Tag Archives: research

GSTAR at Salisbury Museum

Archaeogeomancy: Digital Heritage Specialists - archaeological geomatics - the majick of spatial data in archaeology - archaeological information systems for the digital age:

Beaker Pots by Wessex Archaeology

Beaker Pots by Wessex Archaeology

The final batch of source data has now safely received and is being processed for inclusion in my GSTAR project, kindly provided by the good people at Salisbury Museum. Thanks in particular are due to David Balston for assisting me and Adrian Green for giving the necessary permissions to use the data. This final batch of museum collection data will augment that already supplied by Wiltshire Museum to provide a more complete coverage across the study area. Importantly, this dataset includes much of the material from excavations undertaken by Wessex Archaeology who have also kindly made their archives available to me. Data was extracted in two ways; firstly using the Places node in the collections management system to look for parish names within the study area and secondly using the People/Organisations node to look for projects undertaken by Wessex Archaeology. This provided a good coverage of data for inclusion in GSTAR of around 8000 detailed records.

So the triumvirate of data is complete: data from archaeological fieldwork, data from museums collections and data from the Historic Environment Record. The next step is to use the tools already developed for museums collection data to process this source material and generate more Linked Geospatial Data for analysis and to support the technology demonstrators being constructed. Thankfully, Salisbury Museum, like Wiltshire Museum, use Modes for their collections management so the data provided as an xml export uses the same structure; as such, the xlst transforms and Stellar templates already built can be applied to this new data also without having to develop another processing pipeline.

Amesbury Archer - gold hair ornaments by Wessex Archaeology

Amesbury Archer – gold hair ornaments by Wessex Archaeology

It was also very nice to see the impressive new Wessex Gallery at the museum whilst visiting. Impossible to resist having a quick look around and I will be taking my girls there as soon as possible to see the incredible range of artefacts and have a go with the hands on archaeology activities. Of particular interest for me was the Amesbury Archer display, a chap excavated by Wessex Archaeology up at Boscombe Down and someone who I have been privileged to see close up whilst he was being looked after by WA post excavation and prior to being deposited with the museum.

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Academic Referencing and citations made even easier

Archaeogeomancy: Digital Heritage Specialists - archaeological geomatics - the majick of spatial data in archaeology - archaeological information systems for the digital age:

d-221 books by az

d-221 books by az

I’ve been using Mendeley now for a long time and as one of their advisors, I am a keen advocate of the platform. It makes my life so much easier through managing my references, my pdf collection, it’s ability to gather references from online resources, mobile app support (I use Scholarley until an official app emerges) and the very neat plugin for MS Word to add and format citations.

RefMe - The free web and mobile tool to generate citations, reference lists and bibliographies

RefMe – The free web and mobile tool to generate citations, reference lists and bibliographies

But when it comes to hard copy, there is no other solution than to manually create an entry in Mendeley. Till now. I’ve signed up with RefMe which has a handy mobile app which can scan bar codes on published works and generate references automatically. Even better, it can then output these references to Mendeley. RefMe offers a whole bunch of other functionality too but for me, I don’t need another reference manager. Being able to generate references in my Mendeley database using the tools RefMe provides is, however, just plain brilliant. So, workflow is now:

  • Wave phone at source material (book, journal, etc)
  • Update Mendeley from RefMe (one click)
  • Make and drink tea whilst writing and citing from within Word

To be honest, most of my work relating to my current research makes use of digital resources obtained through library subscriptions to journals but where this really comes into its own is when I need to reference my own library, the collection of books and journals amassed over the many years I’ve been working in archaeology. I just need to spend an afternoon cataloguing the lot now…

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‘Between the Monuments’ at Avebury

Archaeogeomancy: Digital Heritage Specialists - archaeological geomatics - the majick of spatial data in archaeology - archaeological information systems for the digital age:

The dig in the West Kennet Avenue, August 2013

The dig in the West Kennet Avenue, August 2013

It’s been almost a decade since I was last digging at Avebury as part of the ‘Negotiating Avebury‘ project, so it was lovely to be invited along with my Avebury Archaeological and Historical Research Group (AAHRG) colleagues to visit the latest excavations at this amazing place, part of the current ‘Between the Monuments‘ project and following the team’s 2012 geophysical survey. This latest project features two of the site directors from the Negotiating Avebury Project, Dr Josh Pollard (University of Southampton) and Dr Mark Gillings (University of Leicester), joined this time by Dr Nick Snashall (National Trust) as co-director.

Looking back in time: Alexander Keiller's trench reopened

Looking back in time: Alexander Keiller’s trench reopened

This years dig has opened up two trenches in the area of the West Kennet Avenue where Alexander Keiller identified what he described as a settlement site. Indeed, one of the trenches has been opened up over one of Keiller’s trenches to see what remains and how he dug the site. The excavations are being blogged by the project team as work progresses.

I was amazed to see the deposits in this section of the Avenue. There is a virtually untouched soil going right down to the chalk, soil which looks to have never been ploughed or otherwise interfered with. There are also no major cut features one might expect to find in the chalk around Avebury and elsewhere. Instead, artefacts reside pretty much where they were deposited, helped into their final resting places by the usual range of natural processes such as worm action.

The deposits being excavated

The deposits being excavated

The nature of the deposits has led to the adoption of a slightly different excavation strategy. Single context style recording is not ideally suited so the site has been gridded and then excavated in spits down through the fairly homogeneous soil to the flinty layer and ultimately the chalk beneath. This will allow for fine horizontal and vertical spatial resolution in the excavation data, ideal for the intended GIS based analysis.

The nature of these deposits also raises questions about the often employed strategy common in commercial fieldwork where the ‘topsoil’ is machined off to reveal cut features in the chalk below; such an approach used here would have revealed nothing yet the site is demonstrably rich in information.

Spatial Data

The level; essential bit of archaeological survey kit

The level; essential bit of archaeological survey kit

With Mark Gillings involved, there was always going to be extensive (and exemplary) use of GIS. To support this, other data is being gathered including photogrammetric data captured using pole mounted cameras (courtesy of Adam Stanford and his amazing Aerial Cam landrover) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The data it is possible to capture using UAVs combined with photogrammetric techniques is highly detailed and most useful for archaeological investigations.

GSTAR

Another reason for my visit was to discuss possibilities relating to my GSTAR project and given that the Between the Monuments project is right in the middle of my study area and data from this site will be extensively digitised, the activities indexed by the HER and Oasis and artefacts lodged with the Wiltshire Heritage Museum, my intention is to look at using some of the data for one of my case studies. This case study will involve the application of Linked Data techniques to (spatial) data from excavations, heritage inventories and museums; more on this to follow later this year, but for now, many thanks to the project directors and the aforementioned organisations for their kind permission to reuse their data.

Trench 2 being excavated, with the megalithic avenue in the background and the Aerial Cam landrover

Trench 2 being excavated, with the megalithic avenue in the background and the Aerial Cam landrover

Photos, Panoramas and PhotoSynths

As usual, I took quite a few photos during my visit! A selection of the best are shown below, taken from my Flickr photoset. I also took the opportunity to create a panoramic image from atop the spoil heap and used all the images to create a PhotoSynth.

Flickr Gallery

[flickr-gallery mode="photoset" photoset="72157634971425709"]

Panorama

Photosynth

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