Archaeology in East Oxford

Maps & the Gestation of Reports

The mapping continues; I’ve now scanned everything (eventually). I spent a few hours at Rewley House in the Archeox office – right up in the Gods. Scanned the majority of the map – I’ve split it into 18 separate sheets – but when I exited the program all the files disappeared into the void! Much swearing ensued before I stomped off the for a calming pint at the Lamb & Flag.

So back again the next day to try again. As Jane was busy elsewhere (with her laptop) she lent me the scanner software so I installed it on my laptop for the day and then tried again; this time I was really pedantic about saving each scan as I did it so consequently ended up with twice as many files as I needed!

I started to fit them together but have had a rethink – even with an A3 scanner I have ended up with 40 files. I had originally started at the bottom right-hand corner (where I had started the tracing process) but as you are bound to get a bit of an error when fitting the different scans together, and this will accumulate the more scans you try and fit, I’ve decided to start in the middle and work outwards. Hopefully that will minimise the cumulative error – but only time will tell.

Also as an adjunct to this I have been putting together a map of the area that we are covering in the project (basically East Oxford). I have used the OpenStreetMap data as this is open data, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 licence (CC-BY-SA); using this, rather than Ordnance Survey, say, or Google, simplifies copyright problems. OS maps are copyright for 70 years and while Google Maps are free at the moment (unless you go for some very detailed mapping or have a huge number of hits per day), you never know when they will decide that their revised business model insists on whopping great charges for all community archaeology projects! I’ve almost finished stitching together the map which anyone in the project can then use, with a nice, simple attribution, for anything which requires a map.

I’ve also had two meetings about the context checklists/interim report. It’s starting to move beyond the checklist stage – where we are mainly transcribing the context sheets (and a lot of the other paperwork – Section & Plan lists, etc) – to the narrative, where we describe what we found and what we think it means.

Though doing the context checklist has been a really useful exercise – apart from the obvious reason of getting all the info into the computer so we’ve got the raw data stored in an easily shareable format – a number of other things have come to light.

One thing is how essential it is to do the checklist soon after the dig itself – no matter how often Jane emphasised (the polite description!) the importance of doing the context sheets – stuff gets missed off and it’s only if you can catch these missed bits while the whole thing is still fairly fresh in people’s minds that you stand any chance of filling in the missing bits.

The other thing is how doing the checklist is going to feed back to excavating in the future; I know I’m going to be digging, and thinking about the whole process of digging, differently after seeing how you use the context sheets to go from data to explanation, apart from the obvious bit about knowing how important it is not to miss bits out!

Also we are getting a much better idea of how important the relationship of one context to another is (a bit of a ‘no-brainer’, I know, but it’s surprisingly easy to focus on what’s in front of one’s nose), and how even though one might have dug the sequence oneself, the way they all fit together can be elusive. Sarah had this problem and could only solve it by drawing a set of plans showing how the trench developed over time; watch out for her brilliant drawing in the interim report!

So now we progress to the narrative, and are also starting (in the case of Trench 1) to pull the sectors together as we are starting to see how the various parts relate to each other, though we still need the drawings to be more precise about it. However, we are starting to talk to each other more and starting to share our thoughts to see how they fit together and complement (hopefully) each other.

Lots, then, to look forward to – map progressing, more finds to wash & process, talks to look forward to (and help organise – more about that later) and for both Gill and me, the start of our NVQ in Archaeological Practice; so watch this space!


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One thought on “Maps & the Gestation of Reports

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