Conference: Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archeology

Yesterday I went to the CAA 2012 conference in Southampton, one of the top conferences in the world in the field of computational archaeology. I couldn’t stay for longer than a day, but I’ve seen enough to say that archaeologist definitely know their way around when it comes to combining IT with their discipline.

I presented a poster about the Art of Making project (which deals with categorising and making available online a collection of images of ancient Roman sculpture). In particular I was there for the Data Modelling and Sharing session: the formal ontology we’re working on in the Art of Making (and the accompanying dataset) is likely going to become one of the first in its kind. So I was quite interested in finding out who’s doing what, when it comes to sharing data about the the ancient world.

The answer is, there are a lot of people doing very interesting things (btw please get in touch if you know of other relatable datasets). Here’re a brief report on some the papers that struck me (for the full list of the talks I would have liked to attend, check out my interactive schedule.)

  • A paper on the Pelagios project by Leif Isaksen. Pelagios is a consortium that brings together an impressive number of other datasets on the ancient world. I’d say each of them is worth taking a look at: Arachne; CLAROS; Fasti Online; Google Ancient Places; Nomisma; Open Context; Perseus; Pleiades; Ptolemy Machine, SPQR; Ure museum
  • A paper titled “When, What, Where, How and Who?” by Sarah May. She reported about a user-study aimed at understanding how archeologist search for information online, and whether an more integrated web of data would match their current information seeking behaviours.
  • The paper “Exploring Semantic Web-based research questions for the spatio-temporal relationships at Çatalhöyük“, by Holly Wright. She presented an archeological data-modeling scenario that calls for more powerful knowledge representation approaches to time and events. There are two broad approaches to solve this problem, she said: temporal reification (apparently this is mostly done using SWRL rules, e.g. here and here) and temporal fluents (some info here, and also in the context of the SOWL project). I don’t know much on this topic, but surely this paper got me interested in it!
  • A paper presenting the SAWS project, which looks at defining and linking related units of text in original manuscripts using semantic web technologies.
  • The Archeology Data Services, a York-based organisation that aims at ‘preserving digital data in the long term, and by promoting and disseminating a broad range of data in archaeology’. In particular one of their project, Stellar, has produced a number of software tools that facilitate the manipulation of archeological data and their transformation into rdf-compliant formats.

    Finally, this is the schedule for the whole conference (notice the slick widget – it’s powered by a new service :