Links to Information from Other Mesolithic Sites

As the Internet is not a static entity there are few spatial boundaries, so that it was possible to provide links from the distribution map to information recorded by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. In this way further information could be made available about the individual sites on the map. Thus, a simple distribution map centred on one particular site was turned into a major resource of information about related sites.

On the map each site location was made active so that the detail of the specific dating information related to that site could be brought up on screen. From this information individual links were made to Canmore: the RCAHMS computerised, searchable database. These links take readers to the relevant record in the Canmore database. In this way, it is possible to access the National Monuments Record entry for each site included on the map. Clearly, this added considerably to the utility of the Fife Ness paper, but it was not without its problems.

Not surprisingly, permission was needed in order to make use of the Canmore pages. This was to be expected, the analogy being the reproduction of photographic, or other, illustrative material. However, because RCAHMS had not, as yet, received many requests for permission to make use of their Web material, it took some time for a suitable licence to be arranged. At first the only licence to be offered was a yearly, renewable, licence but this was not, of course, suitable for Internet Archaeology which is as concerned as the publisher of a paper publication about the long-term durability of its data. However, after some negotiation an agreement was arranged with which all were happy. In future this sort of problem should be eased, as people become more familiar with the requirements of Internet reproduction, and as requests for permission to use Web material become more commonplace.

Those who have read the paper in detail will also realise that the Canmore information is essentially unedited and very variable in content. Thus, some sites have several pages of information, while others are restricted to a couple of paragraphs. In general, however, all entries have useful information on dates, fieldwork and further references. Again, the maintenance and updating of the Canmore resource is something with which RCAHMS has to come to terms, especially as the use of the resource grows and there is more demand for easy access to electronic data. This is something on which RCAHMS is currently at work.

At this point we decided to stop, though we could have gone on adding layers of information. We were afraid that the tail was beginning to wag the dog. It would have been possible to follow up the information provided for the related sites in more detail. However, this was essentially the publication of a report on a small, if interesting, site in Fife. It did not seem appropriate that there should be more information about aspects of the mesolithic in general than of the site under consideration. More general information could be kept for a wider ranging discussion paper (into which future site reports could be linked).

As they stand, the Canmore pages accessed from the Fife Ness paper provide a wonderful database of the Scottish early mesolithic as it was understood at the time of writing. Nevertheless, they suffer from all the disadvantages of a standard distribution map and, as such, they should be used with caution. They provide more of a reflection of the biases of existing work, in this case the emphasis on fieldwork in the western seaboard, and they are already out of date as this discussion paper is being written. Canmore will, however, be maintained and updated and readers can also access the rest of Canmore from the paper. The map programme has now been written and could be upgraded and used as the basis for any set of information. Any new mesolithic report can provide updated information in the time-honoured tradition of paper publication.


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Last updated: Mon Sept 6 1999