At the 2012 ASOR meeting in Chicago last month, the AAI co-organized (with Chuck Jones, ISAW) and presented in the second of a 3-year session Topics in Cyberinfrastructure, Digital Humanities, and Near Eastern Archaeology I. This year’s theme was From Data to Knowledge: Organization, Publication, and Research Outcomes. Presentations and demonstrations took place two back-to-back sessions. Topics in Cyberinfrastructure follows a loose format, with short papers followed by a long discussion period in order to allow maximum time for exchange of ideas among presenters and audience members. We see this as critical in an emergent and quickly developing field and we’re delighted that ASOR is offering more opportunities for these types of “discussion-heavy” sessions. The AAI’s presentation discussed how editorial oversight and the application of linked open data can vastly improve understanding and reuse of data shared on the Web. Other participants presented current projects (The Ur Digitization Project, The Diyala Proejct, The Oriental Institute’s Integrated Database Project), approaches such as 3-D visualization and text analysis/visualization, and the theory of archaeological knowledge creation. View the full program. The third and final Topics in Cyberinfrastructure session, with a tentative theme around training for a digital future, will take place in November 2013 at the ASOR meeting in Baltimore.
– December 5, 2012
Place Name Clustering in Pleiades and TAVO
Since September of last year, I have been working with Eric Kansa on the Gazetteer of the Ancient Near East project of the Alexandria Archive Institute (with NEH funding). Our goal is to export the cornucopia of information contained in the index of the Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients (TAVO)(Tübingen Atlas of the Near and Middle East) into Pleiades, a Community-Built Gazetteer and Graph of Ancient Places. While digitizing, proofreading, systematizing and entering the name, coordinates, map and language facts into a database, we ran into some practical obstacles. With the help of Tom Elliott and Sean Gillies (New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World), a lot of the obstacles were cleared but some defy an easy solution. That is where an editor comes in.
Place names can have many variants due to not only chronological (e.g., Byzantium, Constantinople and Istanbul) or cultural/linguistic reasons (e.g., Genève, Genf, Ginevra and Geneva) but also due to differences in the exact place or area covered. The Red Sea, a long and narrow body of water between Africa and Arabia, has been an important trade route since ancient times. Consequently, it is mentioned in texts from many different periods and cultures. At times, parts of the Red Sea were named separately, e.g., the Gulf of Aqaba between the Sinai peninsula and Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf of Suez between the major part of Egypt and the Sinai peninsula
In the two figures at the end of this article (click to enlarge), the relationships between the various Red-Sea-related toponyms are sketched both for the TAVO Index and Pleiades. In the TAVO diagrams, the arrows indicate referrals while in the Pleiades diagrams, they explain which (combination of) place name(s) serve(s) as the main entry (“Place”) and which are the toponyms associated with said main entry (“Names”). In other words, TAVO emphasizes relationships, mutual or not, while Pleiades organizes its information along the lines of one concept (“Place”) and usually-multiple labels (“Names”). The distinction between the whole and its parts is not always maintained, e.g., TAVO’s Rotes Meer (Red Sea) refers to Baḥr al-Qulzum (Gulf of Suez; named after a town at the northern end). The same name can cover different areas, e.g., Pleiades’ Erythr(ae)m Mare is both the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf… and even a “large section of the Indian Ocean, including the Persian Gulf and Red Sea.”
The confusing connections between place names ultimately reflect the extent/lack of accurate knowledge of the textual sources as well as the changing economic and political lenses through which the Red Sea region was viewed. The sea was variously seen as far-off, almost mythical, to important and oft-navigated. In a way, the place names accrete together in clusters which are unstable and can change composition depending on the time period and which observer is viewing them. With a nod to physics, we encounter an observer effect: “the act of observation will make [changes] on the phenomenon being observed. This is often the result of instruments that, by necessity, alter the state of what they measure in some manner.” After all, our measuring instrument is the human brain which is nurtured and to an extent determined by its social and cultural environment.
[click to enlarge]
Posted in Projects.
– September 12, 2012
AAI’s Technology Director Eric Kansa is currently in Sydney attending the Stocktaking Workshop of the Federated Archaeological Information Management System project (FAIMS). FAIMS launched in the summer of 2012 with a major grant from the National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources program (NeCTAR), an Australian government program to build new infrastructure for Australian researchers (working in Australia or abroad). By the end of the project (Dec. 2013), FAIMS aims to have developed a portal containing a suite of compatible tools for archaeologists to facilitate the entire research process—from data collection to visualization, archiving, and publishing. The project is also prioritizing interoperability to promote the discovery and use of current and future online resources.
FAIMS is led by the University of New South Wales in collaboration with participants from 41 organizations from Australia and abroad. The Stocktaking Workshop is taking place this week in Sydney at the University of New South Wales School of Humanities. Eric will present the keynote address on August 16, Capacity Building in (Digital) Archaeology. A series of plenary sessions will explore such topics as Mobile Applications, Online Repositories, various aspects of archaeological data sharing and visualization, and sustainability.
– August 14, 2012
We are delighted to announce the success of our grant proposal to the National Science Foundation to create interoperability models for archaeological site databases in the eastern United States (NSF #1216810 & #1217240). Our core team consists of researchers from the Department of Anthropology and Archaeological Research Laboratory at the University of Tennessee, the Alexandria Archive Institute, and the Anthropology and Informatics programs at Indiana University. Open Context will be used as the primary platform for data dissemination for this project.
