Category Archives: Archives

Following the closure of Birmingham Archaeology (BUFAU), a project was initiated to identify and secure important born-digital archival material, and latterly to arrange transfer to the ADS. I’ve had the pleasure of archiving this digital material, including images, CAD files, databases and GIS over the last few months. The archives and reports of Birmingham Archaeology can now be accessed from the overview page:  http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/1959/

A total of 68 BUFAU archives have been released. Below I will highlight some of my favourite archives that I have worked on over the last couple of months.

Connecting Derby

Ahead of the redevelopment of Derby Inner Ring Road, Birmingham Archaeology was commissioned to undertake archaeological fieldwork. This site consisted of several different archaeological investigations, including a watching brief, an evaluation, an excavation and an historic building recording. Stratified archaeological deposits spanned a period from the 11th to the 20th centuries. This archive includes an extensive image gallery, reports, CAD files and GIS.
Continue reading Birmingham Archaeology Digital Archives

New Look Website

The ADS are pleased to announce that the ADS Library will be moving out of its Beta phase and go Live on Tuesday 16th January. Concurrently with this the ADS will also be launching a newly designed website. The main aim of the new website design is to make it easier for our users to access our searchable resources. With the launch of the ADS Library the ADS now provides three main heritage environment search tools:

Each of these tools should be used to search for different types of information held by the ADS. Archsearch is for searching metadata records about monuments and historic environment events in the UK. The ADS Archives is the place to search for historic environment research data (such as images, plans, databases) and contains international and UK data. The ADS Library is a bibliographic tool for searching for written records on the historic environment of Britain and Ireland. Where possible, the record will provide a direct link to the original publication or report.

Close up of the drop down menu available on the new website.

In order to make the differences between these  search tools clear to users, and to make all three tools easy to find from our main website, we will be introducing a new website menu with drop-down links that enable a user to go straight to each of our search resources. This new drop-down menu can be seen in the image on the right.

Users will also be given the option to access a main search page that will explain the differences between each of the available search options. This page will then allow you to choose  which search facility to send your chosen keywords to.

 

The new ADS search page. Clicking on one of the buttons below the search bar will search the chosen resource.

The ADS has also taken this opportunity to redesign the layout of our website, creating a bold new home page, designed to better highlight our featured collections and news items, while providing links to our new search and deposit pages.

New home page.

Our new Deposit page will also provide clearer links to the different types of data deposit options available to researchers wishing to archive data with the ADS.

New page, highlighting the three different methods of depositing data with the ADS.
New deposit page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our new About page provides clear links to our operations policies and details of our governance.

New about page.

The new design will include a help tab on our menu with links to frequently asked questions and our contact details, allowing users to troubleshoot problems faster and get the right help quicker.

The new design will reduce the number of main tabs in the menu. This means that some of our resources have moved location. For example our Teaching and Learning page will now be found under the Advice tab. However, despite the reduction in the number of main options on the menu, the introduction of the drop-down feature will mean that, in practice, more pages will be directly accessible from the menu than previously. Overall the new design will surface the most important pages of our website better and make our key resources accessible via fewer clicks.

Although the design and structure of the website has changed, and some things may now be found in a different location, very few URLs have changed. Only out-of-date pages have been removed so bookmarks to specific pages should still work, and Archsearch, the ADS Archives and the ADS Library are still navigated in exactly the same way. If you have any trouble finding resources  please contact help@archaeologydataservice.ac.uk .

We hope you enjoy the new design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

The (DOC)X-files

The following blog is simply a musing on our historic approaches to archiving formatted text files, prompted by a user enquiry into “best formats” for preservation of their reports, and my role at the ADS as keeping abreast of said formats and our internal policies.

Many years ago, in a meeting of the curatorial and technical team (CATTS), conversation veered towards our procedures for handling text documents. That is files whose significant properties were formatted text/typeset reports, as opposed to plain text files (with ascii or UTF-8 encoding) often used for exporting or importing of data. One colleague, half in jest, commented that as the Archaeology Data Service our focus should be on the literal data as understood in computer science – the individual pieces of information being generated from various instruments or collected in databases. Reports it may be argued are the interpretation of that data, but often not the raw data itself.

Continue reading The (DOC)X-files

ADS a Recommended Repository for Nature Publishing Group

ADS are very pleased to announce that we are now an officially recommended repository for Nature Publishing Group’s open access data journal Scientific Data. ADS joins approximately 80 other data repositories, representing research data from across the entire scientific spectrum. ADS has been approved by Scientific Data as providing stable archiving and long-term preservation of archaeology data.

