Joint Chapter Meeting 2012

The CAA Netherlands – Germany Joint Chapter Meeting 2012 has been a very interesting meeting with many useful discussions. CAA-NL-FL would like to thank the organisation at the Institute of Archaeology, University of Groningen (Netherlands) and all participants.

Please read the twitter conversation here and check out the themes, programme, abstracts and presentations below!


Managing Data Quality
An issue that plagues archaeologists of all kinds, but is rarely presented and discussed in a formal setting, is the management of (information about) data quality. How do we store and manipulate information about the spatial error associated with the mapped location of a site? How do we deal with ‘legacy’ data that is based on antiquated typologies and/or is poorly described by metadata? How do we use the confidence limits associated with the acquisition of field measurements? Can we effectively describe degrees of uncertainty in, for example, assignment of a sherd to a typology, or a site to a period?
A very wide range of issues can be discussed under this methodological theme, including database design, data capture methods, and data analysis methods. We are particularly interested in case studies that demonstrate how specific data quality issues were addressed.

Z – the third spatial dimension
After 20 years of ‘2.5D’ GIS work in Archaeology, we are seeing in recent years the first signs that researchers are moving on to true 3D (volumetric) spatial representation and analysis – previously the preserve of oil geologists. To foster this development, we feature papers that focus on the collection, management and analysis of 3D spatial data from intra-site to landscape-scale contexts. The data sets for this type of analysis might derive from coring, geophysics, excavation, seismics, etc. Pure visualisation studies, such as those based on laser scanning, CAD or VRML models of ancient structures, will be excluded from this session because they already receive enough attention elsewhere.


Friday 30th November
13:00 Welcome Address
13:15 Dr. Karsten Tolle & Dr. David Wigg-Wolf – Data quality at database and higher levels – Our work with the numismatic database AFE
13:45 Vladimir Stissi & Jitte Waagen – Fighting aging… of data. The example of (Greek) pottery databases
15:15 Stan Roosen & Steven Soetens – A 3D model of the medieval urban subsurface of Vlaardingen (Zuid Holland)
15:45 Ferry van den Oever – Archaeogeophysics, ‘How deep can you beep? ’ and isn’t 2.5 D good enough?
16:15 Serge van Gessel – Serge is an expert in 3d subsurface mapping with TNO Netherlands Organisation for Applied Research, geoinformatics division & will be the discussant for the ‘Z’ session.
17:00 CAA NL/FL AGM General meeting of CAA-NL-FL Chapter. Election of officers and voting on the constitution.

Saturday 1st December
09:00 Tobias Kohr – Distributed Geodatabases in Archaeological Joint Research Projects
09:30 Milco Wansleeben – Linked data: provenance metadata becomes ‘ordinary’ data
10:00 Loup Bernard – ArkeoGIS, merging French and German archaeological and environmental databases
11:00 Georg Hohmann – Ontology-based documentation of cultural heritage: The Semantic Research Environment “WissKI”
11:30 Dr. Felix Schaefer – The new research data centre IANUS – approaches to more data quality
12:00 Dr. Kim M. Cohen – GIS reconstruction of the palaeogeography of the Holocene Rhine-Meuse delta
14:00 Chris van der Meijden – Ossobook – Spicing archaeo related sciences with archaeo informatics
14:30 Dr. Guus Lange – Knowing knowledge
15:30 Dr. Matthias Lang- ArchGate – an integrated Database-GIS-solution for archaeological fieldwork
16:00 Dr. Martijn van Leusen – Handling Uncertainties in Legacy Site Data: the strange case of the Hidden Landscapes database
16:30 Closing discussion


Karsten Tolle and David Wigg-Wolf
Data quality at database and higher levels – Our work with the numismatic database AFE

Antike Fundmünzen in Europa (AFE) is an existing database of finds of ancient coins, predominantly from Germany, hosted by the Römisch-Germanische Kommission (RGK) with technical technical support provided by the Database and Information Systems (DBIS) group of the University of Frankfurt am Main. During the last year we have re-engineered the original Access database, and transformed it into an online MySQL based database.
We are currently working on issues such as uncertainty: how do we model it in order to preserve existing data and to avoid ambiguity?
In the long run we want to link AFE with other databases in Europe, and have already generated some promising results within the framework of the European Coin Find Network (ECFN). One of the cornerstones we envisage is the use of IDs in order to provide a common reference for the identification of entities and concepts.
The talk will present AFE and the lessons we have learned.

Vladimir Stissi and Jitte Waagen

Fighting aging… of data. The example of (Greek) pottery databases.

