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ottobre 2008

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aprile 2011





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architetto Arnaldo Cherubini

00161 ROMA

 via G. B. Morgagni, 50

tel/fax +39 06 44230644 +39 347 2607269


Mapping and computerization, the archeoVIEWER Project

We started the implementation of a Computerized Archaeological Map.
The concepts on this page, however, propose a method of work that goes beyond the "simple" framework of the implementation of an archaeological map. In fact, it can be applied to different contexts, such as the computerization of administrative maps (not necessarily archaeological ) and / or of an old town centre, the documentation of a restoration, macro and micro areas characterized by a local context, from scientific and administrative documents, from graphic and photographic documentation. It would take too long to make an assessment of the potential offered by the procedures that we are going to discuss, so for futher details we suggest you consult other works.

demo 1                             demo 2                              demo 3                 

Here are some terms used in the text which we would like to clarify.

Graphic documentation: any product which defines the morphology and the structural characteristics of archaeological evidence (be it artistic or historical).
Text: any product developed which refers to an archaeological site (ditto) including documentation, inventory, protection, administration and management.
Original digital files: every item produced by the individual owners of copyrighted programs that normally can be opened for editing only by those programs. Sometimes the files can be viewed and / or printed by a "parallel" (viewer) which does not perform editing functions.
Hyperlink (link): "text or graphic element in color which is underlined. They can be clicked by users to open a file, or move to a position within a file,to an HTML Web page or an HTML page on Intranet. Hyperlinks can also be linked to sites and newsgroups Gopher, Telnet and FTP "(using Windows). In short, it allows you, starting with a given file, to open any other file using program that runs it.

The conditions are as follows.
The experience so far (in the creation of archaeological theme maps and mapping, following the Charter) has clearly outlined the limits of such operations which, essentially, are produced through the use of CAD programs, or GIS, and, therefore, use only "technical", personnel, including both external and internal personnel in the Archaelogical Office that has commissioned the work. The final product, even if delivered in an annex in the original digital format, are accessible and modifiable only by those who have a good practice of such applications and, especially, can work on computers with licensing programs. All other potential users (staff, administrative staff and users for various reasons) are satisfied with the drawings on paper or in the form of images in. JPG,. TIF format, etc.. or, at most, the "parallel" programs above.

This view does not affect the effectiveness of drafting a paper on a computer (in the sense that the product exists and is available from the commission, although in a limited way) but it still lacks two requirements, which I believe are fundamental:
* The opportunity to interact with other related digital information, in graphic form (text, photographs) and, above all,
* The possibility of maintaining and updating of future scientific activities in the same area by the users themselves, without having to resort to professionals.

Some concepts must be clarified.
The "opportunity to interact with other information" means the possibility that the Charter, in addition to the usual data layout on evidence found in the area, contains other data, which can be purely graphical (compiled on the other details on a major scale, etc..), photographic (or recent or in the archives, satellite images, etc..), administrative and protective (of the bond ordinances, acts on state powers, for expert assistance, reports of archaelogical excavations, etc. .), and finally, of a scientific nature (articles and publications, web pages, etc.).. It is important to consider that the phrase , "also contains further data" does not necessarily mean that they are actually present in files that actually make up the Charter, but only that they may be related to the context in question.

In other words, this is the opportunity to associate (as defined and multiple criteria at the design stage) and make it interactive with all other types of documentation which, although managed by different programs and from disparate sources (memory to disk, server network, web etc.) are usually displayed and viewed on a computer monitor or through simple digital archiving, which is currently only available in paper form.

In short, this is the possibility of having a number of hyperlinks between the data on paper charts and other data.
"The possibility of maintaining and updating" the Charter is perhaps the main emphasis of this work: to give the opportunity for the project managers of the information collected in digital form, to integrate it in the future (once the Charter) with the additional material which, inevitably, is produced by working in a given geographical area.

The above may seem trivial: these features are in fact one of the prerogatives of the type of software known as GIS (Geographical Information System) and which has been in operation for many years.

