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Research Impact

Transforming archaeological data practice by enabling semantic interoperability

Stonehenge GettyImages-603872978.jpgOur research has transformed practice and enhanced the quality of service and use of digital heritage and archaeological information resources, benefitting archaeologists and heritage practitioners nationally and internationally.

Semantic interoperability refers to the ability of computer systems to exchange data with unambiguous, shared meaning and is critical to support knowledge discovery and data integration between information systems. Semantic interoperability problems within digital heritage result in a lack of meaningful connection between data resources, meaning that searches by archaeologists and heritage practitioners can overlook relevant material or return false matches. 

The Hypermedia Research Group led by Professor Douglas Tudhope has conducted research on knowledge organization systems and services and the use of formal ontologies and vocabularies (e.g. thesauri) to overcome these problems. 

Nationally, this research has led to major enhancements to the quality of service with the Online AccesS to the Index of Archaeological Investigations (OASIS) database. OASIS is the UK digital repository for long term preservation of heritage data, used by UK archaeologists and heritage practitioners and over 1300 organisations e.g. national bodies; Local Authorities; commercial archaeological contractors; Historic Environment Records (HERs) and National Monument Records (NMRs); educational charities such as Archaeology Scotland. The work has benefitted Historic England by informing their information access and data standards work and the Heritage Information Access Strategy.  Internationally, the tools, templates and approaches developed by USW have improved the visibility and connectivity of European archaeological resources, opening access for the major European archaeological data centres and the broader archaeological community. USW’s work improved the search capability of ARIADNE which provided access to archaeological data resources for around 10,500 users from 84 international institutions, including 19 organisations outside Europe. USW’s mapping research was used by the ArchAIDE H2020 project to develop an App to support archaeologists in identifying pottery and which was awarded ‘Best App of 2019’ at the Heritage in Motion New Multimedia Competition on European Heritage. Other beneficiaries include The Discovery Programme: Centre for Archaeology and Innovation Ireland which used the tools and approaches developed to support its Irish Monuments Mapping exercise and the Italian government Central Institute for the Union Catalogue of Italian Libraries and Bibliographic Information (ICCU)which benefited from enhanced visibility of Italian ICCU resources.


Linking Archaeological Data - enabling semantic infrastructure in the digital archaeology domain

Our research has enabled archaeological professional and commercial organisations to integrate diverse archaeology excavation datasets and significantly develop working practices.

Commercial archaeological datasets are usually created on a per-site basis structured via differing schema and vocabularies. These isolated information silos hinder meaningful cross search and comparison.

As the only record of unrepeatable fieldwork, it is essential that these data are made available for reuse and re-interpretation.

As a result of the research, the Archaeology Data Service, English Heritage, the Royal Commissions on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and Wales have published as Linked Data important excavation datasets and national vocabularies that can act as hubs in the web of archaeological data. More information can be found here.

Transnational data integration

Professor Doug Tudhope and Ceri Binding of the Hypermedia Research Unit won the Best International Impact Award 2018 for their innovative work in transnational data integration.

Ceri and Prof Tudhope collaborated with partners across 11 countries to improve the accessibility and visibility of Europe’s archaeological resources.