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Riginos G., Archaeologist, Director of 33rd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities

Drosou D., Archaeologist, 33rd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities

Vlachopoulou R., Graphic Designer, 33rd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities

Liakos L., Geographer


Η ανάγκη προστασίας, καταρχήν, και εν συνεχεία ανάδειξης και προβολής των δεκάδων αρχαιολογικών χώρων και θέσεων στους δύο Νομούς Πρέβεζας και Άρτας κατέστησε επιτακτική την ανάγκη ύπαρξης ενός εργαλείου καταγραφής και διαχείρισης των χωρικών και αρχαιολογικών δεδομένων. Έτσι αναπτύχθηκε μία εφαρμογή με τη χρήση της τεχνολογίας των γεωγραφικών συστημάτων πληροφοριών (GIS), η οποία περιέχει τα από παλιότερα γνωστά στοιχεία, ενώ ενημερώνεται συνεχώς με τα νεώτερα δεδομένα, που προκύπτουν από τις κάθε είδους ενέργειες της ΛΓ΄ Ε.Π.Κ.Α.

Παράλληλα, η εκτέλεση δύο ιδιαίτερα απαιτητικών έργων έκθεσης αρχαιοτήτων στα Μουσεία Άρτας και Νικόπολης, ενισχύθηκε από μία ψηφιακή βάση καταγραφής των συλλογών, η παρέχει ευρύ πεδίο δυνατοτήτων αναφορικά με την αρχαιολογική πληροφορία και τη διασύνδεσή της με ποικίλα μέσα (κάθε είδους αρχεία κειμένου, φωτογραφίες, κλπ.).

1. Introduction

The management of cultural heritage has gone through many changes in the course of the last decades in Europe and Greece as well. Foundations, Institutes, Universities and Public Services have to deal with diverse and interconnecting trends for the management of heritage. The fast growth rate of modern society requires a corresponding stand on cultural issues. Furthermore, the constant improvement of technology and the development of various apparatus for the protection, documentation, custody and display of archaeological data necessitate a congruent attitude on behalf of those in charge of the cultural fund of each State. In this context, Archaeology is summoned to play a more active social role.

The Greek Archaeological Service is more than 170 years old as it was founded with the Royal Decree of 1833 and the Archaeological Ephorate has always constituted its central core. As one of the oldest services of the Greek State it was guaranteed, from its early days, legislation, administrative structure and scientific ethic as well as periodical scientific publications. Excavation, conservation, restoration, recording and publication interlace with the fixed bureaucratic work that a public service processes, lacking seriously in personnel and infrastructure. Moreover, in the last few years, extensive public works as well as programmes co-funded by the European Union have multiplied both the bureaucratic work-load and the volume of archaeological discoveries.

In this context, the Archaeological Service of the Ministry of Culture and more importantly its peripheral services, the Archaeological Ephorates, are called to become the administrators of a great and varied volume of archaeological material, deriving either from past decades and classified with traditional methods or from the recent large scale public works. Hence, the 33rd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities faced various challenges, already from its operational outset.

2. The GIS application

The necessity for protection, initially, and subsequently promotion and presentation of the numerous archaeological sites and locations of archaeological interest in the prefectures of Preveza and Arta demands the existence of a mechanism of registration and management of both spatial and archaeological data. Thus, a GIS application was developed for the prefectures mentioned above, in order to include both the already recorded and the newly produced data.

2.1. The structure of the application

The Digital Archaeological Map for the prefectures of Preveza and Arta was created in the framework of the activities of the Ephorate. The Map relies on the recording of ancient settlements and archaeological locations in the two prefectures, covering mainly data from the prehistoric period and the historical times. Since the Map contains both spatial and descriptive data, it is a Geographical Information System (G.I.S.), which utilizes as Geographical Reference System the Ε.Γ.Σ.Α. ’87, able to be fed with data and to process and retrieve this data.

The data of the Digital Map can be sorted into two categories, the descriptive and the spatial ones. The spatial data used in the development of this application derive from three sources; the Army Geographical Service (Γ.Υ.Σ.), the 33rd Ephorate and the Greek National Statistical Service (Ε.Σ.Υ.Ε.). The Γ.Υ.Σ. data has to do with the geographical and geomorphic setting of the two prefectures and has been created with the digitalization of the existing cartographical material (scale 1: 50,000). Moreover, the application includes data related to utility infrastructures, the road network, and certain points of interest and place names. The data from Ε.Σ.Υ.Ε. display the modern administrative structure of the municipalities, the communities and the hamlets of the two prefectures. The archaeological spatial data derive from existing digital data of the Ephorate, topographical charts and, in some cases, data gathered with the aid of portable GPS devices.

