July 2007

         Fennelle makes a good point.  My impression is that agencies are often protective of their GIS data and may fear that wide disclosure will lead to people with nefarious purposes knowing where sites are located.  One of the frustrations (also an opportunity) is that through CRM investigations incredibly detailed GPS and GIS databases are often built-up about archaeological sites or regions, but there is no policy in place or architecture for capturing much of that data long-term.  For example, my firm often conducts GPS-based archaeological survey such that every artifact collected is associated with a GPS point (for example in a controlled surface collection).  But typically, agencies will only want one or a few GPS points for each site (or a shapefile with site boundaries).  A lot of these points are also, or could be tagged with information on stratigraphy, soils, slopes, groundcover, or prior distubance.  So aside from legacy data storage within your own firms’ archives there is no long-term organized effort to preserve the painstakingly collected data.  I am sure there are people in SHPO offices and elsewhere who would be interested in a broader-based archaeology GIS (currently state CR GISs work well but data collection/display is somewhat limited).                                                

          The possibility is that web-based and accessible formats could be used to store and make available archaeological data without compromising the need to secure certain kinds of data.  A collaborator of mine has written an XML data format that could be used to tag archaeological data in ways that could be read by various internet scripts.  It is pretty basic right now but it or something like it could make distributed GIS or GPS archaeology on the web more possible!  He and I also are collaborating on a webviewer that allows for analysis of spatial archaeological data within any webbrowser (he is the programmer not me!).   Both icon and  color-based intuitive analyses (Jacques Bertin’s visual variables) as well as results of quantitative analyses are available. I’ll post some more information on these ideas if anyone is interested in seeing it.


Kevin Schwarz



I have noticed that more and more federal agencies are requiring archaeological contractors to use GPS and GIS, but few of the agencies are then offering the contractors the GIS shapefiles to use in the field. Why are we documenting sites, features, artifacts with sub-meter accuracy and then using paper records to re-locate those same sites the next time out in the field?

I am hoping to persuade everyone to embrace the use of as many of the digital technologies as possible. I use GPS and GIS, but I do not own the hardware and software yet. However, they are the very next purchases I will make, as I consider them almost as important in doing business in 2007 as a computer and shovel.

Interested in hearing other people’s input on this topic. And I’m really interested in hearing what hardware and software people are using for GPS with real-time GIS data. ArcPad, right? Loaded onto what machine?

Fennelle Miller

I’m very happy to report that several individuals involved in Cultural Resource Management (CRM) archaeology have agreed to post to this blog. There are very few constraints on topics and ideas (as is appropriate for this medium). I’m only providing logistical support and some minimal editorial and thematic oversight.

So, let the CRM archaeology blogging begin!

I sent out an email call for nominations to the ArchaeoInformatics advisory board to the 800 or so people on the DDIG email list. The response to the email was truly overhelming, with 20 nominations coming in within 18 hours of my email (sent at 9:00 PM, PST).

In contrast, I heard 1 response to the weblog post made the day before. It’s an interesting observation about communication in the scholarly / research / and maybe larger professional world. There’s something about an email that provokes a response. It is personally directed, it sits in your inbox highlighted as unread until you do something about it, and once you’ve responded, you feel like you’ve earned a little bit of your pay check. An inbox is like a little to-do list that fills up everyday.

A website like this blog contrasts greatly. One can visit anonymously and not get the same “to-do” list incentive to act on it. At least that’s my impression of how things work for many professional researchers and scholars.

All of this probably has some bearing on the success and failure of collaborative systems for scholarly communication. If you want participation, and want people to feel like they are acting productively, it seems important to leverage the psychology of the inbox.

ArchaeoInformatics.org, a collaborative organization involving a consortium of five institutions has asked for the assistance of the Digital Data Interest Group in filling positions on an advisory board that will help shape and guide the emerging cyberinfrastructure for archaeology. Such an infrastructure will facilitate integrated access to distributed archaeological data sources including databases (spatial and aspatial), textual resources (gray literature, articles), images, and other media. This group believes that such a cyberinfrastructure must embrace archaeology done in both academic and applied contexts. Interoperability will be an important priority, both internationally and with related disciplines.

ArchaeoInformatics.org has been awarded a 1 year planning grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in order to develop a large scale implementation proposal. ArchaeoInformatics.org is partnering with the SAA to guide and steer work toward these important goals. Keith Kintigh and Dean Snow have requested that the Digital Data Interest Group nominate four individuals for “at-large” positions on the disciplinary advisory board of ArchaeoInformatics.org.

The disciplinary advisory board will provide recommendations to the steering committee based on its evaluation of the plans and initiatives pursued by the steering committee to ensure such plans best meet the needs of the profession. The board will gather for ath least one face-to-face meeting annually, with expenses paid by Archaeoinformatics.org. Finally the board will produce a brief, publicly accessible report after each meeting.

Please email (ekansa AT alexandriaarchive DOT org) me with nominations (including self-nominations) for these four “at-large” positions and provide information about the nominee, including:

Nominee’s Name
Nominee’s Title
Nominee’s Institution
Nominee’s Email
Nominee’s Phone Number

Thank you!

Having been “out of it” as far as blogging goes for the past several weeks, it’s nice to start getting into the swing of things again. There’s a new archaeological blog with valuable things to say about publishing, open access, and even weblogs. Check out Publishing Archaeology.

I’m familiarizing myself with the new terrain of the UC Berkeley School of Information (iSchool), and I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with Erik Wilde, a member of the iSchool faculty with heavy XML research interests.

Anyway, Erik has a new iPhone, the little device which has sent Apple share-prices way up. He showed me the iPhone and how it connects to the web, plus some exciting ideas for new services that can piped into it. It feels like living in the future.

We also talked about what near continuous mobile web connectivity can give you in terms of social networking and geo-referenced data. One thing we’ve mused about is location awareness of the iPhone. It doesn’t have a GPS in it, but you can usually get some geo-location information through the IP addresses of the phone’s Internet connection and a website like this, which relates IP addresses to geographic locations. It might be fun to use the phones as a “friendar” (friend radar) to alert you when you’re near an acquaintance. Sounds fun, except Erik pointed out some obvious privacy issues. This type of thing would obviously be useful for tourists who visit places and augment their reality with web-based information of where they are. Geo-tagging web content should be an obvious concern for archaeologists and museum people who want to interact with the public.

Erik tried all this out, with the iPhone using both the local campus Wifi network and with the AT&T cellular network and an IP address geo-lookup service on the web. The AT&T network resolved to be in London (AT&T knows where his phone is, but doesn’t make it public), but the UC Berkeley network correctly resolved to be in Berkeley.  Some wireless networks will provide better geo-location than others, so interesting geo-location enabled services would work better in some places than others. Who knows, maybe enough networks are sufficiently “geo-localizable” to make building services for iPhone-like devices worthwhile.