After over five years as the Geomatics Manager for Wessex Archaeology, I have now left to start a PhD in computer science, investigating geosemantic tools for archaeological research (G-STAR) based in the Hypermedia Research Unit at the University of Glamorgan with input from the Geographical Information Systems Research Unit.
I am sad to be leaving Wessex Archaeology. Whilst working there, I formed and led the Geomatics team, starting with just myself and one Survey Officer and growing the team to eventually comprise two Survey Officers, a GIS Assistant and two Geomatics Officers. From initially acting solely as an internal service provider for specialist survey and GIS techniques, training and equipment, the team moved to providing services externally within a year of inception and very soon were generating, undertaking and supporting all kinds of interesting GIS and survey related projects. Without any marketing at all beyond the team’s web page, the team generated a fair income; word of mouth and reputation being key. Becoming part of the broader Geoservices team (incorporating geomatics, geophysics and environmental sciences) promises to further promote and develop geomatics at Wessex.
A particular highlight was contributing a number of case studies to the latest English Heritage Metric Survey guidelines, reflecting the quality and innovative nature of the work conducted. Working with Tom Goskar on techniques for visualising Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS) data was another highlight as was developing and implementing the approach for the visual impact assessment used in the Stonehenge Environmental Improvements (SEIP) projects.
Moving to the University of Glamorgan was an irresistible opportunity however, one which could not be missed. Having invested so much in the Geomatics Team at Wessex Archaeology, I was sad to leave but I will be maintaining my links there through various contracts and work on the SENESCHAL project.
G-STAR builds on the STAR and STELLAR projects, both of which made use of the CRM-EH extensions to the CIDOC CRM. What seems like an age ago, I worked on CRM-EH first as a project member of the English Heritage ‘Revelation Project’ then Principal Investigator on the subsequent ‘Ontological Modelling’ project which developed the CRM-EH extensions (see Cripps et al, 2004; Cripps & May, 2010). The G-STAR project is described thus:
This PhD research project will investigate the integration of spatial and semantic information in the archaeology domain. This research combines two distinctive research areas at Glamorgan: the Hypermedia Research Unit and the GIS Research Centre. The supervisory team includes Douglas Tudhope, Director of Studies, and Mark Ware.
This work will build on the previous AHRC funded STAR and STELLAR projects at Glamorgan, which made significant advances in semantic tools and techniques but where spatial data were out of scope. The spatial aspect is considered one of the key areas for future work. It is anticipated that the research will involve collaboration with outside organisations, including (amongst others) English Heritage (EH), the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) at the University of York, Ordnance Survey (OS).
The research team has been active in the application of semantic technologies to digital archaeology research. This involves mapping and extracting excavation data to ontologies, such as the CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model and Knowledge Organization Systems, such as thesauri and glossaries for Monument and Find types. However the integration of the spatial and semantic dimensions has proved problematic. Spatial coordinate data does not immediately lend itself to expression in RDF or OWL and it is not clear how to integrate GIS and semantic systems.
Recently work has begun to address this problem, including proposed extensions to the semantic web language SPARQL and spatial extensions to ontologies such as the CIDOC CRM. Various standards based approaches have been proposed by the Open Geospatial Consortium, including the OGC candidate standard semantic language GeoSPARQL. Efforts are underway to consider the appropriate spatial extension to the CIDOC CRM ontology and in particular a GeoSPARQL extension. The PhD work will seek to investigate approaches for modelling the integration of spatial and semantic archaeological data, extending the CIDOC CRM to take account of spatial data and investigating the potential of GeoSPARQL and other approaches.
This research will be looking at a range of geospatial heritage data at different scales and in this first year, I will be completing a review of relevant literature and building some demonstrator systems for review to pave the way for the remainder of the project.
The project is funded through a scholarship provided by the University of Glamorgan and I will be supplementing this through the provision of commercial digital heritage services.