Yesterday I attended a STAR project workshop. Semantic Technologies for Archaeological Resources. It is a joint University of Glamorgan and English Heritage project and aims to:
“investigate the potential of semantic terminology tools for widening and improving access to digital archaeology resources, including disparate data sets and associated grey literature.”
What they were showing yesterday was a demonstrator, which seemed to work really well. You could search across datasets (including the Silchester LEAP stuff *hooray!*) and use a very simple interface to search on contexts, finds, samples or groups. Everything relies on being able to map datasets to the CIDOC-CRM EH version using existing guides like the National Monuments Thesauri, MIDAS lists and other FISH approved terminology lists.
The whole day was interesting but what I think really stood out was the potential for searching the vast amount of grey literature (see for example OASIS). Okay, so the demonstrator wasn’t perfect, some of the natural language processing sometimes got it a bit wrong, but isn’t that better than the current alternative – which is to search them all by eye?! I loved it. Second place for exciting idea of the day goes to the potential in the demonstrator to search across datasets that relate to your own research interest. I can see how you could (relatively quickly) come up with basic distributions for a particular site or find type based on the grey literature and excavation database. You could start to use this to redress the huge gap between what academics say a distribution of thing x is and what recent commerical excavations have added. Like using the Portable Antiquities Scheme but for actual excavation data!
Awesome, says I. Real, actual progress in archaeology. Well done Glamorgan and EH.