Archaeology and the Semantic Web

Isaksen, Leif (2011) Archaeology and the Semantic Web. University of Southampton, School of Electronics and Computer Science, Doctoral Thesis , 259pp.


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This thesis explores the application of Semantic Web technologies to the discipline of Archaeology. Part One (Chapters 1-3) offers a discussion of historical developments in this field. It begins with a general comparison of the supposed benefits of semantic technologies and notes that they partially align with the needs of archaeologists. This is followed by a literature review which identifies two different perspectives on the Semantic Web: Mixed-Source Knowledge Representation (MSKR), which focuses on data interoperability between closed systems, and Linked Open Data (LOD), which connects decentralized, open resources. Part One concludes with a survey of 40 Cultural Heritage projects that have used semantic technologies and finds that they are indeed divided between these two visions.

Part Two (Chapters 4-7) uses a case study, Roman Port Networks, to explore ways of facilitating MSKR. Chapter 4 describes a simple ontology and vocabulary framework, by means of which independently produced digital datasets pertaining to amphora finds at Roman harbour sites can be combined. The following chapters describe two entirely different approaches to converting legacy data to an ontology-compliant semantic format. The first, TRANSLATION, uses a 'Wizard'-style toolkit. The second, 'Introducing Semantics', is a wiki-based cookbook. Both methods are evaluated and found to be technically capable but socially impractical.

The final chapter argues that the reason for this impracticality is the small-to-medium scale typical of MSKR projects. This does not allow for sufficient analytical return on the high level of investment required of project partners to convert and work with data in a new and unfamiliar format. It further argues that the scale at which such investment pays off is only likely to arise in an open and decentralized data landscape. Thus, for Archaeology to benefit from semantic technologies would require a severe sociological shift from current practice towards openness and decentralization. Whether such a shift is either desirable or feasible is raised as a topic for future work.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Divisions : Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering > Electronics and Computer Science > Web & Internet Science
ePrint ID: 206421
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
December 2011Made publicly available
Date Deposited: 21 Dec 2011 16:52
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 13:48
Further Information:Google Scholar

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