Spatial archaeological information was categorized into archaeological settlements and locations. The result was a series of thematic layers (Chart 1) where spatial information is stored (see figure 2).

The Digital Map application offers simultaneous and efficient management of spatial and descriptive information. Besides incorporating arrangements for the introduction and the enrichment of archaeological data (either spatial or descriptive), it also provides the user with the possibility to insert new layers, independently of the already existing and set ones. Other technical features include the possibility to print thematic maps and descriptive information and the retrieval of the original data in order to be confirmed and documented (e.g. documents, prints, photographs etc).

The right tools, such as navigation (zoom in, zoom out, pan etc), choice of scale, measurements of distance and area, have been developed so that the map can be employed with ease. Finally, the digital map features analytical capabilities, indispensable to the spatial planning, the scientific research and the processing of spatial data. Such capabilities include mainly the creation of buffer zones; the clipping, erasing and merging of spatial data as well as the use of smart query tools (see Fig 3) featuring on map display, so that decisions can be taken promptly. These tools have been designed to be employed by personnel not specialized in the use of geographical information systems and prioritizing the ease of employment and user-friendliness but without adverse effects on the efficiency of the application.

2.2 Archaeological sites-settlements and archaeological locations

The purpose of the application is the management of the archaeological sites and in general the locations of archaeological interest via a digital map. Spatial archaeological information has been subdivided into archaeological sites-settlements and archaeological locations. Access to the archaeological sites-settlements data is accomplished through the Management -> Archaeological sites-settlements menu where the database form is shown. Using this form the user is able to navigate through the settlements data which may also choose to modify. Data relative to a site-settlement include the Name, Historical Context, a brief description as well as a rudimentary geographical localization of the nearest Municipality or Settlement. There is also a list of immediately available to the user images, videos and files relevant to the settlement. For each object of an archaeological settlement, the form provides data which differs accordingly to the category of the thematic layer. Access to the archaeological locations data is through the Management ->Archaeological Sites menu where the categories of the sites are displayed. Selecting the chosen category leads us to a browsing form which provides the user with the opportunity to look for data on the Municipality or Settlement level and then produces the results of the query. Moreover, the form lets us introduce new archaeological sites, analytical presentation of data of the chosen site and in addition allows the printing of the query results. As regards the small finds, due to the fact that in many cases the only reference related to them is their discovery near a settlement, so exact geographical positioning is not possible and therefore can not be projected on the map, the use of this tool on a particular settlement will present us with the corresponding browsing form for small finds pertinent to the settlement.

2.3. File administration

The administrative features of this application include an electronic archive, through which the user can add or delete photographs, videos and files as well as run the relative files in the application environment. It is essentially the entire existing volume of photographs, videos and files of the application relative to the archaeological data. Access to file administration is granted through the Management -> File administration.

3. Digital recording database

On the other hand, the extremely demanding and time pressing works for the exhibition of the collections of the archaeological museums of Arta and Nikopolis have called for a strategy of registration and documentation. The concentration of the main volume of archaeological material in the depositories of the new museums, the completion of the selection and the progress in the classification brought forward the issue of the management of the archaeological material.

In these terms, both museums have been equipped with a digital recording program, named ‘The Museum System’ (TMS), which consists of a series of interlinked units under the form of relational databases. This product offers a variety of possibilities not only as far as archaeological data and the relative files (text records, photographs etc) are concerned, but also as regards spatial data. In fact, it has contributed in a decisively positive way to the employment, the flexible management and interface of the entire data volume (Γεωργιάδου et al. in press). Its basic functions include:

  • Editing, processing and browsing for object and collections in general
  • Editing, processing and browsing for digital files of images, videos and sound, as well as media files relative to the recorded objects
  • Documentation of objects in various collections with the option of multi-stress texting in chosen fields.
  • Editing and processing of data related to the maintenance of objects and collections
  • Editing and processing of data concerning the removal of objects inside and outside the Museum (incoming-outgoing)
  • Organizing events/exhibitions related to the collections
  • Interlinking with heterogeneous systems to ensure the availability of the inserted data on the Internet.

3.1. Technical features

The effectuation technology, due to the great data volume, is based on a widely used relational database system (R.D.B.M.S.-Oracle or SQL Server) and not on an improvised structure or technology of other sort. Thus, we are ensured of a powerful and efficient browsing mechanism which through the use of interfaces is able to process a large volume of data. Moreover, the use of a database allows the utilization of access control procedures, since the application incorporates a limited access system which employs code and username. All inserted data are stored on a server (Windows 2003 Server). The retrieval of data as well as the publication on the internet are accomplished via the Web server. The number of images and documents in general is unlimited and depends solely on the size of the means of storage. The whole design is user-friendly because it uses interfaces similar to Windows (Windows feel&like).

