Maps, Archaeology, and Hypermedia

There is a kind of simple functionality to this nice interactive map to the city of Constantinople prepared by Emmanuel Nicolescu and Linda Safran.  I don’t know how long it has been available, but I stumbled across it only recently.  This kind of interactive city map seems to be increasingly popular.  The finest examples include an interactive version of the Giambattista Nolli’s 18th century map of Rome.  Better still is this fancy interactive digital map of Berlin which includes vast quantities of hypermedia. The interactive site tour of the Athenian Agora is a somewhat different thing, but also adds a multi (but not exactly hyper-) media element. 

Many of the articles in Internet Archaeology (particularly TAESP‘s recent contribution, which is worth the price of admission) bring together the potential of multimedia interfaces for studying not only urban but also rural landscapes.  Aaron Barth provided me with a nice link to a virtual version of On-A-Slant village, another effort to bridge the gap between the two dimensional regularity of plans and the dynamism of human experience

Given et al. offer this:

In the last 30 years, intensive survey in the Mediterranean and elsewhere has made a major contribution to archaeological knowledge. It has established an appropriate range of methodologies, a series of very substantial data sets, and widespread agreement about survey’s suitability for addressing numerous highly topical research questions. What it has not achieved is a convincing demonstration of how surface artefact scatters can be interpreted to reveal past human activities and relationships.

One major problem is the increasing gap between GIS-driven statistical analysis of large data sets and phenomenological or interpretative approaches. The first sometimes verges on the processual, while the second tends to use a small sample of conspicuous monuments. Is it possible to combine the wealth of representative survey data with the interpretative sophistication of contemporary landscape theory?

A further problem is the difficulty of communicating these complex data sets to the reader, and integrating them with a theory-driven interpretation. Traditional print publication demands a linear format and static images. These can only ever provide a pale shadow of the richness of modern archaeological data sets and the even richer human experience of landscape. Online publications, in contrast, offer unlimited colour, full databases and interactive maps that can be queried and searched. These have the potential of providing a much fuller range of choices for authors to present their interpretations, and for readers to pursue their own interests.

Michael Given, Hugh Corley and Luke Sollars, “Joining the Dots: Continuous Survey, Routine Practice and the Interpretation of a Cypriot Landscape,” Internet Archaeology 20. 4.1 Introduction http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue20/4/1.htm.

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