[Fwd: Re: Articolo su Archeologia e Open Source]

Benjamin Ducke benjamin.ducke@ufg.uni-kiel.de
Thu Jun 1 17:23:03 CEST 2006

Roberto Bagnara wrote:
> Benjamin Ducke wrote:
>> 4. True, open source archaeological software development will advance
>> our science as such. We will learn about data and problem structures
>> involved in our research and start to tackle fundamental questions
>> (everyone ever tried to imagine an open data format for representing
>> stratigraphy and the wonderful things you could do with it?).
>> We will stop being scavengers of other people's technology and
>> cater for own scientific needs.
> I think open data formats are really a major issue.  (Please note:
> I have no background in archaeology, so what I say may be nonsense.)
> Ideally, all  the data originating from excavations and other
> data-collection activities should be recorded and made available
> to everyone.  Ideally, archaeologists should be able to try out
> whatever quantitative method and data analysis technique they
> can come up with on a huge amount of data.  Ideally, archaeologists
> working in the year 2100 should be able to work on the same data
> you are working today and be able to confirm or refute your conclusions.
> Ideally, people in other archaeology departments, even people outside
> archaeology departments, amateur archaeologists ... anyone should have
> access to that data and have a chance to make a contribution.  I think

Fully agreed. There is just one minor concern on the side of heritage
managers: publishing full archaeological site information might make
work for looters and grave robbers much simpler.
I know of at least on example where this has happened. Locations were
published for a number of medieval glass manufacturs in a tourist
guide in Central Germany and shortly aftwerwards all those sites
were "grazed" for pretty glass vessels quite efficiently ...
But this is probably an issue that other sciences dealing with
problematic information also have, so there must be solutions.

Another problem: many archaeologists consider a site "their" site.
Even heritage management keeps lots of information locked away.
Often, you have to wait for someone to die to get his/her data.
And at that point, nobody can make any sense of it anymore.

As you can see, the technological transformation going on in
archaeology right now is also triggering a social/ethical one.

> this could really give a very important impulse to the field (and would
> also partly address another issue I perceive as crucial: how to build
> confidence in the results of archaeological investigations).

Oh yes, a very good point, indeed. I have been told throughout all
my archaeological training that "every excavation is an interpretation".
So instead of focusing on objective, efficient data capturing, error
control and robust post-excavation analysis, people are taught how to
draw pretty diagrams (sometimes even in artistic color!) of more or
less imaginative stratigraphy (btw. with most archaeologists knowing
zilch about geomorphology and soil properties) on excavation.
What rubbish (excuse my language).

> Of course, I realize that the availability of open, standard data formats
> is only one of the issues involved in the ideal "share the data" program
> mentioned above.  However, it seems to be an important one (I asked to
> a couple of friend achaeologists if there is a standard format for
> representing moments in time that are subject to uncertainty:
> it seems there is none).

Is there on in geo sciences? plant ecology? crime statistics? anywhere?

> All the best,
>     Roberto
> P.S. When I say "share the data" I make the assumption that the data
>      is there.  However, is it there?  Is the collected data stored
>      in some (whatever) digital format?  And, if so, is that data
>      kept in some secure place or replicated so as to make sure
>      you/others can access it 10 years from now?  100 years from now?

Oh yes, this another hot topic. It has been discussed at the German
Archaeological Institute a few months ago, with no definitive results
so far.
My oppinion: public data storage is robust (e.g. university computing
centers) and there are solutions for everything.
Just never save data in a proprietary, undocumented format (like .doc)
and leave the data backup to the professionals with their hardware.


Benjamin Ducke, M.A.
(Archaeoinformation Science)
Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte
(Inst. of Prehistoric and Historic Archaeology)
Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Johanna-Mestorf-Straße 2-6
D 24098 Kiel

Tel.: ++49 (0)431 880-3378 / -3379
Fax : ++49 (0)431 880-7300

More information about the Archaeology mailing list