The interoperability of the ArSol database (Soil Archives)
Reflections and feedbacks experiences on the use of the CIDOC-CRM ontology and the integration of thesauri
Emeline LE GOFF
Presentation held at the CAA2014, session Ontologies and Standards for improving Interoperability of Archaeological Data :
The structure of the Arsol database (CAA 2008, pdf): Husi_Rodier_CAA2008-ArSol
The ArSol system (Soil Archives) was developed by the “Archéologie et Territoires” Laboratory (CNRS – Tours University) for processing archaeological data. It can be used for all stratigraphic excavations and has the dual purpose of data management and research. Since its elaboration in 1990, access to data constituted one of the priorities. The software used for the DataBase Management System (DBMS) is 4th Dimension TM (4D). It was chosen because it enables a client/server and multi-platform application and can be accessed via the internet.
Joining the trend of exchanges of data and interoperability of applications, ArSol will become a system in compliance with computing standards, both in its technical aspects (ontology) and semantic aspects (thesaurus). In this perspective, we are a partner of the MASA consortium (Memory of the archaeologists and the archaeological sites) which aims towards a unified access to digitized corpuses, and is interested in the CIDOC-CRM (Conceptual Reference Model of the International Committee of Documentation).
In this context, the complexity of ArSol then becomes a difficulty: as it was elaborated in order to take into account the needs for stratigraphic and artifact data as well as to the whole documentation constituting excavations archives, this system was constructed as an open system; it is flexible and above all not conditioned by the integration of predefined thesauri. Wishing not to modify the conception logic of the recording structure of ArSol which is based on the manual stratigraphic recording system in use since 1969 on excavations in Tours, it was decided to develop an additional module in order to satisfy interoperability requirements.
The first step consists in the selection of the main information included in ArSol: features and artifacts. Secondly, a stage of mapping aims to establishing the correspondences between fields necessary for the use of the CIDOC-CRM standard and the available fields in our application. In 2014, the integration of the CRM in the database ArSol will thus be realized through a module allowing to export a selection of data towards a RDF version built according to the CIDOC-CRM and structuring as well the value of fields endowed with list of values. This last operation aims at insuring a compatibility with thesauri used by the community of the Social and Human Sciences – in particular PACTOLS. Joined into the ArSol-CRM module, these reference tables will constitute a footbridge to allow outer users to reach all the connected information, listed in ArSol.
To summarise, this paper will present our reflections as for the construction of the ArSol-CRM ontology, and the methods used to manage semantic equivalences within the framework of the compatibility with thesauri. This experience raises numerous questions around the perspectives and around the sustainability of the development of this kind of specific application, in particular in the field of archaeology. It is part of a valuation practice of the data while respecting their integrity and without forgetting their intrinsic purpose which is to answer research questions at the scale of a site or of a territory.
Emeline Le Goff, Olivier Marlet, Xavier Rodier, Philippe Husi
CNRS UMR 7324 CITERES-LAT. Université François Rabelais, Tours