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Sections 5-7: Methodology and Technical Procedures

These sections summarise the methods for preparing printed excavation reports so that artefact assemblages can be used to study social behaviour at Roman sites. The processes involve: the selection of suitable sites, converting the printed site plans and artefact catalogues into digital formats so that the artefacts can be sorted according to provenances and activities, and then mapping these activities onto the new digital site plans using Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

We solved these challenges by developing an overall 'workflow' comprising discrete work tasks, skills and technology platforms.

Diagram showing workflow
Figure 14: Workflows and software (drawing A. S. Fairbairn and C. W. Blackall)

Section 5: Re-appraising excavation data (by P.M. Allison)

Sites were selected for analysis, in the first instance, if their excavation reports had relevant characteristics. They had to have relatively comprehensive artefact catalogues, good site plans and each catalogue entry had to have a published findspot, which could be located on the plans. The fortress of Vetera I, in the lower Rhine region, was chosen as an example of an old excavation whose finds have recently been extensively published (Hanel 1995).

Section 6: Digitising published site plans (by C.W. Blackall and S.J.R. Ellis)

6.1 Introduction to procedures - A number of procedures, and a range of software, were recommended for scanning and digitising the site plans.

6.2 Capturing the plans - The process involved scanning large format plans and preparing them for the next stage of digitisation.

6.3 Digitising the plans - The scanned site plans were imported into Adobe Illustrator and redrawn using its Bézier drawing tools. The finished drawings were then translated into geo-referenced 'shape' (.shp) files using Avenza MAPublisher for export to ArcGIS 8.3.

Section 7: Digitising and querying artefact catalogues (by A.S. Fairbairn)

7.1 Capturing data from printed catalogues: The artefact catalogues were digitally scanned and converted into machine readable text files using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software, Abbyy FineReader. The resulting data was manually disaggregated into descriptive, numeric and other categories using Microsoft Word and Excel.

7.2 Preparing catalogue data for GIS: The Excel spreadsheets were then imported into Microsoft Access and cross-tab queries created to summarise the data. The data was then exported as series of Dbase IV (.dbf) files, for importation into ArcGIS.

7.3 Creating distribution plots of people and their activities: The .dbf files were imported into ArcGIS and aggregated with tabular data from the 'shape' (.shp) files exported from Adobe Illustrator/MAPublisher. Distribution maps of various social activity and status categories were created using ArcMap, a component of ArcGIS.

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Last updated: Mon Apr 4 2005