Stefano Costa /Enrico Zanini
(University of Siena, Italy)
Geographical Information Systems, most notably in their three dimensional version, represent the end-point of an archaeological documentation system that links finds to their physical dimension and spatial position. GIS are at a hard point when it comes to record the other side of archaeological information, the one linked with non-material evidence, functional and non-spatial relationships between clues. It’s the kind of information that comes out from the interaction between the clues and finds system and the reading/understanding ability of the team that does the field-work. The excavation in the Byzantine Neighborhood in Gortyn (Crete) led by the Department of Archaeology of the University of Siena has offered an opportunity to experiment the use of a wiki (Mediawiki) as a platform for a web-based re-construction of the team’s “mind map” during the different research phases. In such a system every piece of information (excavation record, post-excavation work, ideas and random thoughts) can find its “place” for archiving, discussing and publishing.
The wiki concept seems to be the most adherent to the “social mind mapping” represented by the archaeological process itself. From a conceptual point of view, it has bidirectional links and an horizontal (open) structure where all “pages” have the same rank. Their weight is determined only by the number of links that point to each one, enabling the recognition of the excavation features that are really important to us, beyond stratigraphic material evidence. Categories can be seen like paths along specific “regions” of the whole record. The “history” feature is as much important as we value our interpretation as a dynamic non-linear olistic process, more than a straight one-way algorithm.
Mediawiki is not “simple” at all, because it is a big huge application in fast development, but it has one big advantage: it has a high level of customization available at an advanced user’s level without the need for programming skills. Templates make easy to accomplish simple repetitive actions. The use of the application itself as an end user is something definitely simple, because the basic (heading, link, list) wiki syntax is somewhat intuitive, more than other wikis’.
Keywords: Wiki, Archaeological process, Social mind mapping