

You can submit a paper to the session via the EAA website 

Given that artefacts are of fundamental importance for the dating and interpretation of archaeological contexts, the automatic recognition of artefact types has been one of the ‘golden chestnuts’ of archaeological computing, dominating computer application papers of the 1970s and 1980s, but development of a practical working system has not been successful. Nonetheless, software and image recognition technology has moved on, and projects like ArchAIDE, DADAISM and GRAVITATE are working towards the (semi-) automatic recognition of artefacts (pottery, metalwork, stone tools, plastic arts, etc.) and the (partial) automation of archaeological workflows.

 

Artefact recognition is a time consuming activity, and spending time (and money) in repetitive work is not optimal, but automation can help in supporting interpretation with innovative computer-based tools. Artefact recognition calls for complex, specialist skills which are not always available. Automation can facilitate specialist interpretation for generalists, increasing the number of researchers able to devote more time to data analysis, and consequently to greater comprehension and new knowledge in areas such as trade and exchange, supply and production, religious or social affiliation, and so on.

Based on this assumption, we call for papers to foster both theoretical discussion as well as practical solutions, focused on how automatic artefact recognition could:

• meet real user needs, and generate economic benefits;
• produce new interpretations;
• revolutionise archaeologists’ habits, behaviours and expectations;
• create societal benefits from cultural heritage, improving access, re-use and exploitation of digital cultural heritage in a sustainable way.
 

Rural Settlement of Roman Britain: Salute!

A bronze figure of a boy on a chimera, found in Colchester in 1804. Image from Society of Antiquaries of London Catalogue of Drawings and Museum Objects (doi:10.5284/1000409). Not technically from a rural settlement but I like the picture!

In December of last year (2016), I completed the final stage of the digital archive and dissemination for the The Rural Settlement of Roman Britain project. The first publication and (revised) online resource were launched at a meeting of the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies at Senate House of the University of London.

I’ve written previous blogs on the project, so won’t repeat myself here too much. Suffice to say that the final phase publishes the complete settlement evidence from Roman England and Wales, together with the related finds, environmental and burial data. These are produced alongside a series of integrative studies on rural settlement, economy, and people and ritual, published by the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies as Britannia Monographs. The first volume, on rural settlement, has now been published, while the two remaining volumes will be released in 2017 and 2018.

The existing online resource has been updated both in content and functionality: the project database is available to download in CSV format, and most key elements of the finds, environmental and burial evidence have been added into the search and map interface. Hopefully the dissemination of the data in these forms allows re-use of this fantastic dataset in a variety of ways and, I hope, by a variety of users.

Example of the online map, showing weighted distribution of inhumation (black) and cremation (orange) burials

As with previous posts on this project, I’d like to say how much I’ve enjoyed working with the team at Reading and Cotswold. Producing an online archive and formal publication in tandem and in such a short time is no mean undertaking. I’m particularly happy/impressed with the determination by the researchers to make their data openly available at the earliest opportunity. Hopefully this is a benchmark that others will aspire to reach. A debt of thanks is also due to all those organisations that assisted the project, particularly the HERs of England and Wales who provided exports from their systems and aided the team at Cotswold with access to fieldwork reports. Finally, I’d have been lost without the awesome Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire created by Johan Åhlfeldt. At an early stage it became clear that creating any kind of ‘baseline mapping’ of Roman archaeology (combining NMP + HER data for example) would be problematic – both in terms of technical overheads and copyright. To do something on the scale of the EngLaId project’s ArcGIS WebApp simply wasn’t in the scope of the project! Johan’s work was thus timely and extremely useful in providing a broad backdrop of Roman Britain in which to compare the project results.

The rationale behind much of the interface work was to act as data publication of an academic synthesis and not to get tied down in building something akin to a Roman portal. Throughout the project we’ve been at pains to point out that this is very much a synthesis and interpretation of the excavated evidence in relation to a research question. Not a complete inventory or atlas of every Roman site. Indeed, it became clear that as soon as the data collation had been completed 31st December 2014 for sites in England and March 2015 for sites in Wales), it was effectively missing all the discoveries made in the following years. Thus although providing broad context was necessary in this case, if someone wanted to know everything about the Roman period (including sites not excavated) from a particular area they’d be best off consulting the relevant HER.

This in turn leads onto the $64,000 Question which I was asked at every event around England and Wales (including the final one in London). “What plans are there to keep this database updated”? Without wishing to appear pessimistic, I would always answer “None”. Aside from the logistics and finances of keeping a large database as this constantly updated, there’s also the fact that this is a very subjective synthesis of a much larger resource. To my mind, the key question is how do we make it easier for other researchers to build on this and have academic synthesis of a period or theme happen on a more regular basis. One of the answers to this is surely access to data, especially the published and non-published written sources. This isn’t really radical, and indeed increased access to data is being explored and recommended by the Historic England Heritage Information Access Strategy. The work of the Roman Rural Settlement project has many lessons to inform these strategies, some of which will form future papers by the project team. Out of curiosity I’ve undertaken my own analysis of the project database and ‘grey literature’ sources (a term I don’t like!) and the OASIS system but will save that for a separate blog post. ..

