A day of archaeological geomatics

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in flight.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in flight.
Image © Callen Lenz

Well, firstly, I can’t believe it’s been a year since last time! Doesn’t time fly? What’s happened since then I hear you cry? I’m still the Geomatics Manager for Wessex Archaeology, responsible for GIS and Survey. The big news is my desk is now paper free and I’m trying to keep to a paperless work regime, essential seeing as most of my workspace is taken up with computer equipment, leaving no room for unnecessary clutter. In the photo you can see not only my laptop but the recently rebuilt GISBEAST machine with it’s quad cores, 64-bit OS and 12Gb RAM, tooled up with all the software I need to do what I do. (more…)

A Day in the Life of an Investigator for the RCAHMW – Part II

Today I’ve had several different pieces of work to do, which makes it an average day for me.

After my morning cup of tea, I set about checking my work e-mails. The project I work for, the Atlanterra Project, are in the process of submitting the next financial claims for the work that has been done since January 2011. As part of this I have make sure I have all the relevant paperwork ready to upload, and this morning my in-tray contained some of the papers I needed, as well several e-mail attachments of previous project business meetings. Whilst it might not sound very glamorous and archaeology like, the project management element of work like this is very important, if perhaps not the most exciting part of the day. I do enjoy it though, as it helps me plan ahead for the next year of the project and work out how, when, why, where and what I’ll spend the project money on.

The Atlanterra Project is a European funded project with ten project partners from five countries (Wales, France, Spain, Portugal and the Republic of Ireland) working together to preserve and promote post-medieval mining heritage.

Among the work being carried out are projects on the creation of geological gardens; reconstruction and preservation of mining machinery; surveying and archaeologically recording mining complexes and collectively working on how best to provide public access to the information collected and diseminated during the life of the project. My own particular role within the project is to provide expert advice and guidance to the other project partners on ‘Physical and Digital Data Capture, Storage and Tender Specification’. Basically, if you want a site surveying, have you actually considered why it need to be done and what you will do with the data (which could be CAD drawings, CGI animations, or someone with a tape measure, ruler and piece of paper) once you have asked someone to collect it for you?

As part of my work on the Atlanterra Project, I carry out fieldwork surveying and recording mining heritage sites which are at risk. Two of the sites I have been out to survey as part of this work are Maenofferen Slate Mine, near Blaenau Ffestiniog:

and Mynydd Nodol Manganese Mine, near Bala:

After that, I worked on a talk I am giving at the National Eisteddfod next Tuesday. The National Eisteddfod moves around Wales each year, and this year is being hosted in my home town, Wrexham. With that in mind the RCAHMW Education Officer asked me if I could prepare something for a general audience. I decided to prepare something on one of the RCAHMW projects which is being prepared for publication – in some for or another – in the long term. That project is the The Workers’ Houses of Wales Project. You can find details of four of our National Projects here:

and details of my talk at the Eisteddfod here:

Because my first language is Welsh, I’ve also been asked by CADW: Welsh Historic Monuments if I will guide a walking tour of the village of Cefn Mawr, near Wrexham, to explain its character and history. Details of my walk can be found here:


Day in the life of a HERO

My name is Helen Wells and I’m the Historic Environment Record Officer (HERO) at Leicestershire County Council.  There are archaeologists here in both the Museums and Planning sections – I’m based in the latter.  I do work with the Museums archaeologists though, including Wendy Scott (the Portable Antiquities Scheme officer).  My job is basically to look after a database of all the county’s known archaeological remains and historic buildings.  It’s a fascinating job – I’ve been here since 2004 and I’m still enjoying it!

Before I start describing my day, I thought I’d give a bit of background about how I became a county council archaeologist.  (more…)

Archaeological Publishing

I’m an archaeologist, and I’m also a publisher. Many of my colleagues in the Publications Office of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA, founded in 1881) in Princeton, New Jersey, were archaeologists first, and edit, proofread, typeset, and manage the creation and production of our quarterly journal, Hesperia, as well as a wide variety of books. We work in the field when we can, but our primary job is to publish the work of the School: excavation reports and monographs of the Athenian Agora, of Corinth, and of affiliated excavations, as well as the publication of the work of our friends in the Gennadius Library, the Malcolm H. Wiener Laboratory, and the Archives, plus the research of scholars working within the broad field of Greek archaeology of all periods. The ASCSA is charged by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism with primary responsibility for all American archaeological research, and seeks to support the investigation, preservation, and presentation of Greece’s cultural heritage. ASCSA’s publications satisfy the last part of our mission.

