First steps in the development of an international standard for 4D archaeological data

Contributed by: 
Berdien De Roo, PhD student, Ghent University

May 24-25, 2012: An old cloister in the historical heart of Ghent (Belgium) formed the décor of the first workshop on the development of an international standard for 4D archaeological data. The workshop was organized by the Department of Geography of Ghent University in collaboration with the CReSTIC of the University of Reims. The goal of the workshop was to reflect on and discuss the possibility of developing a comprehensive international standard which would facilitate the exchange and modeling of archaeological data and enable full-fledged 3D spatio-temporal analyses in archaeology. The many enthusiastic responses to the initial mailing confirmed the pressing need to discuss this topic within a diverse community. Finally, an international group of fifteen researchers and experts from the fields of archaeology, informatics and geosciences engaged to take part in the discussions on this two-day event.

Already at the start of the discussions, it appeared that the interdisciplinary character of archaeological data modeling and storage forms the heart of the problem, as a strong dichotomy exists between the points of view on GIS of archaeologists and of geoscience modelers. In the archaeological field, GIS is mainly used as an analyzing and data storing tool. However, current systems are widely considered to be time consuming, non-standardized and not tailored to address the huge diversity of parameters (time, uncertainty, etc.) in the complex  archaeological data.

 Despite the different perspectives of archeologists and geoscience modelers, agreements were made among all involved parties regarding some aspects of the possible future archaeological standard, such as the need for an abstract structure, user involvement, and ways of addressing data vagueness. As a first step to assemble different visions from researchers of various fields this workshop was a success, but a lot of research and effort still lies ahead of us. Accordingly, the support of a broad international community, like the OGC, is important to bring archaeologists, geoscientists and information technologists closer together.

 A website around this workshop and topic is currently under construction. The full report of the first workshop together with a list of the participants will also be available on this website. We intend to have regular meetings with the working group and additional partners. If you are interested, have suggestions or want to be part of the working group, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or contact us via the website.