University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Interpreting time – representing chronology
Katalin Tolnai

Last modified: 2011-12-16


Besides spatial data capturing and management, the usage and analysis of spatio-temporal data is one of the most frequently discussed research questions in geoinformatics. As both archaeology and computer science have a specific meaning of time as a variable, both fields have their own methodology in interpreting temporal data.

The paper deals with the interpretation of time and the representation of change using archaeological data in GIS environment. The aim of the research is to demonstrate problems and possible solutions for representing processes that take place under a period of time. The main research question of the present paper is how to represent chronological changes of archaeological features along a period of time, and how to demonstrate these changes within GIS environment.

The traditional archaeological analysis deals with space and time as two separate, but still coherent variables. According to the archaeological methodology the chronology of each feature should be precisely determined. If an exact dating cannot be given, a time period, or relative chronology should be presented. In that sense each archaeological feature; therefore each element of the database should have at least one of the above mentioned two different time-attributes. Furthermore, as a result of continuous usage of an archaeological feature, functional changes can also be recorded which should also be marked as an attribute. The temporal determination of different features in the next step should be presented spatially, using elevation data in order to create a chronologically determined 3D model. From the side of the analysis, the interpretation of time-coordinate as an attribute should be combined with spatial determinations.

The paper presents a case study from an archaeological site situated to Visegrád, Hungary, where a Late Roman fortification with its Eleventh-century reuse was recorded. The excavation documentation, as it was recorded manually in the 1970’s, was transformed and imported into a GIS database. In order to present the archaeological interpretation of the site the stratigraphical sequences and the determination of the artifacts was previously analyzed. As a result of the archaeological analysis of the features the architectural and functional interpretation of the site is now available. Besides the description of archaeological raw material and chronologically ordered data, temporal information should also be added to the GIS database. With the help of the case study, in which archaeological interpretation is already available, the different aspects of temporal representation can be presented. In that sense both temporal and spatial determination of each archaeological feature should be recorded in the database. As an evaluation of the case study in the present paper the problems and strategies concerning mapping and visualization of temporal information within GIS environment is presented.


GIS; Spatio-temporal modeling