Greek pottery, both in museum collections and as found in field work projects, has been entered in electronic databases from a relatively early date. The Beazley Archive, which went electronic in 1979 and online in 1998 (, was one of the earliest large artefact databases on the web, and is still intensively used even if a bit outdated in many ways. Museums often do better, although some online datasets have been disappearing from view. Early electronic field work databases have rarely been put online in the first place, and many stored in obsolete formats are now in serious risk of disappearing.
But is that really the main problem? Working with electronic pottery datasets produced in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I have noted that the data themselves are often as least as problematic as their transmission, if not more so. One reason for this is that we now know a lot more about many categories of material, but more importantly, supposedly ‘traditional’ and ‘standardized’ ways of classifying and analyzing pots have changed considerably over the last 20 years or so. In other words, early databases contain fields and categories we wouldn’t use anymore, and lack some we would like to have.
Perhaps it is only natural that data become outdated, but this is obviously also a form of aging we would like to avoid. When designing new pottery databases (like the one for the New Perspectives on Ancient Pottery (NPAP) research project developed at the Amsterdam Archaeological Centre in 2008-2011) this poses two problems/challenges: is it possible to make a more durable framework? And how can we save as much existing content as possible from becoming obsolete? Or: is it useful at all to revive old datasets? We have not any clear answers yet, but in this paper will explore some perspectives and some problems.

Ferry van den Oever

Archaeogeophysics, ‘How deep can you beep? ’ and isn’t 2.5 D good enough?

Near-surface geophysics, or non-destructive techniques, are slowly but steadily becoming part of the standard toolbox for prospection. These techniques are to be used in addition to other (destructive) techniques. Geophysical datasets and the 3rd dimension: How to achieve a real 3D-model and is there an advantage in volumetric analyses? Who is using real 3D-models? Isn’t 2,5 D enough? Is there a need for 3D-models in commercial archaeology? Determining which geophysical technique where and how to be used is of course very important. Apart from gathering data the correct way, how do we handle this data? The datasets itself are becoming larger and larger. Is working in the cloud part of the solution? What about archiving (meta-)data? How to go about with datafusion? It’s about time to set up Dutch ‘best practise’ guidelines for geophysics!

Tobias Kohr

Distributed Geodatabases in Archaeological Joint Research Projects

The paper introduces two current research projects conducted at the i3mainz with different archaeological background but common technical solutions. Within the HiGeoMes (Historische Geographie Obermesopotamiens) project conducted by a bi-national group from France and Germany textual and archaeological data need to be integrated in a spatio-temporal context. As part of the “data curation” initiative of the Geocycles research centre at the University of Mainz the connection of archaeological data with geological information from the Eifel area is established.
Both projects focus on the collection of archaeological sites within different regional scale. HiGeoMes is based on existing data sets of the ancient Near East which quality and quantity was enhanced by investigating additional spatial and bibliographic sources. The Eifel-data are initially collected from bibliographic research and administrative documents facilitated by geodata available online.
The distributed environment with contributors from several places and different scientific disciplines were a common challenge. By implementing web-clients based on FOSSGIS technology, data acquisition as well as dissemination is obtained by the concept of service oriented architecture (SOA). While most of the projects effort concentrated on the development of the clients, several issues where tackled concerning data quality, \’legacy\’-data and spatial as well as temporal accuracy.
The paper will exemplify encountered problems and solutions. We will especially argue for using OGC-compliant webservices for preserving and describing data quality.

Milco Wansleeben

Linked data: provenance metadata becomes ‘ordinary’ data

The data structure of the information stored in the Semantic web/Linked Open Data realm is so flexible that is it possible to include any statement about data quality very easily. Explicit information about the spatial accuracy or uncertainty in the typological assignment should preferably be added by the original researchers, but can be added to the web of data by others later, based on peer reviews or re-use experience. Legacy, national or alternative typologies can be mapped to a target typology once, so crosswalks are available to everyone. The context of data acquisition and analysis is directly clear, since it is automatically part of the relations between the events, actors and (data) documents.
Currently experiments with Linked Data in Dutch archaeology have been limited, both in the number and in the scope of demonstrators. Technological problems do not seem to be the main reason for this. We lack user friendly information systems that allow archaeologists to interact with a substantial amount of Linked Data. Only then they could explore new ways to answer archaeological research questions. As long as the content is still very limited, the benefits will not be obvious and the additional effort archaeologists have to invest in publishing archeological and provenance data as Linked Data is not easily made or justified in the current economic situation.

Loup Bernard

ArkeoGIS, merging French and German archaeological and environmental databases

French and German archaeologists and geographers work together for several years now, to put the 2.0 version of ArkeoGIS online. The webGIS is a free cooperative tool. Data preservation is guaranteed by the TGE ADONIS, who hosts the project and organizes interaction between different social sciences and humanities online programs. Gathering inventories and research databases, coupled with lists of palaeoenvironmental analysis grants us unprecedented access to our neighbor’s data in French or German language, and helps our non bilingual colleagues to apprehend it. ArkeoGIS is also an amazing an amazing tool to reveal the matters of soil occupation/anthropic impact and erosional behavior in the Holocene upper Rhine valley. Listing different bases online is the best way to actualize older databases, when put on a dynamic map, literature or interpretational differences between the datasets appear immediately and are easy to update with the export tool.