The week leading up to the Day of Archaeology has been an extraordinary one for us in Publications. We just received our advance copies of Histories of Peirene: A Corinthian Fountain in Three Millennia, by Betsey A. Robinson (Vanderbilt University). The creation of this interdisciplinary volume utilized, for the first time at the ASCSA, a dedicated project wiki, and favored the digital exchange of files and comments outside of email. Communication between project team members in several U.S. and in Greece was both constant and transparent making for quick turnaround. We used Google Sites for the wiki which was the project’s hub at host for files, Skype for voice/video communication, Adobe Creative Suite 5 for design. We also assigned digital object identifiers (DOIs) for the first time within an ASCSA book so that readers could view large, high-resolution plans online. Post-production, we’re using (also for the first time) Facebook and Twitter in conjunction with print media to promote and market the book, and are putting review copies into the hands of traditional reviewers like the Bryn Mawr Classical Review as well as into the in-boxes (and Dropboxes) of archaeologists in the blogosphere. Archaeological publication has to include ways of letting the world know new research has been published.

Other books in production for 2011 include volumes on Greek manuscripts, Bronze Age Tsoungiza, Sikyon, Athenian pottey, Byzantine graves and human remains at Isthmia, dedicatory monument inscriptions from the Athenian Agora, and a collection of articles on houses and households in ancient Crete. We split the editorial and proofreading duties between our full-time staff of editors and freelancers who have been trained in the ASCSA’s house style (modified Chicago style) as well as in archaeology and Classics.

Hesperia, the journal of the ASCSA, has recently undergone some changes to make it more contemporary, useful, and accessible to archaeologists and other scholars worldwide. On August 1st, the journal’s full run (80 volumes from 1932 until now), becomes available on JSTOR’s Current Scholarship Program. All issues of the journal have never been online in a single location before, so now readers can browse across all articles from the past 80 years.

With Hesperia appearing both in print and online, we wanted to be able to begin to take advantage of the Internet in allowing us to host digital editions of issues that contain full-color images, something that is prohibitively expensive to print. For issue 80.2 which will be released on August 1st, we’re including a free, LH IIA2 pottery catalogue from Tsoungiza both as a PDF file, but also as an HTML webpage for improved usability. For some archaeological publication of data, we need to think beyond what can be printed, and consider other ways of presenting archaeological data for the use of other scholars and researchers. We hope to host everything from color images to 3D reconstructions to entire data sets. The full-color article and online supplemental material are first-steps in that direction.

We are also venturing into open-access content for Hesperia, and have begun to post articles for free on our website. We expect this section to grow considerably over time.

Lest people think that archaeological publishing consists of musty-dusty tomes, we are currently embarking on a program of eBook creation, providing both print and digital editions of new titles to our readers, ultimately digging into our back-list to make older books available digitally, too, in a format that can be both searched and annotated and are not merely page-scans saved as PDFs.

Ultimately we hope to produce apps that will merge archaeological texts with multimedia, GPS functionality, data, and more, providing a reader full context. As all archaeologists know, context is key.

On July 29th, the Day of Archaeology, I will be meeting with editors and archaeologists both in person and via Skype as we plan a new way to manage our publishing projects with less paper, more speed, and better communication. We’ll also be reviewing the f&gs (folded & gathered sheets) for the print edition of Hesperia 80.2 prior to approving the issue for binding. I’ll assist our designer with typesetting our monograph on Greek manuscripts. I’ll be emailing several of our authors who are currently in the field in Greece and in Turkey about the status of their books and articles. I’ll look at a lot of digital images of pots. And I’ll probably take a break to go through the Publications archives to catalogue some correspondence from the 1930s and 1940s, finding delight in hand-written notes and typescript pages marked in pencil.

I was an archaeologist before I became a publisher. I excavated at Isthmia (Greece) and Poggio Civitate (Italy). I earned my MA in art history and archaeology at the University of Missouri – Columbia, and my BA in archaeology (double-major with writing) from the University of Evansville. I’m tickled that I am publishing an article by my undergraduate adviser this week. And I am honored to be publishing Agora “blue books”, Corinth “red books” as well as Hesperia (and Hesperia supplements), series that I used extensively during my student years. I love being a publisher, and I love publishing the work of my peers and of my heroes.