Our aims are to work with the databases held by State Historic Preservation offices and allied federal and tribal agencies in Eastern North America, with the goal of developing protocols for their linkage across state lines for research and management purposes. Data from some 15 to 20 states (more than a half million sites) will be integrated and linked to promote extension and reuse by government personnel in state and federal agencies, and domestic and international researchers. The interoperability models we develop will be designed to:
- facilitate and enhance resource management and protection far beyond local levels
- make protocols and, where appropriate, primary data readily available through open source formats, platforms, and services
- allow for interoperability among multiple disparate datasets and data systems
- be sustainable, flexible, adaptable, and capable of growth in a number of directions
- create frameworks for future “Linked Data” applications in North American archaeology
This project is designed to involve datasets from numerous organizations, and testers from the professional archaeological community. It will generate data products in the form of maps, tables, and analyses useful for primary research, cultural resources management, higher education, and public outreach. Data products will be abstracted and cleaned of sensitive information pursuant to all applicable state and federal requirements.
– August 7, 2012
We interrupt our vacation for a short blog post.
We are very pleased to report that the National Endowment for the Humanities just awarded a Digital Humanities Implementation grant to the Alexandria Archive Institute in support of our efforts to develop data publishing services with Open Context. In collaboration with a team of archaeologists working in the Mediterranean region, our project will further develop workflows to publish archaeological datasets as “Linked (Open) Data“, so that they can be used and integrated with many diverse data sources available on the Web to address important research topics.
We are grateful the NEH for their generous support and to our colleagues that bring energy, ideas, and talent to this collaborative effort. We’ll make further announcements about this and other projects in the upcoming weeks. Until then, it’s back to our previously scheduled vacation.
– July 27, 2012
We are very pleased to announce the online publication of the second installment of the Upper Tigris Archaeological Research Project’s excavation data, images, and documentation.
The Upper Tigris Archaeological Research Project (UTARP), under the direction of Bradley J. Parker (University of Utah), was active in the Upper Tigris River Region of southeastern Turkey between 1998 and 2011. The online data publication in Open Context aims to be a complete accounting of all of the excavation records as well as all of the records of the subsequent analyses from the Upper Tigris Archaeological Research Project’s excavations at the site of Kenan Tepe in southeastern Turkey (www.utarp.org).
This data publication includes records and analyses from Areas A, B, C, D, E, G, H and I, with findings from Ubaid, Late Chalcolithic, Early Bronze Age, Middle Bronze Age, and Iron Age contexts. With the publication of these data we can now say that approximately 95% of the data from Kenan Tepe are published. The database includes more than 30,000 images, 1900 journal entries and 43,000 records of contexts and finds. These data complement other datasets from several other sites in the Near East also published in Open Context.
A final installment of the last 5% of the data, which includes issues that remain to be resolved and an accounting of analyses that are still underway, will be forthcoming later this fall. All the UTARP data are available free-of-charge, under liberal Creative Commons Attribution licensing conditions, at:
Bulk down load of data can be obtained through Open Context’s GitHub repository. Additional options for downloading data tables as comma separated values (CSV) is forthcoming.
– July 3, 2012
Wondering how to publish your data with Open Context? We have news for you!
With help from our Editorial Board, we have released the first version of Open Context’s Editorial Policies & Author Guidelines. This document contains essential information about publishing with Open Context, including:
- Open Context’s open access and copyright policies,
- what you should expect of the editorial processes involved with data publication,
- a list of key information that should accompany your data publication, and
- tips on how to clean up your content in preparation for digital publication.
The Guidelines also include more specific guidance for a few sub-fields of archaeology (zooarchaeology, GIS, human osteology). These are under review and will see frequent updates, as well as guidance from additional sub-fields.
A primary aim of our work is to make the data publication process more streamlined so that publishing data becomes an expected and regular part of scholarly communication. We hope the Guidelines move us a step or two closer to this goal, and we welcome your comments!
– May 1, 2012
We’re delighted to announce the publication of “Other People’s Data: A Demonstration of the Imperative of Publishing Primary Data” in the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. The lead author is Prof. Levent Atici (UNLV), a member of the Open Context Editorial Board. The “online first” version of the paper can be accessed here. The authors will also share an Open Access pre-print (allowed by Springer) of the final version of the paper in the coming week.
This paper is an outcome of an AAI project funded by an NEH/IMLS Advancing Knowledge grant exploring user needs in archaeological data sharing. This paper’s co-authors (Levent Atici, Justin Lev-Tov, Sarah Whitcher Kansa and Eric Kansa) all participated in the NEH/IMLS study. They recognized that “data reuse” in archaeology is an area that is in critical need of more exploration. This paper reflects the co-authors’ attempts to grapple with this topic by documenting their reuse of data collected by another researcher. The results of their collaborative study highlight implications for data sharing, archiving and publishing programs.
Abstract: This study explores issues in using data generated by other analysts. Three researchers independently analyzed an orphaned, decades-old zooarchaeological dataset and then compared their analytical approaches and results. Although they took a similar initial approach to determine the dataset’s suitability for analysis, the three researchers generated markedly different interpretive conclusions. In examining how researchers use legacy data, this paper highlights interpretive issues, data integrity concerns, and data documentation needs. In order to meet these needs, we propose greater professional recognition for data dissemination, favoring models of “data publication” over “data sharing” or “data archiving.”
– April 16, 2012