Data recording of archaeological excavation - PSL IOTA

Last modification : 10 November 2016

Concerning an archaeological excavation, that destroys the testimony (that is by definition unique) of a human activity, data recording and its opening to the researchers is ethically essential. Beyond classic publications, the IT support is able to allow the data preservation and also the possibility to have new reasoning about the material, plans and statistical analysis. This project ends this process and also brings open archives to the community.

It will apply to two artisanal clusters of the Iron Age (Levroux, Indre, IIes. BC, and Bourges, Cher, Ves. BC) that were excavated from 1968 to 1993 and from 2003 to 2008. These sites have become European references thanks to the wealth and quantity of the collected objects in a stratigraphic context. Publications are online. This project would provide PhD students all the elementary documents. The expected links between digitized documents and pictures, their referencing on online maps and the publications will turn it into a wonderful tool in order to introduce the cross exploitation of all the archives.
The sites of Levroux, the arenas, and Bourges, Port Sec, 80 km away one from another, have revealed two artisanal clusters, one from the 5th BC, the other from the 2nd BC. They both show two urbanisation phases: the artisanal area in Bourges is linked to a “princely” complex and to an exchange network which extends to Greece. In Levroux, the arenas cluster fills in the economic duties of a city (metal craft, Roman wine amphorae importation, coinage), even if it is left behind in the 1st century BC in order to found a perched and fortified city (an “oppidum”) on the nearby hill.
(Buchsenschutz et al., L’Europe celtique à l’âge du Fer (VIlle-1er siècle), PUF, Nouvelle Clio, 2015.
The state of documentation of both sites is different, insofar as the programmes have evolved since the two research periods. Furthermore, the experiment undertaken in Ledroux with a 3D survey of all the objects fragments turned out being not very significant, in Bourges, the furniture has been overall recorded according to stratigraphic unit. The paper publications (6 volumes), that are available for many years, include one original inventory according to a ranking that matches the methods respectively used for both excavations. We are now free to realise a new unified and dynamic presentation for both sites. The quantity of furniture of both sites is significant, here are a few numbers.

  • 311 pits full of detritic furniture were excavated in Levroux, the arenas. They delivered 11,500 identifiable ceramic fragment and 93,174 shards. Imported ceramics of the whole site include 12,962 shards that come from at least 749 vases, mainly amphorae. The 9,170 fragments of metal objects come with thousands of “scraps” and with 605 kg of slags. The 176,000 bones have inspired 3 theses. The Rogier field has itself delivered 91,000 of them, of which 4,700have been identified. 143 coins were analysed.
  • In the artisanal neighbourhood of Port Sec in Bourges, 12 hectares have been excavated. 246 pits have delivered 187,100 fragments of objects or various bones (40% of ceramic shards, 57% of bones, 2% of copper allow objects and 1% of iron objects). Two theses were inspired by the data collected in this deposit.
  • We will also try to treat the Charbonnier field in Levroux (1,5 hectare ; 430 structures ; 58,829 objects and fragments) that has not been published yet.

Scientific orientation of the project :

The excavations of Ledroux and Bourges have been published shortly after their completion : Levroux 1 (1988 ), 2 (1993), 3 ( 1994), 4 ( 1997), 5 (2000).
Bourges, Port Sec : 2 volumes. These publications not only present scientific analyses, but also most of the inventory, the vestiges description (pits and post-holes) and the archaeological furniture.
The aim is to digitise in order to make completed data available for the public: paper publications have been indeed selected. On the other hand, several theses and articles allowed deepening the analysis and data interpretation (forges identification thanks to new slags analysis methods, isotope analysis of pork jaws…).

  • The computerised spatial analysis of the content of 10 pits in Levroux has showed that their content was detritic. So it wasn’t continued. The statistical and spatial analysis, which has been extended to the bones at a scale of field, has revealed the location of several activities (butcher or culinary cuts, crafts, S. Krausz, the analysis of slags has highlighted the existence of forges, M. Berranger).
  • In Bourges, the pits content has been pointed out by stratigraphic unit in each pit. This information has not proved to be relevant; pits have been filled in almost all cases at one time with waste products. So the spatial analysis at the scale of the field is now preferred. It appears that the deposit juxtaposes production/consumption units, that both includes vestiges of craft manufacturing and domestic life (bones, local and imported ceramics). No planning of this habitat is noticeable, we can even suggest a seasonal occupation, like it is known in the Scythians world. However the existence in each unit of some ceramic shards imported from Marseille or Greece raises the question of the status of these craftsmen in the society.

Our objective is then to make not only the archives available for the public, but also the possibility to query data into testing other interpretative schemes. The archives organisation should indeed allow to query the database in several ways :

  • nature and content of the “x” pit
  • inventory of metal and ceramic objects and of pork bones etc.
  • spatial analysis tools of the objects distribution and of the pits on the site with “shape” files.

The provision of these data bases for the public (including teachers) will be a way to present to students in archaeology not only the computerised system of excavation data, but also the evolution of the data collection and data interpretation strategies. The comparison between the used programmes (BDP4, developed by the University of Paris 1 on a minicomputer 1971, Centrar, for Levroux (G.-N. Lambert and M. Cartereau) and also applied in Bibracte (microcomputers, 1982-2990), Arkéoplan (our laboratory AOROC, 1989-2000) and lastly ArcGis), with their strengths and weaknesses, shows both a pedagogical and an historical benefit. We hope that this results analysis will encourage a critical stance concerning the development and limits of programmes currently on the market.

The association between AOROC , the ED472 and the CHART laboratory will concern the pedagogical exploitation of this whole archives bulk and its structuring of two crucial research sites about Iron Age in several interrelated media. From a historiographical point of view, these archives also show the evolution of the archaeological research supports over 40 years since the introduction of the first computers and also the progress of the typological and chronological standards during this time covering the career of Olivier Buchsenschutz.