Archaeoinformatics:An information systems framework for Archaeology
An information systems framework
Name: Ahmad Alam
Supervisor Name: Professor Andrew Brass
Research Group: Bio-Health Informatics
It is needed now, not later…
Important historical and archaeological information is being lost, Edwardian Records are themselves now artefacts needing
preservation. Dig sites are being flooded to make way for dams. Archaeological artefacts are being repatriated to their countries of
origin, limiting research. Britain has 30,000 undocumented artefacts.
Modern Data, Legacy Recording
Scientific archaeological research makes use of the latest scientific
techniques, yet records data in ‘data tombs’, i.e. Excel worksheets, small
isolated databases etc. Much of the data it is never electronically recorded
in the first place, it’s published on mono-graph, years after the initial dig,
and then only shared amongst selected peers.
But why? Is it the data, the community, or the IT systems?
It’s a bit of all three. The data is highly specialised and detailed, small numbers of records, huge number of fields, so it is ‘special’
and ‘different’ from traditional IT data. The communities still works largely on paper, and due to the specialised nature of their work,
isolated from each other. Their exposure to IT has been haphazard. Limited information systems provided to one part of
community have not been adopted by others working in the same area, due to the limitations of the systems provided, ranging
from the UI, to use of such systems requiring IT knowledge, e.g. SQL.
From this.. to this…. ‘Mepr’
Paper based records Online applications
These are the mainstay in the field of archaeology. The Mummy Electronic Patient Record – a Ruby on Rails
above Dakhleh Oasis Project Mummy Record (13 pages) application breaks new ground by laying down a
has only ever been sent by fax on request since 1993, framework for recoding and sharing archaeological data,
yet it is an unrepeatable and unique dataset. that is adaptable, extensible and based on the Rails
‘don’t repeat yourself’ code re-use philosophy.
Thanks to the KNH Centre for providing archaeological
oversight and the Dakhleh Oasis Mummy Record set.