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Editorial

Judith Winters *

Cite this as: J. Winters 2001 'Issue 9, Editorial', Internet Archaeology 9. https://doi.org/10.11141/ia.9.13

Issue 9 opened in November 2000 with a 'special section' consisting of 7 articles on Near Eastern Petrology edited by Louise Joyner from the British Museum (described in more detail in her editorial). Rather than the restricted number of black and white images commonly found in more traditional publications, all 7 articles include full colour petrographic images of pottery from around the Eastern Mediterranean, demonstrating the opportunity offered in this medium for archaeologists to portray their data in more detail and much more effectively than can usually be done in print. One article also made use of QuickTime rotating images, illustrating the optical effects of rotation of thin sections on the microscope stage, vitually allowing us to step into the shoes of the specialist.

The issue continued into December with the publication of excavations of the Roman site at Brough-on-Humber. This article was commissioned by York Archaeological Trust and prepared by Internet Archaeology to explore the electronic publication of archaeological excavation reports. The complete report is published alongside the context dataset, the pottery dataset and the 'small finds' catalogue. Comments on the balance that has been struck between the needs of the general reader and the specialist in this case are especially welcome, but hopefully will not eclipse the importance of the site in light of its conclusions about the status of the Roman town and the discovery of a hitherto unrecognised pottery industry in the region.

As all of the articles in this issue witness, modern excavation and fieldwork survey inevitably creates large quantities of computer-generated information, either during fieldwork or in the assessment, analysis or dissemination stages of any project. Depending on the nature of the research, but mirroring traditional practice, archaeological data can go straight into a digital archive (for those who want access to the raw data, like specialists) or, at the other end of the spectrum, can be published in an electronic journal like Internet Archaeology. To a degree and for many valid reasons, Internet Archaeology has, up until now, maintained the division between digital archive and publication, but we have realised that we may actually be missing the opportunity to create an integrated archive, where all the available raw data is fully articulated with the text of the report, and where users would be able to query the entire range of data through a variety of interfaces (Richards and Robinson, 2000, sect 3.2). The beginnings of this kind of dissemination have been found in the journal since its inception (see for example: Tomlinson and Hall, Tyers, Peacey, Dungworth, Snyder, Perkins, Wickham-Jones and Dalland, Vollbrecht, Hunter-Mann et al.), but we are now developing our already close relationship with the Archaeology Data Service, and have started to explore the reality of the integrated archive. The final article in issue 9 by Martin Millett and colleagues has allowed us to put these ideas into practice.

The Ave Valley Survey is the final report of a 5 year field survey in northern Portugal, where almost 50 new Iron Age and Roman sites have been identified (based on the density of finds retrieved from fieldwalking). The publication includes the usual fare of text, images, and links to several online datasets of the fieldwalking data, the pottery and tile finds (over 5000 entries), and their densities. The digital archive of the survey has been deposited with the ADS. The archive includes all the raw data files that make up the published, searchable datasets, geophysical survey plots and interpretations, the images and analyses created from the GIS, as well as the full set of geo-spatial data for the area. All of these files are available for users to download from the ADS site and query offline. However the new departure is that these two related, but usually separate, entities have been woven together into the Ave Valley publication, and the survey report links not just to the archive download page but it actually retrieves data from the archive while apparently still within the publication. Thus data from the archive are retrieved when a query from a database within the publication is made. Such access to the archive, that invisible and rarely-accessed element of traditional fieldwork publications, allows users to pass seamlessly from the interpretation to the raw data and back. Evidence can be immediately queried, and the assumptions upon which conclusions are based can be questioned and assessed. The act of interrogation, itself now more explicit, becomes a new and powerful tool and creates in its wake, more active users of the data.

However, the mere 'emptying of... notebooks on a reader's head is not publication. A mass of statements which have no point, and do not appear to lead to any conclusion or generalisation, cannot be regarded as efficient publication' (Flinders-Petrie 1904). Although it could be said that we are virtually publishing everything, the published report should still interpret the site in the light of the original research agenda: it should still tell the story. Only with the story, the full spectrum of raw data can now be made available, allowing us to both 'address our peers and turn our attention to our non-specialist neighbours' (Wickham-Jones, 1999). Such a seamless resource will certainly have wide-reaching implications on the relationships that we have not just with other archaeologists and specialists, but also with others outside the discipline. It may also have a profound impact on the practice of archaeology itself - not least on the acquisition of our data.

We have always thought that the web would be good at connecting people, rather than things. Perhaps it can actually do both.

References:

Flinders-Petrie, W.M. 1904 'Methods and Aims in Archaeology'.

Wickham-Jones, C. 1999 'Excavation Publication and the Internet' in Internet Archaeology 7. http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue7/wickham_index.html

J. Richards and D. Robinson (eds) 2000 Digital Archives from Excavation and Fieldwork: Guide to Good Practice. Second Edition. http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/project/goodguides/excavation/index.html


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