4. Trending Documentation Technologies - Pursuing Different Ideals

Migrating from analogue to digital excavation plans is fairly easy using GIS and CAD as they are rather similar in style and function. At its core, all you have to do is to scan paper plans, georeference or align them in the software and vectorise them. The key advantage is of course the ability to seamlessly arrange and manage layers of documentation, but vectorisation offers new ways of embedding information into the drawn features as well. Early opponents did, however, object to the rigidity of a system where you could no longer work with features that had uncertain boundaries or faded into each other, and the loss of the artistic freedom of hand drawing. This was contradicted by those who saw the opportunity to enforce a more reflexive archaeology, giving archaeologists an incentive to search for and recognise features more precisely. It serves very well to demonstrate how the drawing to some extent was (and still is?) considered an aesthetic product of the documentation rather than a scientific document. An untenable situation, if the ideal of documentation is the aim for the most reality-proximate representation of the observed and interpreted archaeology.

4.1 Photogrammetry and photo rectification

Figure 5: (VIDEO) Conceptual illustration of the documentation of an archaeological excavation; photo-rectification based on measured control points transforms photographs into a type of field recording data, which may be used as basis for drawings and vectorisations. Illustration based on data from the Jelling Project (Holst et al. 2013)

Much more of a methodological challenge became evident as technological developments meant that digital photos became an easy, quick and affordable way of documenting an excavation. The archaeological community, however, fairly early on realised that digital photographs have to be treated differently, as they are not directly equivalent to analogue hand drawing. Digital photos represent a new data type. Of course, the scanning of hand drawings as a basis of digitising is a well-known technique - but raster images in the form of photos are something different. First of all, they have to be manipulated to be usable for documentation, rectified (Scollar 1998; Johansen 2003) and embedded with geographic information (Figure 5). This clearly leads to some concerns as to the validity and derivative nature of what would otherwise be considered a very objective documentation. On the other hand, it evidently offers new possibilities of a different level of documentation detail, quality and authenticity. Some excavation projects have actively developed frameworks to combat the risk that photos could potentially shift the archaeological focus away from interpretation, towards mere descriptive, and basically undermine the value of documentation (Berggren et al. 2015; De Reu et al. 2013; 2014; Forte et al. 2015).


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