Archaeology Remixed: The History of El Presidio de San Francisco, California Goes Digital

Ruth Tringham (professor) – “Busy day today at the SF Presidio. Usual San Francisco fog, then sunny with wind – lovely summer… Today we started off the discussion of how we are going to share our project to create microhistories about archaeology and cultural heritage at the SF Presidio. Since this is a class on Digital Documentation, it’s no surprise that we chose digital on-line platforms. We started off with Erica’s [Pallo] experience of her yummy foody blogs and do’s and dont’s of blogging. This was followed by Elena’s [Toffalori] technical guide through the ins and outs of WordPress. What a coincidence – unplanned – with the Day of Archaeology. Pure serendipity. There are no coincidences, you say; well maybe not…….Then plotting with dreams and realistic visions of what our tour of El Presidio, Funston Ave and El Polin will look like on the Web, on an iPad, and/or iPhone. Michael [Ashley] and I brainstorming very constructively and loudly as usual, making dreams come true.”

Michael Ashley (instructor) – “I was psyched about a ‘day in the life of’ archaeologists worldwide’ since I first heard about it from Lorna and friends. We spend the day digging deep into digital archaeology in our course at the Presidio of San Francisco. The student team had fabulous ideas on how to put together a virtual visit of past Presidio life with new technologies such as gigapixel imaging and Google Earth. I was pulled into a great discussion with Presidio staff about how to plan a 3-way documentation of the Officer’s Club, originally an adobe structure that’s spent most of its modern life shrouded in wood and sheetrock. Cyark will laser scan the interior, and CoDA will work with Presidio staff to produce color accurate photogrammetry and gigapixel imaging. We are working to meld practical digital techniques with real world archaeological problems, and have a lot of fun in the process. Thanks, Lorna and all for getting the Day of Archaeology rolling, and congratulations!

Instructors and students shooting a gigapan panorama in the SF Presidio Park  - ©2011 Center for Digital Archaeology, Berkeley CA. Creative Commons

Instructors and students shooting a gigapan panorama in the SF Presidio Park - ©2011 Center for Digital Archaeology, Berkeley CA. Creative Commons

Erica Pallo (CoDA intern) – “Digital Documentation for Archaeology: Documenting, Representing, and Interpreting Cultural Heritage at the San Francisco, California Presidio. So much is said in a name, and this one just so happens to be the title of the academic course we are hosting at the University of California in Berkeley. Teaching students of Archaeology the nitty gritty of the discipline, carrying out our official work-related projects both past and present, and in general just being excited about the implications and applications archaeology has to offer are all in a day’s work for us, so heck, we here at CoDA are chuck full of bright ideas for making archaeology happen habitually. Organizing our class for a special undertaking such as today’s – though it was a complete coincidence that this occasion fell on a pre-scheduled class day – where all of us Archaeo types can get together via the World Wide Web to celebrate all the ideals we hold dear, sounds like sweet success to our virtual ears!

UC Berkeley Anthro 136e Summer 2011 course at the Presidio de San Francisco National Park - ©2011 Center for Digital Archaeology, Berkeley CA. Creative Commons

Michael Ashley (standing) gives instruction to the UC Berkeley Anthro 136e Summer 2011 course at El Presidio de San Francisco National Park - ©2011 Center for Digital Archaeology, Berkeley CA. Creative Commons

As a constant way to chronicle our class’s documentation of El Presidio de San Francisco , I write a weekly blog that assesses the skills learned, trials and tribulations of making archaeology digital, and feedback from the voices of the students themselves as they enter (sometimes with trepidation) into the multi-faceted world of cultural heritage preservation. Today I gave a crash course on blogging as a way to educate, but also to ease some fears and stir up excitement for future possibilities in the field. Below I carry on with my routine methodology of having the class participants – students, interns, professors, other CoDA staff – share a little insight into their stance on digital documentation of cultural heritage, only this time I am pleased to say it includes their general enthusiasm for the Day of Archaeology. Welcome to the class!”

Elena Toffalori (CoDA staff) – “Today I had the chance to cut in on the conversation about blogging and archaeology in this amazing course. Based on my experience of web development with the CoDA Website I followed Ruth Tringham and Erica Pallo and gave a first introduction to Content Management Systems and more “geeky-technical” details involved in blogging and publishing contents on the web, as I have done already in a series of posts on our blog section. Having to work with media and building narratives, and especially when handling cultural heritage-related data, it is particularly important to take care of our data and metadata, so that details such as copyright attribution, contextual information, and tracking to the original file are made possible and lawfully pursued. This is one of the major challenges young cultural heritage specialists have to face to help dragging the discipline into the XXI century!”

Ioan Chelu (student)“We’ve all been in that class with the instructor who’s lectures consist of reciting monotonously from dry, old textbooks. BORING. How do you make archaeology interesting for the greater public? How do you form connections with them, at large? How do we connect this dry, old subject of archaeology with new, modern technology? These are the questions we’ve been asking and answering today.”

