University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Prehistoric settlements, burial sites, ritual places reprocessed by GIS
Karin Göbel

Last modified: 2011-12-22


Because a GIS enables geospatial collection, management, analysis and visualisation of comprehensive data records, it is especially well suited for digital processing of excavation documentation. Valuable originals are spared and saved as a result. Access to the data is optimised and information from different data resources can be integrated and analysed collectively. Translation rows in a database enable the creation of maps in different languages within minutes, which is a big support for the international teamwork. Only well structured and high-quality data input with the corresponding metadata for the data source and processing allows for the best possible results.

In contrast to the paper plans of an excavation documentation, in GIS the objects should be drawn in full size and with the necessary details, even if they are not or just partly visible and covered by other objects. When editing in GIS one has to work in reversed stratigraphy from bottom to top. Photographs and literature give the necessary background information to improve and sometimes modify the original excavation drawings. An identification code, for example a Museum number or the name of an excavation field could be used as a connecting link between the databases and the digital plans. The fact, that one is able to show how the different features are arranged, for example in a 3D animation, is a considerable support for analysing, which would never have been achieved by ordinary studies. The transformation of the spatial data from the local System into a UTM coordinate System allows the comparison with other data from the surrounding.

The geospatial analysis of data from the war booty sacrificial sites of Northern Europe dating back to the Roman and Migration periods clearly demonstrates the possibilities offered by GIS in relation to archaeological matters. For example, the excavation documentation from the sacrificial sites of Ejsbøl, Illerup Ǻdal, Thorsberg and Nydam in Denmark has been systematically scanned and edited. Countless photos and excavation drawings as well as database entries are now linked with the plans and provide insights into the various deposition stages or simplify the reconstructions of military and personalised equipment on the basis of situation analyses of the individual elements. The wealth of possible applications is illustrated by topics relating, for example, to settlement developments and structures as well building constructions in the framework of GIS-based analysis of settlements and central sites such as Hedeby and Wurt Elisenhof. The visualisation of physical structures proves its worth also in the reconstruction of tomb complexes, such as the wooden burial chambers of Neudorf-Bornstein in the district of Rendsburg-Eckernförde/ Germany or Poprad-Matejovce in Slovakia.

Old excavation documentations contain important information about our past. We should dig them out again and use them for further analysis. Special efforts have to direct the process towards standardizing techniques, so that information from one country can be compared and exchanged with that of another.


excavation documentation, reprocessing, GIS, 3D visualisation