Semantic Applications in Archaeology in Beijing

Submitted by Isto Huvila on Sat, 05/28/2011 - 19:59

 This year's Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA) conference was held in the beginning of April in Beijing. In spite of the somewhat distant venue, the conference collected a whole bunch of familiar faces (Daniel Löwenborg, Mike Rains and others) with interesting projects going on, and a number of new acquaintances.


I had a paper in the Semantic technologies session chaired by Leif Isaksen (University of Southampton), Keith May (English Heritage), Monika Solanki (University of leicester) and a panda from the local Zoo (participated virtually) on a semantic wiki based combined documentation and data archival system. The paper reviewed some of the main challenges and opportunities with semantic wiki based approach and going to Linked data directly in the field. The session was highly interesting and gave a good overview of the state of semantic web technologies in archaeology. To mention a few presentations, Leif Isaksen discussed in a presentation prepared together with Kirk Martinez and Graeme Earl the semantic technologies in the context of data integration, Monika Solanki presented possibilities of using semantic inference techniques and Keith May reported of the latest British projects on managing and publishing archaeological research data. In a slightly different kind of a presentation Ellen Jordal, Brit Hauge and Espen Uleberg from the University of Oslo reported of a longitudinal evaluation of a CIDOC CRM based database project with a slightly twofold conclusions: CIDOC CRM had been useful from the point of view of giving researchers new search opportunities, but at the same time a much more complicated design that was not equally useful in day-to-day operations.


A sort of a conclusion of the state of art was not awfully surprising: that there are interesting possibilities, but at the same time a number of challenges that relate to the heterogeneity of data and the complexity of semantics in archaeological contexts. In a way, archaeology is a perfect example of the problems of matching the highly formal semantics represented by the Semantic Web and the intricacies of archaeological reasoning and documentation data.


Another important thing at the conference was that CAA-SE (Sweden) accepted as a national chapter of the CAA organisation in the general assembly. Now it is just to begin to orient to the forthcoming CAA-SE conference in November in Uppsala.


Ok, yes, and I admit being the worst blogger ever. No one, except me, is really writing about 6 weeks old things.