The application incorporates the ability to browse for data (objects, sites, bibliography, constituents and media files) with the use of suitable interfaces. Browsing is effected in many ways: regular, filtered, complex and using SQL queries. One of the key characteristics of the application is its ease of operation and access to its units. All in all, the application may be altered, to the greatest extend, in accord with the needs of the Museum, without the intervention of its constructor. Furthermore, the administrator of the system may set and add new fields and also change the terminology, use and function of the present fields; expertise in programming and intervening in the system code is not required. All records inserted in the database may be projected in real time on the Internet, providing browsing and displaying capabilities to visitors. The personalization of the visitor’s page according to personal preferences and the access to these pages with the use of an access code is also possible.

3.2. Use and potentialities of the database. The example of the new museum of Nikopolis

As concerns the New Nikopolis’ Museum, the program has been structured according to the onsite surface survey conducted in Nikopolis during the previous decade. The survey included data from previous research on the site and pointed out its particular characteristics (Zahos 1998. Ντούζουγλη 2007). At first, records for the major monuments of Nikopolis, containing the majority of finds, were created. Next, all recorded in the catalogs of the Museum finds (approximately 1400), were digitalized and correlated with the records of their monuments of origin. The same method was applied to the primary recording of the objects (more than 2000) many of which are going to be exhibited in the new museum. Some of these objects were registered in other catalogs which have remained independent. The two elements, monuments and finds, are interlinked in a way that allows the immediate transition from the one to the other. Both are interconnected with the third major component of the program, a “digital library” which currently contains more than 100 digitalized titles relative to Nikopolis. The handling of this considerable volume of data, accumulated with the digital recording and documentation of the finds, followed two main axes: on the one hand, the immediate correlation between finds and monuments so that their archaeological context is noted and on the other hand, the treatment of the site of Nikopolis as a whole, where objects of the same kind can be co-examined simultaneously. These specific parameters establish the digital recording program as an important tool for the present and future management of archaeological material in Nikopolis.

Thus, the concentration of the archaeological material in the Museum and the examination of a great part of this material were achieved. These factors have constituted the setting the museological study which was able to rely not only on the objects but also on their archaeological context. Apart from the above, other benefits for the organization and the Collection of the New Museum have accrued from the program:

  • The solution to a perennial problem of the catalog, as there was a discrepancy between the numbers in the catalog and the numbers carried by the objects for more than 100 recorded objects.
  • The discovery and correction of a number of double entries and the consequent retrieval of data for many of these objects.
  • The identification of objects, recorded or not, with published finds, the association and the whereabouts of which were not previously known.
  • The restoration of objects with the discovery of lacking parts.
  • The restoration of entire archaeological contexts, in some cases, even 35 years after excavation.

The data, deriving from the combined works up to the present time, as well as the data that will emerge in the future, are expected to form the basis of the Exhibition of the New Museum of Nikopolis.

Comparable issues have been dealt with during the digital recording in the Archaeological Museum of Arta, as, also in this case, the material suffered from fragmentation, diversity and a great lag in time between the moment of discovery and its final digital recording. , as described in the case of the Nikopolis Museum.


Our times and their respective cognitive environment demand a new approach and the use of innovating methods in the management of cultural heritage. Methods and ideas of the past decades that regarded the Archaeological Service as solemn guardian of the past and considered the concept of custody-storage and the concept of protection as identical, can no longer be applied in the new age of digital reality. The infinite possibilities in the recording, the documentation, the rescue and, finally, the promotion of the archaeological material cannot but be employed in the administration of the archaeological material.

Of course, the issue we are called to deal with is not only the selection of means and ways to carry the cultural heritage into the new digital environment but, ultimately, the management of the whole volume of data that have been accumulated, digitalized and recorded. Shall we keep them locked in our archives and cabinets or make them an active part of the scientific community and the greater public in general? The “solemn safeguard” of the archaeological material in the strict, suffocating boundaries of a Museum or a Service depository, deprives it of life, reducing it to the state of stagnant archival material used only in specific circumstances.

Inside this new cognitive environment we all are summoned to employ technological innovations in the fields of protection and promotion of the archaeological material and, more importantly, use the possibilities given to us by them in order to proceed to a new conception of archaeological management. To provide new avenues to cultural information.


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