1. Introduction

This article derives from a dissertation submitted for a Master of Science degree in Archaeological Information Systems. The original dissertation investigated Virtual Research Environments (VREs) and attempted to design a tool which fell under the JISC VRE Programme's guidelines (Allan et al. 2004). As defined by Fraser (2005), a VRE is a system comprising a digital infrastructure and services which enable research to take place. He goes on to say that 'a VRE is best viewed as a framework into which tools, services and resources can be plugged'. This model provided an excellent framework while developing a tool for the Sikyon Survey Project, however one tool does not make up a VRE. The foundation of the tool, an online interactive image, was built on general aspects of electronic dissemination and communication, which are key elements behind the implementation of VREs.

Collaboration is a key element to any academic endeavour. Whether the collaboration is inter-disciplinary or between the members of a specific project, the exchange of ideas remains crucial to the advancement of research. However, seamless collaboration is not always easily attainable by archaeological researchers. Many projects, archaeological or otherwise, have a diverse group of participants from a multitude of geographic locations. This disciplinary and geographic separation presents logistical problems for the projects' researchers. These members often only directly interact during the data collection phase of the project, undertaking the real analysis and interpretation of the data in relative isolation from each other. While modern technologies enable correspondence to be easily maintained, the ability to work together on a project's data set contemporaneously is limited.

These issues are present in the Sikyon Survey Project, as they are in many other archaeological projects around the world. Based on the current needs of the project and its members, the provision of an interactive map was identified as being the most beneficial tool in an online environment. The graphical representation of spatial data has always been a fundamental concern of archaeologists (Lock 2003, 165), and the Sikyon Survey Project is no different. The use of maps and GIS within the project is crucial because of the spatial nature and complexity of the data for the survey stage of the project. The development of this online interactive image proved to be the first step in addressing these issues and the needs inherent in the project, which are shared by many other archaeological projects. However, before we can discuss the tool itself, the Sikyon Survey Project, its methodology, and the project output will be introduced. Then follows an overview of the technologies exploited to develop the tool, which are notably only a snapshot of the technological landscape at the time of development. With the rapid speed of progress, some of the technologies and aspects of them used have already moved on. Finally, a discussion of the tool itself and some of the recent work will be discussed.


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Last updated: Tue Mar 25 2008