Vol. XXVI, No. 2 — September, 2013


Articles in Vol. XXVI, No. 2

Website Review: Penn Museum Interactive Research Map & Timeline
One portion of the Penn Museum website.
-- Andrea Vianello

Of Layer Names — And Babies — And Bathwater
Layer names need not be useless to be clear
-- Harrison Eiteljorg, II

Archiving the Digital Files from the CSA Propylaea Project
Long-term preservation of the data files is necessary.
-- Harrison Eiteljorg, II

Aggregating Data — A Very Problematic Process
Scholars often need complex and sophisitcated data.
-- Andrea Vianello and Harrison Eiteljorg, II

Miscellaneous News Items — And Some Important Questions
An irregular feature.

To comment on an article, please email
the editor using editor as the user-
name, csanet.org as the domain-name,
and the standard user@domain format.

Index of Web site and CD reviews from the Newsletter.

Limited subject index for Newsletter articles.

Direct links for articles concerning:


Search all newsletter articles.
(Using Google® advanced search
page with CSA Newsletter limit
already set.)

Miscellaneous News Items — And Some Important Questions

Validating Social Media Information About Syria

One of the most interesting talks at the 2013 meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists in Pilsen, the Czech Republic was one about Syria. In that talk Diane Scherzler, both an archaeologist and a journalist, showed some truly awful (in the original sense of that term) images of modern-day Syria, including some videos of the carnage now occurring. These images and videos had come from social media such as YouTube. She pointed out that there is currently no way to verify the accuracy of those images or videos. This might be a reason why they are have had very limited influence on UNESCO and other international organization as well as the mass media. She wondered whether there might be ways for archaeologists to be involved in verifying at least some aspects of the images and/or videos, e.g., the locations.

If you have any ideas that might assist Ms. Scherzler, please send her email (at user-name mail and domain-name diane-scherzler.de).

Old 35 mm. Slides with No Place To Go

As those of us over a certain age prepare to retire, we have a great many things to sort through before discarding those that cannot or will not be used. Among them are often many slides from years or decades ago, taken when we were graduate students or for teaching purposes. Once upon a time, we could have presented those slides to our slide librarian and asked him/her to keep the ones of value, tossing the remainder. No longer. Slides are of no value today. But that is not the same as saying that the images are of no value. In many cases the images, due to their age, may be quite valuable because they show something before the last renovation (or perhaps the renovation before the last) or prior to work on an area — whether a site or a monument or a modern city. In addition, many of those older images were taken with Kodachrome® and are still in very good shape in terms of color and detail.

So what should be done with them? One suggestion: find an institution that will accept the slides or scans of them, link the images to information supplied by the contributor, and put them up on the web for access. That sounds simpler than it is. For instance, how precise must the descriptions be? Who will pay and for what portion of the work — the user, a funding agency, the slide depositor? Must there be small images for searching and larger ones for real use? Should use be free and open or somehow restricted? There are many other questions of importance, and Nick Eiteljorg is hoping to put together a plan with the aid of readers' responses to these suggestions. Please give this matter some consideration and email Nick Eiteljorg (at user-name nicke and domain-name csanet.org) with your thoughts, suggestions, and recommendations.

Help us Find Old Terms That Have Changed Meaning

At the 2013 meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists Andrea Vianello and Harrison Eiteljorg, II, as two years ago when the meeting was in Oslo, gave a joint paper. This was entitled "Data: Making it digital doesn't automatically make it clear." (See this issue for their arguments: Andrea Vianello and Harrison Eiteljorg, II, "Aggregating Data — A Very Problematic Process," at csanet.org/newsletter/fall13/nlf1304.html) The two argued that aggregated data sets present important challenges, requiring both clear attribution of data to its original depositors (plus their terminology and other data-recording practices) and that no square pegs be forced into round holes, i.e., that terminology not be limited to predetermined lists.

In the course of the discussion following the paper session, a question arose, and it was suggested that the question be put to the readers of the CSA Newsletter in the hope that many will have helpful comments. In discussing terminology used on excavations, the group wondered if there are terms used in describing artifacts or contexts that show a significant evolution over time, terms that may have had one clear meaning at some time and another, equally clear meaning at another time. The term(s) in question should be one(s) that might be used to describe/define an object or a context found in the course of an excavation or survey.

If such a term comes to your mind, please send your thoughts to Nick Eiteljorg (at user-name nicke at domain-name csanet.org).

Customs Agents May take Your Electronic Devices

An item in the CSA Newsletter in 2008 — Harrison Eiteljorg, II, "Do You Know Where Your Data Are Tonight?" XXI, 2; September, 2008; csanet.org/newsletter/fall08/nlf0804.html — discussed U.S. customs agents seizing the electronic devices of Americans when they re-entered the United States. While the article raised an alarm, it was based on very limited knowledge of what the government was attempting to do to gain access to digital information from American citizens. Along with the many recent discussions of security and government spying that have broadened our understanding of this area, there has been another reference to customs seizures of laptops and other electronic devices at the border, this one a clear case of the government intentionally using the customs seizure as a way to escape constitutional protections normally provided to American citizens. For more information, see Susan Stellin, "The Border Is a Back Door for U.S. Device Searches," published 9 September 2013 at the NY Times website and available at www.nytimes.com/2013/09/10/business/the-border-is-a-back-door-for-us-device-searches.html?pagewanted=all. While archaeologists are unlikely to be carrying documents of interest to the government, it is now even more clear than it was five years ago that laptops and other electronic devices may be seized by U.S. customs agents without any legal process and without any recourse. Thus, it remains imperative that digital data be stored where an axcavator can gain access, no matter what may have been seized by customs agents at the U.S. border.

Archaeological Institute of America to Digitize and Open Archives

Thanks to a grant from the Leon Levy Foundation, the Archaeological Institute of America will soon make all of its archival material public online. A wide array of document types will be openly available in digital form. For more information, see ancientworldonline.blogspot.com/2013/08/early-warnings-archaeological-archive.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Awol-TheAncientWorldOnline+%28AWOL+-+The+Ancient+World+Online%29.



About this document:

All articles in the CSA Newsletter are reviewed by the staff. All are published with no intention of future change(s) and are maintained at the CSA website. Changes (other than corrections of typos or similar errors) will rarely be made after publication. If any such change is made, it will be made so as to permit both the original text and the change to be determined.

Comments concerning articles are welcome, and comments, questions, concerns, and author responses will be published in separate commentary pages, as noted on the Newsletter home page.