2.2 Overview of the knowledge base

2.2.1 Standard page layout

A standard page format helps users navigate around SASSA, rapidly identify the information they require, and ultimately add to or edit the site (Fig. 2). User feedback has been very positive regarding the layout and navigation of the SASSA website. A standard page is laid out as follows:

Figure 2: Screenshot showing the standard page layout in SASSA

2.2.2 About geoarchaeology

The home page of the 'Geoarchaeology' namespace (Fig. 3) provides access to pages outlining the scope of geoarchaeological research, and the broad archaeological questions that can be addressed through geoarchaeology. The aim of this area is to provide the reader with a broad overview of what is (and is not) geoarchaeology and of the potential for geoarchaeological research.

Figure 3: Screenshot of the homepage for the About geoarchaeology namespace

2.2.3 Soil/sediment tutorial

The 'Tutorial' namespace provides classic text-book type information about natural processes of erosion, deposition and soil formation, as well as archaeologically orientated sections on post-burial changes and anthropogenic deposits. The structure of the tutorial is as shown in Table 1.

Table 1: The structure of the SASSA tutorial, click on the section titles to view the pages
Tutorial Home PageProcesses of weathering and erosionWeathering; water erosion; mass movement; ice erosion; tectonic and volcanic erosion; anthropogenic erosion
Processes of deposition and accumulationWater deposition; wind deposition; mass movement deposits; glacial deposition; volcanic deposits; cave deposits; anthropogenic deposits
Soils, soil forming processes and classificationSoil forming processes; soil features; soil profiles and horizons; soil classification
Processes of post-burial modificationBurial as a process of preservation; the burial environment; processes of change in the burial environment; the effects of post-burial modification
Anthropogenic soils sediments and processesBurning residues; garden soil; anthrosols and plaggen soils; buried soils; ditch and other fills

Forward and back buttons allow the reader to navigate through the pages in a linear manner, while for reference the hierarchical structure and search facility allow rapid consultation of individual pages (Fig. 4).

Figure 4: Screenshot of the tutorial homepage illustrating the hierarchical structure

2.2.4 Field analysis

The 'Field analysis' namespace can also be navigated in a linear tutorial manner, but the main function of this section is to support the field tool and archaeologist with field recording and interpretation of soils and sediments. This section not only contains information about how to record basic soil properties such as colour, texture and structure following standard soil and archaeological schemes (e.g. Hodgson 1976; Soil Survey Staff 2002; MoLAS 1994), but also why and when the archaeologists might want to record these properties. For example, there are two pages on soil texture (Fig. 5): one explains different ways of recording soil texture, and the second explains the origins and meaning of soil texture. This area also provides information about sampling – although there is considerable scope for expansion in this area – and a list of recommended field kit for soil description, including the equipment and chemicals for simple field tests (Fig. 6).

Figure 5: Screenshot of the why and how pages for soil texture field description

Figure 6: List of recommended field equipment for soil description and sampling

2.2.5 Analytical methods

'Analytical methods' provides information about individual techniques that are used in the study of soils and sediments. These range from field tests that could be carried out by trained archaeologists (Fig. 7), to high-end specialist techniques suitable for answering specific questions. Each technique page contains a summary table outlining the scale of the technique, the questions it can be used to answer, issues of sampling and storage, and also provides a broad indication of the time and cost implications.

The text below the summary table in Figure 7 expands on these points and provides links to case studies where the technique has been used successfully. Where appropriate, a detailed methodology is provided either to allow analysis by a trained archaeologist or to enable the archaeologist to play an active role in decisions concerning analytical method choice. Information on issues of data interpretation, such as assumptions and analytical limitations or uncertainties is also given, as well as links to related techniques that may be used in conjunction with, or instead of, the one being described.

Figure 7: Screenshot of a typical webpage for a field analytical technique

2.2.6 Case studies

The 'Case studies' namespace contains a database of previous geoarchaeological studies. Accessing relevant literature can be difficult for archaeologists operating outside universities. This database helps address this problem, while also providing material to illustrate the processes, questions, and techniques described elsewhere in the knowledge base.

Case studies are organised according to the techniques they employ, the questions they address, the geographical location, and the age and type of the archaeological 'site'. To date, the database includes studies from Europe, Africa, North America and South America that include examples of sampling, stratigraphic analysis, element analyses, micromorphology, magnetics and remote sensing.

A typical case study consists of a protected short summary page in the wiki (Fig. 8) and, where possible, this includes a pdf or a web link to a more detailed paper.

Figure 8: Screenshot of a typical Case study page

Figure 9: Screenshot of a typical Glossary entry page

2.2.7 Glossary

A glossary was the most consistently requested feature of SASSA. The 'Glossary' namespace contains an alphabetically arranged series of definitions for a large number (445 as at 10 October 2007) of earth science and geoarchaeology related terms (Fig. 9). This area is not protected, so registered users with editing rights can add to or amend the glossary.


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Last updated: Mon Dec 15 2008