Chris Fussell (student) – “Organizing multiple angles of history via interactive multimedia feels a bit daunting and exciting. Using Google Earth to generate a tour of the Presidio with images, text stories, movies all while placing all of this information spatially with the ability to travel vast distances will allow one to virtually travel to the past. There is so little of the original Presidio left at the site in San Francisco. Most of it is sealed under a parking lot or a part of the WWI era officers club. I think what we are doing is allowing as much accesses to the past as possible at this time and perhaps more. A historic place or artifact cannot simply speak for itself; it needs a touch of humanity, a story, something that makes it relevant to today, a connection that unites current residents of San Francisco and visitors from around the world. People generate history through events, through action. We are often left with the result but not the need, the idea, the planning, the consequences, the effort and use of what was made in the past. How do we bring this out in our project for the Presidio? I guess that is what I will be finding out through my and my teamates efforts and actions.”

UC Berkeley Anthro 136e Summer 2011 course at the Presidio de San Francisco National Park - ©2011 Center for Digital Archaeology, Berkeley CA. Creative Commons

Discussions among the students of UC Berkeley Anthro 136e Summer 2011 course at El Presidio de San Francisco National Park about the uses of digital technology in Archaeology - ©2011 Center for Digital Archaeology, Berkeley CA. Creative Commons

Cyrena Giordano (student) – “What did I do today? I learned about blogging and how intricate and interlaced blogging communities can be. Also, how blogging can be a faster and semi-professional way to get one’s writing out to the public. Moreover how blogging can be, in a sense, a replacement for a resume or even a book.  This was really interesting to me.”

Luke Morris (student) – “Determination of blogging value, enhancing dissemination of digital data and its interpretation: clearly the future of archaeology.”

Adam Grab (student) – “Today was an informative session in digitally codifying archaeological information. We experienced the benefits and disadvantages of proprietary versus open source blogging, as far as customization and access to data is concerned. It’s amazing how much free reign is possible when you know the right kinds of editing.”

Francesca Favila (student) – “My mind was BLOWN by the discussions of html and php and blogging that took place in class today. My capabilities using the internet are limited, to say the least.”

Nicholas Joy (student) “Today was a great class. We learned about how to digitize our data in either a blog, html, or .org format. Today was important because not only does this information pertain to just archeology, but with so many digital links we learn they can be used in many areas out in life. Happy Archeology Day to all.”

UC Berkeley Anthro 136e Summer 2011 course at the Presidio de San Francisco National Park - ©2011 Center for Digital Archaeology, Berkeley CA. Creative Commons

(Non-techy) tools of the trade for students in UC Berkeley Anthro 136e Summer 2011 course at El Presidio de San Francisco National Park as they plot areas on a map for their upcoming class project - ©2011 Center for Digital Archaeology, Berkeley CA. Creative Commons

Debbie James (student) – “Hml, css, php…what? Okay, I understand what a blog is…sort of. Very interesting, but still need to catch up with the modern world. Happy Archaeology Day!”

Cheryl Guerrero (student) – “Acronyms flying fast and furious today, but think I was able to hang on to a few of them…HTML, CSS, and PHP, which used to be ‘personal home page’ but I don’t think that applies anymore.  Still learning about techie terms, hosting sites and blogging, but seems to be a slow process…”

Connor Rowe (CoDA staff) – “Well, today was a lovely day experimenting in the latest panorama viewing technologies coming out of the German-speaking world. Trying to get around the Apple/Adobe wars and get our panorama to view in the iOS Safari is so far unsuccessful, but we will persevere! In a side note, I came across a neat little trick that allows those of us running Macs to turn our desktop Safari into an iPad/iPhone Safari emulator. Try Safari > Preferences > Advanced and check the box that says “Show Develop menu in menu bar,” then, at the top of the screen you should see Develop, from which you will change your User Agent. For the good news, we finally remembered to bring the Magic Gold Cable (DV/FireWire 800) from our Berkeley lab out to the Presidio so that we can finally get started on the log&capture&compression process for the student vids.”

A view from the digital attic

The Location: The Internet Archaeology office, King’s Manor, Dept. Archaeology, University of York

Some last minute changes to childcare arrangements have meant that I am not in the office for the Day of Archaeology itself, so this is written on the Day before the Day of Archaeology but is still pretty typical of the range of things I do.