At the post-launch meal I did end up asking the team a rather cheesy question of “which is your favourite record”? The responses were often based around the level of finds, or in the relative level of information the site could add to a regional picture. My answer(s) were perhaps a little more prosaic, for example I really like records such as Swinford Wind Farm (Leicestershire) which has fieldwork reports disseminated via OASIS, and a Museum Accession ID. However my heart veers towards 42 London Road, Bagshot (Surrey): the site of my very first experience of archaeology as a somewhat geeky 16 year old. The site was never published, and thus it’s great to see it live on in this resource and with a link to the corresponding HER record to (hopefully) allow users to go and explore the wider area. Perhaps even to undertake their own research project. To my mind, to stimulate further work large and small that would be a great legacy of the project.

Tim

Reflections on CHNT 2016

Back in November (16th-18th), I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in the Cultural Heritage and New Technologies (CHNT) conference in Vienna. As detailed in my excitable post, written  in advance of the event, my involvement was to represent the ADS at the session and subsequent round tables hosted by the ARIADNE project on the subject of Digital Preservation. One of the reasons I was so excited was that it was one of the few occasions on which the focus of such sessions was solely on the issues surrounding Digital Preservation: how it’s undertaken, problems and the challenge of ensuring re-use. It was also the first time, in public at least, that individuals representing organisations undertaking Digital Preservation from across Europe came together to present as a united front and presented to the wider heritage community. In addition, the event also took place at the beautiful Vienna town hall in (see below), a fantastic venue.

Just a normal staircase at Vienna town hall. not intimidating in the least
Just a normal staircase at Vienna town hall. Not intimidating in the least

It was incredibly heartening to hear from European colleagues on their experiences, successes and challenges. I also felt that all the papers in the session – no doubt due to the diligence of  co-chairs from  DANS , DAI IANUS and the Saxonian State Department for Archaeology – meshed together really well. Although there were common themes, each was unique and presented a different tale to tell. Although somewhat biased, at the end of the formal session I came away thinking that I had not only contributed, but had learnt in equal measure. For those interested, IANUS have agreed to host the abstracts and presentations from the session on their website. I’d recommend these to everyone interested in a European-wide approach to the issues of digital archiving.

The first round table followed the formal session, and was listed as an open invitation for delegates to query the archivists in the room about where/when/what/how to archive. Surprisingly, considering the high profile parallel sessions, the room was packed with an array of people from a variety of backgrounds and countries across Europe. As such, the conversation veered between the extreme poles of the subject matter – for example the basic need for metadata versus adherence to the CIDOC-CRM. Reading between the lines here, what I thought the attendance and diverse topics showed was that this type of event was not only useful, but actually essential for archivists and non-archivists alike. Not only to correct misconceptions and to genuinely try and help, but also to alert us to the issues as perceived from the virtual work-face.

After a well-earned rest, and a quick visit to the Christmas markets for a small apfelwein, the next day was a chance for all the archivists to get together for an informal round table on issues affecting their long term, and shorter term objectives. Issues ranged from the need for accreditation – one of the ADS’ goals in this regard is to learn from DANS’ experience of achieving NESTOR – to file identification and persistent identifiers. In this setting the ADS is  perceived as very much the elder statesperson (!) in the room, having been in the business for 20 years now, and it’s a good feeling to be able to pass onto colleagues advice and lessons from our own undertakings. I think it’s important that we continue to do this, not only to be nice (and I like to think we’ve always been approachable!), but also to achieve a longer-term strategic strength. Although we (the ADS) are winning many of the challenges at home in terms of championing the need for consideration of digital archives, there’s always more to be done. When we can also point to equivalents in continental Europe, I feel we only make our cause stronger.

However I’m also conscious that this isn’t just a one-way street and that we’ve still a great deal to learn from our European colleagues. Not only in things like accreditation, but also shared experiences on tools, file formats, metadata standards and internal infrastructure. We often say that Digital Preservation never stands still, so in this regard it’s good to look at what others are doing and reflect on what we could do better.  Events such as this – and the international community of archaeologists doing Digital Preservation built in its wake – serve to make us richer in knowledge, and renewed of purpose. Looking forward to the next one!

Tim

Built Legacy: Preserving the Results of Historic Building Investigations

Today we release the findings of our Built Legacy Project (see ADS blog April 2016). The full report can be downloaded here.

It’s long been known that the conservation and built heritage sector have not really engaged with OASIS, the ADS and digital archiving in general. We wanted to investigate why and what could be done about this.

The project aimed to:

  • Establish a state of the sub-sector snapshot of digital archiving practice/awareness
  • Survey practitioners we have not traditionally engaged with – IHBC, RTPI etc. facilities managers, local authority staff, etc.
  • Conduct outreach in terms of event attendance, video, leaflet and training workshop.

Continue reading Built Legacy: Preserving the Results of Historic Building Investigations