A few words on the CAA-Sweden work-shop on GIS-data 2011-01-31

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Note this is not necessarily CAA-SE views but my own, although I hope they largely conform.

CAA = Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology

There are several good digital resources on the Internet. Two good Swedish resources are Fornsök and K-samsök (K-samsök is in Beta). These are open to professionals, scientists, students and others that are interested in the field. Fornsök is the National Heritage Board’s (RAA) database of ancient monuments. This allows you to search through the ancient monument ID number, property name, parish, municipality, etc., or based on keywords such as burial, stone setting, settlement, etc. you can also search using maps and then click on the point or polygon you are interested in. The system is primarily designed as a tool for administrators working with cultural heritage why some things may seem illogical. One example is the dating of monuments, most have no specific date, instead it says Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age. This is due to the fact that the monuments aren’t properly dated until an archaeological investigation or excavation is being done. K-samsök works in a different way. It is a kind of umbrella database where several organizations are linked to a portal. i.e. you seek in several data bases at once.

A database that is missing is a annual national database covering data of what exploitation archaeology has been done and GIS-data about it. This is something that can be an important tool for the city planning, for researchers, students, archaeologists and others concerned.

CAA-Sweden (CAA-SE) has drawn attention to this and is trying to find a basis for what such a database could be like and then to lobby for someone to start it up.

The Work shop focused on what needs to be done, what should be included and to identify those that could be a part in the work with and organizer of the database.

There are some local excavation records, some of which are available on-line, at the county administrative boards and / or at county and city museums. Among these are a number StadsGIS (CityGIS).

One suggestion that I think would be realistic is that like any registered ancient monument and archaeological find have a permanent searchable identity on the Internet so should also every archaeological excavation and context have it.

Some of the things to consider are:

  • the Terminology
  • Standards
  • GIS data
  • How to structure the data
  • Who will use the databases and what needs do they have? What questions should be answered?

Furthermore a number of factors for success were raised:

  • Voluntary, participation and transparency.
  • Decentralized – excavator update information yourself
  • Digger own investigation until it is reported
  • Old surveys can be entered
  • The system is simple
  • the data can be quickly uploaded
  • It is national

There were some questions raised whether the system should be mandatory or voluntary. Personal, I think it should be mandatory and entered in the RAA’s manuals and advices, and that it should be a part of the County Administrative Board’s decisions.


I believe in a solution based on a central database such as Fornsök. I also believe in a system with minimum requirements, which can be built on.’

It came forth that RAA and the county administrative boards are discussing a national excavation registry and a decision records, etc. within government Uppdrag 74, which started in 2009 or 2010 – I think that it is important to be sure to be a part of this or we risk a record created solely based on certain needs instead of building a database for multi purposes.

It was also raised that there already exists a number of systems that can be used for inspiration, or use, such as Inspire. However, there are more out there so these should be identified and studied. Here, I must admit that there were more mentioned but that my attention faltered – sorry.

It was put forward that it is important that from the outset to look at both technical solutions and on how a database should look. One suggestion was to create two work groups to look at this

We should also look at issues of licensing and copyrights.

It was submitted that it would be good to put forward the idea at the seminar regarding reports by RAA March 15th-16th.

Something that I liked was that there were representatives from so many different directions; from the universities, from museums and other archaeological institutions, from government agencies and provincial governments and others.

This is not a complete summary of what was raised, but some of the ideas I brought with me.

More on the work shop can be found at Digitala museer and SAU, both posts are in Swedish. Link to CAA’s webpage, CAA-SE is up at LinkedIn.

Magnus Reuterdahl


About Magnus Reuterdahl

I am an archaeologist/Osteologist from Sweden. My main intrest lays in north Euorpean archaeology in, preferbly the prehistory of the late iron age and the neolithic periods. I've also got a strong intrest for Chinese archaeology, especially the neolithc Yangshao culture. I also write about cultural heritage and cultural history. Mitt namn är Magnus Reuterdahl, jag är arkeolog och osteolog och arbetar företrädesvis i Sverige även om jag gjort ett par vändor till Kina. På den här bloggen skriver jag om mitt yrke, om fornlämningar, kulturarv och kulturhistoria m m. View all posts by Magnus Reuterdahl

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