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Help & guidance Guides to Good Practice

Introduction to comprehensive documentation

Armin Schmidt and Eileen Ernenwein, 2nd edition, Archaeology Data Service / Digital Antiquity, Guides to Good Practice

This section provides a comprehensive list of all relevant metadata fields that can be used to document the project and the surveys undertaken, while Section 6 illustrates some sub-sets that are used in certain archiving environments. These metadata can either be presented in a list (e.g. a text document or spreadsheet) or as a flat database (e.g. in csv text format). It is also conceivable that an XML schema will be developed in future that simplifies the process of metadata compilation and storage.

Several metadata fields may have more than one entry (e.g. Solid geologyMonument period) and the necessary information can either be provided as a comma separated list in one field (e.g. Solid geology: limestone, sandstone) or by repeating the same field several times as separate lines in the list or multiple records in a database (e.g. Solid geology: limestone; Solid geology: sandstone). A site is often investigated during several ‘survey visits’, each of which may have encountered very different weather conditions. It is therefore useful to indicate the duration of each such survey visit and then annotate fields where the condition may have changed with the respective survey visits, like Weather or Soil condition (e.g. Duration: 2-25 Mar 2010 (survey visit 1), 10-19 Jun 2010 (survey visit 2); Weather: dry after prolonged rain (survey visit 1), prolonged dry period (survey visit 2) ).

It is recommended to make use of existing term lists (sometimes also referred to as ‘vocabularies’ or ‘thesauri’) that are appropriate to the country in which the investigation was undertaken, for example for geological terms or monument periods. The term list used should be specified in all cases in the field Term list, even if a project-specific term list is defined by the user and provided as a separate file. This section provides some pointers for possible term lists but many more, including automated vocabularies (e.g. the REST based system offered by the British Geological Survey (2011b)), are rapidly evolving as part of the Semantic Web.