Felix Schaefer

The new research data centre IANUS – approaches to more data quality

The paper will give some insights about IANUS, a new research centre in Germany for digital data from archaeology and classical studies. This project is funded by the DFG and currently is under construction. Since September 2011 its tasks and duties are being defined and financial as legal frameworks are discussed. Once established, IANUS will be comparable to eDNA in the Netherlands and ADS in the UK. Primary goals will be the long-term preservation, the dissemination and the aggregation of digital data. For all these aspects the issues of data management, data quality, data storage and data re-usage are crucial questions. Although still being in the planning phase the paper will present some current ideas concerning the outlined aspects of managing data quality. One focus will be the new IT-guidelines which comprise both accepted standards and best-practice examples and which IANUS is going to host and to promote within the German community. Hopefully these will help data producers to improve the data handling and to enhance the consciousness for the data quality within research projects. Another issue will be the quality of deposited data that needs to be archived. Especially the integrity and homogeneity of the documentation and metadata submitted along with files themselves it is one key element in order to make digital information reusable in future times by new, unfamiliar users.

Dr Kim M Cohen

GIS reconstruction of the palaeogeography of the Holocene Rhine-Meuse delta

Since 1999 Utrecht University maintains a reconstruction of the Holocene channel belt network of the Rhine-Meuse delta, stored in GIS. New channels have formed and older channels have been abandoned through natural sedimentary processes such as avulsion and transgression. The resulting Holocene delta substrate can be seen as a spaghetti of channel belts, composed mainly of sand, that dissect flood basin sequences of clay and peat. These features are mapped at very high resolution, and for the great majority of the channel belts direct age control on their beginning and abandonment is available. Utrecht University keeps a series of databases of primary raw data for this type of research, for example for borehole descriptions and 14C datings obtained on relevant sediments. The GIS of the Rhine-Meuse delta channel belt fragments is our database storing the mapping and dating of recognized channel belt features and is our tool for iterating to the optimal palaeogeographical reconstruction for any given time during the Holocene. I will discuss the functional setup of the GIS for delta network reconstruction and the philosophy behind it.
I will give a few examples of the way the database is presently used in archaeological, geological and physical geographical applications. The reconstruction is a widely used resource in the ‘Malta’ archaeological practice in the Netherlands today, but the original digital map is now over 10 years old and many details have significantly changed (improved, we think). I will highlight the progress in recent years, including our extensions into the Niederrhein area in Germany.

Chris van der Meijden

Ossobook – Spicing archaeo related sciences with archaeo informatics

To successfully establish the new scientific branch of archaeo informatics the main problems are based on standardization problems, understanding of advanced informatics (i.e. data mining) within archaeo sciences and setting up data communication infrastructures. Our experiences are based on the development of OSSOBOOK, an intermittedly synchronized database system that allows any authorized user to record data on bones offline at the site and later synchronizing this new data with a central data collection. Powerful data mining and similarity search tools have been integrated. The actual development steps are establishing a standardized minimal electronic finding description and the implementation of an enhanced database connection interface for data mining communication techniques to set up an archaeo data network.

Guus Lange

Knowing knowledge

The Semantic Web or Linked Open Data are sometimes togethercalled Web 3.0 as the successor to the Web 2.0 of the social media. A very successful social medium is of course FaceBook, but Web 2.0 really promised to be the new means for online collaboration. As such, this development has not been hugely successful up to now. One of the reasons might be that in the digital world, people and computer programmes use different knowledge schemes while these differences are not immediate obvious. When I call a sherd ‘Dressel 20’, do you know exactly what I mean? When we do data retrieval we find terms, but not the concepts behind them. In digital communication the contextual information is lacking that usually makes up for this lack, at least partly, in real world communication. When reading a report one can assess the quality and its place in the scientific tradition by glancing through it quite fast. For a computer search programme this is simply not possible at all. Other measures should be taken to make sure we retrieve the right information.
Therefore The SemWeb approaches these problems by including semantics into the data files themselves so that both computers and people do understand each other by sharing the same concepts without necessarily talking the same ‘language’. Thesauri-management is the key application here.
The Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed develops an infrastructure for the heritage field and their partners from outside to use to exchange trustful and meaningful information . In my presentation I will discuss this infrastructure and will show the first results.

Dr. Martijn van Leusen

Handling Uncertainties in Legacy Site Data: the strange case of the Hidden Landscapes database

All landscape archaeology projects attempt to incorporate legacy archaeological data. Until the early 1980s this would have been almost exclusively site-oriented data, in large part produced from older ‘paper’ records sometimes going back to the later decades of the 19th century; up until the late 1990s, when GPS and GIS penetrated the discipline, field walking surveys often produced exlusively site data. A typical problem for those building regional archaeological data management systems today is therefore to find ways of storing legacy site data of widely varying quality; a further problem for those wanting to use such data for analytical purposes is to assess its quality and to store quality metadata in such a way that they can be usefully included in queries. Uncertainties can, and will, arise about all site parameters as supplied by the source; more-over, we do not necessarily agree today about the character and significance of these uncertainties. This papers presents an outline of the solution adopted by the author’s research group at the department of Mediterranean Archaeology of the Groningen Institute of Archaeology, using as an example its MS-Access database of sites compiled for the ‘Hidden Landscapes’ project 2005-2010.