Wednesday 5 December 2012

Workshop - GIS and Near Eastern Archaeology

A Methodology for the Future? The role of GIS technologies within 21st century Near Eastern Archaeology

CBRL November 30th to December 2nd 2012 at the CBRL Institute in Amman, Jordan.

Congratulations to all the organisers of this intimate, perfectly formed workshop as it brought together a small but interested (and interesting) grouping.
An interesting group of workshop attendees - British Institute Director Carol Palmer (front far right); workshop organiser Jennie Bradbury of Durham University (front left of middle); and the author of this blog Bob Bewley (front centre) (Photograph: BI Amman Facebook page).
There were 22 people from wide range of places and backgrounds – a small group but a very useful event for two reasons. The first is the opportunity to share ideas, understand each other’s needs and work on ways of better and more useful collaboration.  For the APAAME project this will involve a closer working relationship between the MEGA-J (national online archaeological database for Jordan) and ourselves.

The second was a more general one of meeting and talking to people who one either wanted to talk to but never managed to find the time, or people one didn’t know and was glad to meet. The ‘regional’ nature of the archaeology was highlighted by the use of GIS – showing the longer terms trends when the masses of data are analysed to show the changing distribution patterns; be it in the prehistoric Roman or medieval periods.

One common theme kept emerging – which was that the threat to the archaeological sites and landscapes is huge; from a variety of agencies – farming, road building, town and village expansions as well the larger infrastructure projects (dams etc). Therefore there is a responsibility on us all to ensure that the information and knowledge we do have is made available to all those who need it – and they need it now.

We discussed so many challenges relating to databases and information management, which have been familiar to me in my working life and which are a reality in the Middle East.  The solutions may be simpler now, with much better internet access than ever before and the lessons learned from previous attempts at standardisation and consistency of recording.

This was also the best-fed workshop I have ever been too – apart from the excellent meals the rumour was that a certain person had ordered 10 kilos of baklava (various assorted types and sizes) but what amazed me was just how quickly it seemed to disappear (but then Bill Finlayson was there).   I regret to say I missed Bill’s summing up on the final day.

Finally it is also humbling to be reminded of the knowledge, skill and diversity of archaeologists; there was a French-Jordanian who was born in Italy, (has a French mother, a Palestinian-Jordanian father) who speaks Italian, French, Arabic and English. An architect turned archaeologist – Palestinian with a Russian mother and Palestinian father – who speaks Russian, English, Hebrew, and German and finally a French-Armenian who offered to give his talk in either Armenian, Russian or French; we chose French. 

Further photos can be found on the British Institute's facebook page.

Thank you Jennie Bradbury and Daniel Lawrence (Durham University), and the CBRL British Institute Amman team (Carole, Nadja and Firas) for organising and hosting an excellent event – when’s the follow up?

Bob Bewley
December 5th 2012

Workshop Papers (in no particular order):
Wael Abu-Azizeh (CNRS, IFPO) 
  • New tools for Desert Archaeology: GIS/Database approach for a study of Pastoral Nomadic Campsites
Abdulsalam Almidani (Manager ICT Dept DGAM, Syria)  
  • Database and GIS systems applied in DGAM, Syria
Jennie Bradbury (PDRA, Durham University, CBRL Grant Holder) & Michael Brown (Visiting Research Fellow, CBRL)  
  • Online and Open Access GIS and Database Software and Resources
Robert Bewley (Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East)   
  • Aerial Archaeology in Jordan: sharing information
  • Google Earth, Fickr and the APAAME Project
Frank Braemer, Gourguen Davtian & Marion Rivoal (PaléoSyrien Project, CNRS)  
  • PaleoSYR: a cooperative project for a co-management of archaeological/historical data and environmental data
  • The PaleoSYR Database and GIS System
Bill Finlayson (Regional Director, CBRL) 
  • A Methodology for the Future? The role of GIS technologies within 21st century Near Eastern Archaeology
Mahmoud Hawari (Oriental Institute, University of Oxford) & Jana al-Araj (Birzeit University, Palestine)  
  • Hisham's Palace in Context: Archaeological Landscape Survey at the hinterland of Khirbat al-Mafjar, Jericho, Palestine
Ahmad Lash (Department of Antiquities, Jordan)  
  • Mega-J Database and the use of GIS in the Jordanian DoA
Daniel Lawrence (PaN and Fragile Crescent Project, Durham University)  
  • Approaching chronological issues at a broad scale: Examples from the Fragile Crescent Project
Bernd Müller-Neuhof (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut)  
  • Archaeology of the Jawa hinterland – a glimpse on the diversity of geoarchaeological applications in a project with regional approach
Paul Newson (American University of Beirut)  
  • Divergent Objectives, Integrated Outcomes: A GIS Case Study of the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Graham Philip (Vanishing Landscape Project, Durham University)  
  • Reconstructing Settlement Patterns: Combining Field and Satellite Data
Tony Wilkinson (PaN and Fragile Crescent Project, Durham University)  
  • The Fragile Crescent Project: Aims and Objectives
Jennie Bradbury & Daniel Lawrence (Durham University)  
  • The Fragile Crescent Database and GIS System

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