SciData_new_logo_22

Scientific Data offers a new article type, the ‘Data Descriptor’, which has been specifically designed to publish peer-reviewed research data in an accessible way, so as to facilitate its interpretation and reuse. Publishing Data Descriptors enables data produces and curators to gain appropriate credit for their work, whilst also promoting reproducible research.  The main goals of this journal are tightly aligned with that of ADS, focusing on making the data publicly accessible and encouraging re-use.

data descriptor

By becoming a recommended repository for Scientific Data, we are now not only a recommended repository for archaeological data accompanying articles published by the Nature Publishing group but researchers now have the opportunity to deposit archaeological data to ADS, whilst submitting an Data Descriptor to Scientific Data.

All depositors depositing with ADS and intending to publish in Scientific Data or another Nature Publishing Group journal must choose to disseminate the data they are depositing with us under a CC-BY liecence. For more information contact the ADS at help@archaeologydataservice.ac.uk

 

 

 

Rural Settlement of Roman Britain

Tim Evans

In June 2013 I wrote the first in what I planned to be a two part blog describing my work on the Rural Settlement of Roman Britain Project (henceforth RRS).  A little later than planned, here it is.

br104-1
Drawing of a columnar Roman milestone found c.1772 on the Fosse way two miles from Leicester, bearing the name Ratae (the unofficial logo for the project Web Mapping). Image from the Society of Antiquaries of London Catalogue of Drawings and Museum Objects doi:10.5284/1000409

Background

The RRS project arose from a two-stage  pilot project undertaken by Cotswold Archaeology and funded by English Heritage (now Historic England), Assessing The Research Potential of Grey Literature in the study of Roman England. This project identified the large levels of grey literature, the colloquial term for unpublished reports produced primarily through the planning process containing significant information about the Roman period.

The RRS project is being undertaken by the University of Reading and Cotswold Archaeology and funded by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust with additional backing from Historic England. The project has built on the pilot by reviewing all sources – traditional published journals/monographs and grey literature – for the excavated evidence for the rural settlement of Roman Britain with the over-arching aim to inform a comprehensive reassessment of the countryside of Roman Britain.
Continue reading Rural Settlement of Roman Britain

Archiving Ipswich

Re-posted from Day of Archaeology

Two years after posting about my work on the Silbury Hill digital archive, in ‘AN ADS DAY OF ARCHAEOLOGY’, and I’m still busy working as a Digital Archivist with the ADS!

For the past few months, I have been working on the Ipswich Backlog Excavation Archive, deposited by Suffolk County Council, which covers 34 sites, excavated between 1974 and 1990.

Ipswich2

To give a quick summary of the work so far, the data first needed to be accessioned into our systems which involved all of the usual checks for viruses, removing spaces from file names, sorting the data into 34 separate collections and sifting out duplicates etc.  The archive packages were then created which involved migrating the files to their preservation and dissemination formats and creating file-level metadata using DROID.  The different representations of the files were linked together using object ids in our database and all of the archiving processes were documented before the coverage and location metadata were added to the individual site collections.

Though time consuming, due to the quantity of data, this process was fairly simple as most of the file names were created consistently and contained the site code.  Those that didn’t have descriptive file names could be found in the site database and sorted according to the information there.

The next job was to create the interfaces; again, this was fairly simple for the individual sites as they were made using a template which retrieves the relevant information from our database allowing the pages to be consistent and easily updateable.

The Ipswich Backlog Excavation Archive called for a more innovative approach, however, in order to allow the users greater flexibility with regards to searching, so the depositors requested a map interface as well as a way to query information from their core database.  The map interface was the most complex part of the process and involved a steep learning curve for me as it involved applications, software and code that I had not previously used such as JavaScript, OpenLayers, GeoServer and QGIS.  The resulting map allows the user to view the features excavated on the 34 sites and retrieve information such as feature type and period as well as linking through to the project archive for that site.

OpenLayers map of Ipswich excavation sites.

So, as to what I’m up to today…

The next, and final step, is to create the page that queries the database.  For the past couple of weeks I have been sorting the data from the core database into a form that will fit into the ADS object tables, cleaning and consolidating period, monument and subject terms and, where possible, matching them to recognised thesauri such as the English Heritage Monument Type Thesaurus.

Today will be a continuation of that process and hopefully, by the end of the day, all of the information required by the query pages will be added to our database tables so that I can begin to build that part of the interface next week.  If all goes to plan, the user should be able to view specific files based on searches by period, monument/feature type, find type, context, site location etc. with more specialist information, such as pottery identification, being available directly from the core database tables which will be available for download in their entirety.  Fingers crossed that it does all go to plan!

So, that’s my Day of Archaeology 2015, keep a look out for ADS announcements regarding the release of the Ipswich Backlog Excavation Archive sometime over the next few weeks and check out the posts from my ADS colleagues Jo Gilham and Georgie Field!

UPDATE: Ipswich Excavation Archive has now been released! All sites can be explored here!