However, we should consider the matter in detail, beginning from the definitions.
Burrough (1986) defined as follows: "The GIS consists of a set of software tools to capture, store, extract, process and display spatial data from the real world." This is a system capable of producing, managing and analyzing spatial data associated with each geographical feature one or more alphanumeric descriptions. The GIS is different from the DBMS (or Database Management System) as it essentially prepares and handles georeferenced data, which in turn can be stored in a DBMS and individual files. SIT is the Italian acronym for Land Information System, and coincides with the English translation, Geographical Information System. Mogorovich (1988) defined the spatial information system as follows: "The men, tools and procedures (often informal) that allow the acquisition and distribution of data within the organization and make them available when required to those who need to carry out any activities. "
Data model.
For the representation of data, a computer system must be formalized by a representative model flexible to fit the real phenomena. In GIS, we have three types of information:
Geometric: relative to the mapping of the objects represented, such as the form (point, line, polygon), the size and location;
Topological: referring to the mutual relations between objects (connection, adjacency, inclusion, etc. ...);
Information: about the data (numeric, text and so on ...) associated with each object.

The GIS provides the management of this information in a relational database. The aspect that characterizes the GIS is the fact it is geometric: it stores the location of the data using a projection system that defines the real position of the object. GIS manages the same data from different systems and reference projection (eg UTM or Gauss Boaga). Unlike paper maps, the scale in a GIS is a parameter of quality of the data and not a display. The value of the scale expresses the significant figures that should be considered valid the geographic coordinates.
(from wikipedia heading Geographic Information System, italian version, available at:
A natural question follows: if the GIS already does all these things, where is the problem? Well, the problem is that these things are only done by the GIS, or a specific type of program, which is often complicated to use, almost always very expensive (although there are several versions of freeware and open source, see http://www.gfoss .com / drupal /), and, therefore, puts off a large proportion of potential users.

The objective ot this project, however, is to broaden the possible base of users, simplifying the means of access and readability of information associated with map data.


Strategy of the project.

Following the argumentation exlained above, a key aspect in this matter is the choice of the environment in which to operate.

The need to develop and assemble the information to graph (chart documentation and graphics) in a type of CAD and GIS in a rather narrow scope is of obvious importance. However, the usability of the final product will be made possible by setting a specific number of times, as flexibile as is possible, for end users, using simple and affordable items. Assuming that, today, many of the programs makes the inclusion of hyperlinks possible (or, you can connect to a file any other document, even of different types, and run the application that runs ), the problem remains of choosing the type of environment that is more suitable.

On the one hand, we have a sophisticated family of GIS products and applications in CAD-specific maps (of which some, especially the former, available as licensed freeware), which is particularly efficient for the applications we are discussing, but irretrievably linked to proprietary format. Such products, although practically created for such uses, require a specific preparation for their use and, in fact, discourage many potential users. Furthermore, these licences can be expensive.

On the other hand, we have the ability to produce (starting from such applications as a vector in CAD) developed digital that can be opened and managed by programs in common circulation, possibly downloaded free from the Internet. These applications, in addition to ease of use and costs (they are often included in packages that come with operating systems) also have the advantage to manage very small files, with considerable savings in hardware resources. Obviously, since we are speaking of the need to see the map data on the monitor (vector or raster), we must start from the possibility of transforming these into images.

To give some references, the two most popular formats for viewing pictures (in our case, maps) are .PDF (managed by the family of Adobe products) and .JPG which, as regards the management of hypertext references, may be opened by all Internet browsers. The first, also can partially print the data ( allowing the choice of "windows" of lower printing of the "page" in the format which has been prepared), and for both, it is possible to extract the portions to the functions of "copy and paste" normal editor (also free on the network) to print them for parts with an acceptable loss of resolution.

The first (. PDF) can, however, display a highly detailed video against an extreme compression of the file size compared to the original and, above all, the images in. JPG.

In both cases, the procedure for the production of the end product should include:

* A "raw" interim report from GIS or CAD program used for the preparation of maps (the master of virtually all the work), delivered as virtual print format .PDF or .JPG;
* An elaboration from a proprietary file format. PDF or. JPG (in the first case Adobe Acrobat, in the second one of many html pages managers) for the inclusion of hyperlinks.