Picture the scene: It’s a beautiful sunny day in York and from my office window here in the King’s Manor attics,  I have a rather splendid view of St Mary’s Abbey and the busy Yorkshire Museum Gardens where Antiques Roadshow is filming today! My window is open and I hear the pleasant hum of people talking and laughing, and the occasional train horn from the station just across the river.

It looks a bit like this except much busier and sunnier! (and yes, I know I’m lucky having a view like this)

Museum gardens and the ruins of St Mary's Abbey Thanks to Jen Mitcham for the picture.

Morning: I have spent most of the morning formatting in HTML a very long bibliography (472 entries!) with a large number of Norwegian, Swedish, German, Danish and Polish references on medieval bone and antler hair combs. I am making sure all the accented letters are marked up as HTML entities to ensure they display correctly. The bibliography has already gone through the beady eye of our copy-editor but there are always more things to fix at every stage right up until the day of publication. And so as I go,  I remove some surplus commas, full-stops, and double-check spellings, as well as add ‘anchors’ to each reference (so that in-text citations go to the correct reference) and also add URLs and/or DOIs where possible. The task is interrupted by an emailed subscription query from an overseas agent checking the 2012 institutional price for the journal. I welcome the distraction and subsequently update the subscriptions page to avoid further queries on the matter! (And if your library does not yet subscribe to Internet Archaeology, send your librarian this link!)

I’ve only just started to work on the article (“An Atlas of Medieval Combs from Northern Europe”) which the long bibliography is associated with. Much more work is needed before that’ll be ready for publication (I’ve not even started on the images and maps), and so I’ve decided to give myself a break and return to it later. I check my inbox  and one email contains the news that some funds have been agreed to make an article I’ve just released Open Access. Unusual for this to happen post-publication, but welcome news nontheless. I’ll await official confirmation before making the access changes.

Internet Archaeology is what is currently called a “hybrid Open Access journal” where authors (or more usually their research funding bodies) can pay to make their article freely available rather than be subject to subscription. And part of my job is to remind and encourage all potential authors to approach me early enough so that I can draw up costs so they can be included in research funding applications. It clearly worked in this case!

The last of the LEAP II exemplars was completed earlier this week, and a quick chat to Kieron from the Archaeology Data Service downstairs confirms that the associated archive is ready too. So I  ‘plumb in’ the article to the issue Table of Contents and add it to the subscriptions management system and to the LEAP II project pages. See the fruits of our labours at:  on laser scanning artefacts from late pre-Columbian villages and towns in mid-central USA and from the Egyptian site of Amarna . The LEAPII project exemplars try to integrate narrative with underlying data, publication with archive, blurring the boundaries between the two and allowing readers to drill down through the resource to investigate data and come to their own (maybe different) conclusions. In this final exemplar, the article integrated with digital data hosted by both the Archaeology Data Service in York and tDAR in Arizona. I’m very hopeful that the LEAP II exemplars will generate some real interest and stimulate contributions to the journal from more overseas archaeologists. A comments feature has been added which will allow readers to interact with authors and other readers too. But the hard work has not finished. I now need to start thinking about what has been achieved and learnt from the LEAP II experience for the end of project report. I insert some thoughts down in the journal’s internal ‘wiki’ to elaborate on later, and go back to my references.

1.30pm Very spooky! Just received a new article proposal from a US-based author who wishes to link their proposed article to an online database and would like the article to pan and zoom through data and images. Offering the ability to connect readers with searchable datasets is even now still something not routine to most to e-journals, andso  I’m glad to see that the message that IA does is filtering through unprompted 🙂 I need to clarify and follow up some technical details with the authors but this looks like it could become a really great article. Bibliography work beckons.

3pm An email comes in from JISC Collections following a request from me to re-word and simplify the licences that UK Higher and Further Education institutions need to sign. Essentially JISC has purchased access to the journal on their behalf but librarians need to register first and sign a licence confirming rights – hopefully this will make their life – and mine – just a little bit simpler! Back to the bibliography, but working through the references is constant reminder of just how small the archaeology community is and yet how much it actually achieves.  It seems there’s almost always a handful of people I know personally in the list of references — whatever the topic! But there are poignant moments of reflection too when I come across a reference (or in this case, several) to publications by people no longer with us and I pause to remember fondly my former IA colleague Alan Vince.

4.30pm I’m still not finished. This is one long bibliography…

5pm Proposal and first draft of a recently accepted submission saved to USB to read over the weekend. I’ll be visualising what I can do technically to make it work as an online publication and will also need to ponder on a referee. Off home to my two lovely boys and husband, and so the end of my archaeology day. Well, sort of …  not sure we ever stop being archaeologists.