CAA-2014-S07: Marcus Smith. The Digital Archaeological Workflow: A Case Study from Sweden

The Digital Archaeological Workflow: A Case Study from Sweden

Marcus SMITH

Presentation held at the CAA2014, session Ontologies and Standards for improving Interoperability of Archaeological Data


The Digital Archaeological Workflow (DAP) is a programme of work being carried out at the Information Development Unit at the Swedish National Heritage Board, in partnership with the major Swedish archaeological stakeholders. The programme aims to streamline the flow of archaeological data (and its associated metadata) between different actors in the Swedish archaeological process, and to ensure that this data is preserved in a sustainable and accessible manner. It aims to address a number of problems which have hampered the practice of archaeology in Sweden for some time, but which have now started to become more acute as digital technology saturates the processes involved.

There is no centralised register of archaeological fieldwork in Sweden, making it difficult not only to keep track of what is going on where, but also to know what fieldwork ? if any ? has taken place in connection to a particular site in the national sites and monuments record. Sweden also has no central digital archive for the storage of either archaeological fieldwork data or reports; as such records are now produced digitally, valuable archaeological data is thus increasingly at risk of being lost.Furthermore, despite the fact that almost all of the data and administrative metadata surrounding archaeological work are digital-born, they are still handled according to analogue paradigms, particularly when information must be shared between different organisations. Sources of archaeological data which are currently made available digitally by various national and local bodies are not typically linked together. This leads to inefficiencies in information transfer, duplication of data and effort, and to information describing the same ‘objects’ being stored in different systems within different organisations.

The DAP programme intends to address these problems over the course of a five-year period, using standardised platform-agnostic data formats and protocols to streamline information transfer between organisations, by releasing a series of open taxonomies and ontologies for common Swedish archaeological terms and concepts on the semantic web in order to facilitate data interoperability, and by creating a secure digital repository both for the raw data and reports arising from fieldwork and research. We aim to make this information freely available as linked open data.

Our overall mapping of the current Swedish archaeological process is complete (although some details remain) and we are currently working on a conceptual model on which our future information architecture will be based. In parallell, we are also working to translate and release our existing (analogue) archaeological taxonomies to SKOS and release them as linked open data authorities, beginning with the Swedish monuments types thesaurus.

This paper will describe the work that we have accomplished so far and the progress we have made, as well as our plans for the rest of the programme. In particular, it will focus on our mapping of the existing archaeological processes in place in Sweden and our plans to digitise them, our ongoing translation of existing controlled vocabularies to SKOS, and our use of the semantic web as a fundamental method.

Marcus Smith
Swedish National Heritage Board (RAÄ)

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