Toward an online archaeological community
- Since I actually participated in the meeting reported below, and I do think
that MedArchNet is a really cool project, I'm sure that it will be of
interest to others as well.
First International MedArchNet
Workshop Paves the Way for Online Archaeological Community
by Tiffany Fox, (858) 246-0353
San Diego, CA, Dec. 10, 2008 — Together with their counterparts
abroad, archaeologists and computer scientists at the University of
California, San Diego are one step closer to creating a seamless,
highly detailed online network that links temporally diverse
archaeological sites around the Mediterranean region.
Representatives from 14 international universities and several
non-governmental agencies held a recent workshop at the UC San Diego
division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and
Information Technology (Calit2) to discuss the future of the
Mediterranean Archaeology Network (MedArchNet). When complete,
MedArchNet will serve as the most up-to-date source of data for
Mediterranean archaeological sites dating from remote prehistory to
the early 20th century.
The workshop brought together key researchers who control the
archaeology settlement pattern datasets for Israel, Palestine, Jordan
and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula — the areas (along with Southern Lebanon
and Syria) that comprise MedArchNet's first node, the Digital
Archaeological Atlas of the Holy Land (DAAHL). Funding for the
workshop was provided by the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN),
Equinox Publishing Ltd (London), the Cotsen Intitute of Archaeology
at UCLA and the UCSD Judaic Studies Program.
Professor Tom Levy, associate director of Calit2's Center of
Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology
(CISA3) and co-principal investigator on the project, says the most
exciting aspect of MedArchNet is the prospect of creating "portal
science" for the archaeology community working in the southern Levant.
"For us, this refers to establishing an online community of
archaeological researchers who can share large datasets by being
members of the cyberinfrastructure," he remarks. "For researchers
working in the Mediterranean lands which have seen so much turmoil
throughout history, 'portal science' allows us to transcend borders,
work closely together, and examine large datasets such as ancient
settlement information (including the whole range of artifact
assemblages from pottery to coins) that would be impossible using
traditional methods. What was most valuable about the workshop was
that for the first time we were able to bring an international group
of some of the best archaeologists working in Israel, Jordan and
Palestine in one room — and for two solid days — who have all
expressed willingness to in-put and share data in DAAHL."
Collaborating with Levy as PIs on the project are Arizona State
University Affiliated Professor Steven Savage, who is director of the
Geo-Archaeological Information Applications (GAIA) Lab, and Chaitan
Baru, division director of science research and development for UCSD's
San Diego Supercomputer Center. Savage says the team plans to fashion
DAAHL (which already contains 40,000 archaeological sites) as a
"database without borders" that could eventually be expanded to
include archaeological sites in Egypt and beyond.
"DAAHL will function as an entrepot into the larger datasets available
to researchers," he elaborates, "but in a way that will facilitate
cross-border research and cooperation. Since the current
international borders in the Middle East were drawn in the 1920s
following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, it follows that the
archaeological periods in the DAAHL are best studied from a regional
perspective that is not restricted to resources located in only one
modern nation state. The DAAHL is designed to do just that."
Once DAAHL and MedArchNet are fully established, they will represent
robust tools for "mining" stories and narratives of archaeological
research in the Mediterranean lands. Data (including high-resolution
3-D and multispectral images of artifacts) will be stored in a secure
central facility, accessed and displayed over the Internet by way of a
Google Maps/Google Earth interface, and visualized via emerging
technologies such as museum-quality HIPerSpace tiled display walls.
MedArchNet will also provide both OpenContent data and drill-down
capabilities to access archived digital photographs and other digital
collections that might require more limited access.
Representatives from 14 international universities and several
non-governmental agencies held a recent workshop at UCSD's Calit2 to
discuss the future of MedArchNet.
Professor Aren Maeir of the Institute of Archaeology at Israel's
Bar-Ilan University says that as the project progresses, he will "try
to gently cajole, push and even drag more Israeli archaeologists to
join the program."
"MedArchNet is an excellent combination of cutting edge — or even
'bleeding edge' — technology and archaeology, in which true
inter-regional cooperation can be manifested," he enthuses. "It will
make archaeological knowledge, on may levels, accessable and
understandable in a truly digital medium, and will provide an
excellent resource for teaching."
In addition to school teachers, the network will be made available to
everyone from travel agents to public policy makers and
state-of-the-art researchers, and could eventually serve as a model
for similar cyberinfrastructures in other cultural areas of interest,
such as anthropology.
"In terms of world cultural heritage, I think the MedArchNet
cyberinfrastructure will provide an important model for other regions
in the world," Levy says. "Once we have it up and running, scholars,
researchers, government administrators and the public will see how
powerful a tool it is not only for archaeological research, but for
all realms of material culture from all periods of time and all places
where people are interested in world cultural heritage. For example,
we are very interested in partnering with the National Folklore
Support Centre for India in Chennai. They have thousands of interviews
and videos dealing with traditional culture in India. The same
cyberinfrastructure that we are building for MedArchNet could be
adapted to the needs of our colleagues in India."