The project of computerization of an archaeological area.

The first issue of an area where, over time, several excavations have been conducted, study, restoration, protection and documentation, is often fragmented data and, particularly, is almost always exclusively on paper.

In the area of graphic documentation of "historical" archaeological sites, we can often find a whole series of drawings, written at different times and in different ways, for portions (more or less extended) of territory, which sometimes have few map references and almost always no reciprocal links. Even ignoring the logistical difficulties that officials face in managing such a heterogeneous mass of documents, one of the key aspects of the problem lies in the actual potential to protect the heritage and the opportunity to interact with the various administrative entities that relate to it.

This means managing a considerable amount of information, making it more uniform and better linked (or rather, georeferenced) to the local context to which they correspond.

The draft of the Archeological computerized Charter can be illustrated through the following objectives.
1. Acquisition of a digital cartographic base (possibly georeferenced), from local governments, in order to have a common basis "for dialogue" with local administrations regarding administrative acts to protect the territory.
2. Reconnaissance in the archives of the Archaelogical Office (and all the institutions that carry out interventions excavations or studies in the area) to find all the projects that have been produced over time and make a selection according to criteria of priority and reliability.
3. Construction of a geo-topographic base for the exact location of archaeological evidence and, above all, to link several pieces of documentation that have been produced in recent times with modern criteria, in order to establish a unique protocol for future documenting.
4. Digitization of the archives and insertion of the processed items in the same placement in the general map, with the possibility of hypertext links and, above all, dynamic update of the Charter to unique criteria reference.
5. Production of results for the consultation of the Paper at different levels and according to established themes, with the ability to handle combinations of data in different ways.

Once built, (in CAD or GIS) it will be possible to include any other type of data related to the single archaeological evidence, to be managed as a hypertext reference.

In the future, you can then assign to each monument (and consult dynamically) photos, cards, or texts, and detailed graphic documentation (including raster drawings from paper archives), bibliography, administrative documents, connecting such data from any source: magnetic and optical local server or the Superintendent of the Ministry, the Internet etc.

In the above-mentioned list, steps 1 through 4 have to be made in CAD and, therefore, as stated above are in fact a prerogative of a "technical" elite (internal or external supervision to the Archaelogical Officethat has commissioned the work) In other words, external help is required from people able to use these programs for both licenses. This is nothing new, in the sense that this procedure is normally used for the production of "classic" processes (that prints on paper), delivered vector files for archiving or images in various raster format to be accessed without using the owner programs.

This type of material, subject to the validity and quality of the work, has only one flaw: it is not possible to link it to other data of any kind (which exist or be created in the future), including graphics; in ther words, this is static material. Furthermore, probably the structures included in the plan georeferenced vector format (with only the perimeter of the building and the main elements with graphics with a scale of 1:500-1:200 ) will surely have the details with a characterization to a larger scale (eg 1:50) and, probably, sections and tables. In both cases, when these products have been developed in vector format or in "traditional" form (drawings on glossy or polyester, possibly digitized using scanners), the consultation must take place separately from that of the Charter, without the possibility of dynamic connections.

Like data graphs, if the sites included in our Charter, there are other types of documentation (for example: photos, reports of excavations, U.S. sheets, drawings or materials, placing orders, archival material, etc.). perhaps already in digital format, it has not yet been possible to make it clear (and available) in the context that we have described above.


The ArcheoViewer project.

After this (unfortunately) long introduction, we come to the core of the matter. What we are proposing is basically an idea, simple but revolutionary, which is still being developed , and which will simplify the creation of GIS maps (and not only) and, above all, broaden the base of people able to consult such data. This is not a new program but, rather, a procedure (tendency of a protocol for the encoding of a series of actions) for the production, editing and managing of images and data.

In parallel, this project is a system for the creation of computer files and technical support for land management, which is fully digital and integrated with all the scientific, technical and administrative systems. In brief, it is a system with (almost) the same functionality of a GIS, but it is much more simple, versatile, economic (both venal and the hardware resources) and is so simple for end-users to open, that anyone able to turn on a computer be able to use it.

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