Open Source Computing and GIS in the UK

Travels in a digital world

CAA UK 2007 Day Two

| Comments

Day Two of CAA 2007, and some more very interesting talks. A common theme today was the use of 3D modelling in archaeology, but approached from very different perspectives, and for differing uses. First up we had a talk about using 3D modelling as one of a barrage of techniques used to examine the visibility, or visual consumption of interior wall paintings in the ancient Greek settlement of Acrotiri. 3D modelling was used here alongside crowd-modelling techniques at both a macro- and meso-scale to highlight that the paintings would have been visible from a particular pinch-point in people’s movement through a street network. The modelling and advanced analysis here have added a new level of understanding about a site that would have been impossible previously.

On a simpler level, but nonetheless really useful, my colleague Leif demonstrated a program he has written to help record and analyse human skeletal remains, particularly when there is a large and complicated assemblage, such as in a burial pit. In the past it has been difficult, as commercial archaeologists with time and budgetary constraints, to record the position of the bones well enough to analyse them properly but Leif’s Crossbones package does just that. It’s a rare innovation that won’t take any longer to implement than the way things are currently done but it will improve the quality of the work no end. When he releases it (in a matter of weeks) it will be opensource and free as well! Hurrah!

Briefly, we also had talks on a 3D online catalogue of medieval timber building joints, and creating realistic 3D representations of past environments, including realistic lighting and particulates in the air (both vital to getting a proper impression of life inside a dark smoky hovel). Tom Goskar has been busy recreating the now submerged prehistoric landscape, complete with accurate representations of trees and animals, and another paper discussed whether we should include some measure of uncertainty in our reconstructions so that it is clear what is known and what is conjecture.

That actually leads me to discuss one of the other papers, as I think the idea of uncertainty is closely related to that of tagging and folksonomies. Mia Ridge discussed possible Web 2.0 uses in archaeology and cultural heritage, and one of the clear uses is allowing users to tag cultural objects, as you would photos in flickr or websites in del.icio.us. At first glance, this is a little scary as we like our standards and our proscribed ways of describing things. However, the world is messy, and there are multiple ways of describing most things, particularly archaeological monuments or artefacts where most of our knowledge is based on interpretation of incomplete evidence. Tagging allows people to acknowledge that uncertainty as well as allowing them to make more instinctive associations between things. Finally, I think we as archaeologists should acknowledge that what we do is quite specialised and a bit of a niche- which, as far as I know, makes us part of the Long Tail and we should exploit that.

Tomorrow we continue with ArchCamp 2- organised by Antiquist. It’s basically an opportunity for more archaeogeeky chat, and perhaps demos of some of the things we’ve all been working on. Best go back to work and get my demo sorted then…

Comments