In the meantime, MedArchNet will be of tremendous benefit to
archaeologists in the Middle East, especially now that the project has
secured crucial funding from WUN and the American Schools of Oriental
Research (ASOR), the umbrella organization for North American
archaeologists working in the Middle East.
Explains Levy: "Now that ASOR has sponsored MedArchNet/DAAHL, we are
working closely with Oystein LaBianca, the new chair of ASOR's
Committee on Archaeological Policy (CAP), to invite the directors of
the more than 60 North American archaeological research projects to
join, participate and contribute data. This is especially important
because ASOR CAP affiliated projects undergo a peer-review process to
insure that their research designs, data collection methods, and
publication plans are of the highest academic standard. By bringing
ASOR affiliated projects to MedArchNet/DAAHL, we will have an
unusually robust database for archaeology in the eastern
While Levy acknowledges that "the only way to maintain excellence in
the research is to have experts involved," he also notes that
facilitating such a large collaboration poses inherent challenges.
Several of those challenges were discussed during the workshop, with
some participants expressing concern about the sheer number of
archaeological sites involved, and others pointing out that not all
archaeological sites are currently marked on Google Earth. Still
others called into question the possibility of establishing effective
editorial quality control, while some warned that the "the politics of
map-making" and the difficulty of interpreting data on different
scales would complicate the effort. Also posing some controversy was a
discussion about the establishment of a common working language — not
an easy feat among researchers who span a multitude of nationalities.
"MedArchNet will work like a kind of 'switchboard' for directing
people to different kinds of archaeological data and projects
throughout a given region," Levy points out. "Because so many scholars
and institutions have spent their life-times and tremendous resources
on carrying out archaeological research in a given area, one of the
biggest challenges is to develop protocols and assurances to maintain
the 'brand' those individuals and institutions in relation to their
research and output. Insuring 'brand recognition' and copyright for
all those contributing to MedArchNet/DAAHL is an issue we are working
The next step for Levy and his team will be to collect small
DAAHL-related datasets from the scholars who attended the workshop,
which include representatives from the University of Bergen, Israel's
Tel Aviv and Bar-Ilan Universities, the University of Sheffield and
Jordan's Friends of Archaeology organization. The workshop
participants will also be asked to contribute a short research paper
about their work in relation to MedArchNet for publication in a book
to be published by Equinox.
"This will add a great deal to our existing database and demonstrate
how approximately 30 researchers can work together," Levy says. "The
book will serve as another 'gateway' to MedArchNet. At the same time,
we are applying for funds from the National Science Foundation, the
National Endowment for the Humanities and other sources to build this
cyberinfrastructure project. I'm pleased to say that the Institute
for Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP) has already pledged a significant sum
to help us build the first digital atlas node outside of the southern
Levant — one for the Aegean region. So we will be extremely busy over
the next year."
Aside from the immediate benefits to the archaeological community,
Savage says he expects that MedArchNet will also promote peace and
understanding in the region.
"As the project expands beyond the initial Holy land Node, we envision
these benefits spreading around the Mediterranean, which is still the
scene of ethnic and religious conflict," he remarks. "Because of its
emphasis on building archaeological datasets without borders,
MedArchNet and DAAHL will serve as a beacon to scholarly cooperation
and contact. By doing so, we can contribute greatly to the stability
of the region, and hence, to the world at large."
> "As the project expands beyond the initial Holy land Node, we envisionIt simply has to in order to market itself as the electronic
> these benefits spreading around the Mediterranean,
archaeological hub for Mediterranean scholars.
The composition of the workshop itself reveals a divide between scholars
working in the Eastern Mediterranean and those working elsewhere.
- The first stage of the project is the indeed the Digital Archaeological
Atlas of the Holy Land (DAAHL), with other areas to follow. The area of
Israel/Palestine, Jordan and Sinai was chosen because of the relative
accessabilty of the data, and because the oganizer, Tom Levy of UCSD, has
been working in Jordan for years.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Mike Brass" <michael.brass@...>
Sent: Sunday, December 14, 2008 2:01 PM
Subject: Re: [Archaeology] Toward an online archaeological community
>> "As the project expands beyond the initial Holy land Node, we envision
>> these benefits spreading around the Mediterranean,
> It simply has to in order to market itself as the electronic
> archaeological hub for Mediterranean scholars.
> The composition of the workshop itself reveals a divide between scholars
> working in the Eastern Mediterranean and those working elsewhere.
> You can change your message settings at:
> http://groups.yahoo.com/group/archaeology2/join if you no longer wish to
> receive e-mails from this groups.yahoo.com/group/archaeology2/join if you
> no longer wish to receive e-mails from this groupYahoo! Groups Links
No virus found in this incoming message.
Checked by AVG - http://www.avg.com
Version: 8.0.176 / Virus Database: 270.9.17/1847 - Release Date: 13/12/2008