Vol. VIII, No. 4

February, 1996

"Pylos Regional Archaeological Project: Internet Edition" - A Web Site Review

by Kevin Glowacki
Indiana University
Department of Classical Studies

The "Pylos Regional Archaeological Project: Internet Edition" (http://classics. lsa.umich.edu/PRAP.html) is an attractive and intriguing web site. The "home page" contains a clear and concise table of contents, a brief introduction to the project, and meticulous acknowledgments of every director, area specialist, team member, academic institution, funding agency, sponsor, and archaeological authority associated with the expedition. There are also links to a series of preliminary reports submitted to the NEH in 1992, talks presented at the annual meetings of the Archaeological Institute of America in 1993 and 1994, and a summary of the 1995 study season submitted to the Greek Archaeological Service. Another section includes several photographs and maps of the study area. What sets this web site apart from other archaeological "home pages" is an extensive site gazetteer, a detailed catalogue of artifacts, and an interactive site mapper, all of which make excellent use of the hypertext medium and graphical interface of the WWW to present results of this important multi-disciplinary, diachronic survey of western Messenia to specialists in Greek archaeology as well as to the general public.

Until more detailed publications from PRAP appear in printed journals, the reports and summaries found here provide timely documentation of the project's goals and results. (My students have also found it instructive to examine the different "styles" of the various reports and the details of funding, permits, specialized studies, scientific analysis, etc.). However, the real centerpiece of the web site and the chief focus of scholarly interest is the site gazetteer (which requires Netscape 2.0 or compatible browser). The gazetteer does not present "raw" data from the survey (which is managed in databases elsewhere for use by project members), but instead consists of summary descriptions and catalogues which scholars are invited to use in a preliminary fashion. Yet even while "under construction," the site gazetteer provides much more useful information than would be practical or manageable in a printed source.

For example, the 1992 and 1993 reports mention a gridded collection of the Englianos ridge and "Lower Town" around the Palace of Nestor (Site B07). A simple search through the gazetteer (pull down menu from a list of sites and a click of a button to display the information) links to a summary of the site, including a list of periods represented, sherd density, collection strategy, dimensions, and a narrative description with references to earlier work on the site and to the results of the new investigations. Links are included to several photographs of the area and the work in progress. In addition, the gazetteer automatically generates a color map locating the site within the survey zone, and there is a link to a list of catalogued artifacts. Since this particular site is quite large (covering an area of 18 hectares with an on-site density of 1065 sherds per hectare) and the study of the material is still in progress, the catalogue is currently incomplete. Nevertheless, there is ample content, including clear, brief descriptions as well as illustrations of many artifacts. Although the format has a few minor flaws (e.g., it is impossible to go back directly to the corresponding text after looking at an illustration; most of the photographs taken in the field are too large, too slow to load, and badly in need of editing), this gazetteer is an excellent example of the use of the hypertext medium to access site information which probably would not have been so detailed in a traditional printed volume or which would have required extensive cross-indexing and flipping back and forth between summary description, catalogue, map, and illustration.

Another noteworthy feature being developed for the web site is an interactive mapping function which allows a selection of sites to be plotted on a color map. At present, users can choose up to 15 (of 61) possible sites to be plotted. In the future, it would be even more informative to have the option to plot by specific period (e.g., all Byzantine sites), or by group of periods (e.g., Archaic AND Classical sites), or have periods distinguished by colors and/or icons to illustrate changing settlement patterns over time. The usefulness of this feature would also be enhanced by labeling the sites (e.g., A01, B07) on the larger color maps. (Many of the same search parameters could also be incorporated in the site gazetteer, making it easier for scholars to focus on particular areas, time periods, or even artifact types.).

All of the information currently contained in the reports, site gazetteer, and interactive mapper can be accessed and used directly from within the standard WWW browser. Netscape 2.0 (or compatible) is specifically required for the gazetteer and mapper. An experimental section on "visualizing the chronological uncertainty of ceramic data" provides an option for downloading VRML files of three-dimensional charts which can be rotated and viewed from different perspectives. This is the only part of the PRAP web site which requires specific software to be installed as a "helper" application. (In order to view these files on my Mactinosh Powerbook 180c, I downloaded a program called Voyager from the Virtus Corporation, http://www.virtus.com/).

Publication in an electronic medium such as the WWW raises several important issues about copyright, accessibility, and proper citation in scholarly works. It is specifically stated that the texts and illustrations contained in this web site are for personal and educational use only and may not be reproduced without permission. Scholars who use the information are asked to make reference to the site as "The Pylos Regional Archaeological Project: Internet Edition, "http://classics/ lsa.umich.edu/PRAP.html. Since the analysis of the PRAP data is, quite literally, in progress, all of the information on the web site is naturally subject to change and the editor/site manager has been very careful to indicate the preliminary nature of the data in nearly every section. However, none of the sections has a formal reference to the last date of modification or version of the text, site description, catalogue, etc. currently on-line.

PRAP's use of the internet to make available the results of their archaeological fieldwork in a such a timely and accessible manner sets an example for other researchers. While the present discussion of the site has focused on the value to other scholars, it could also feature more didactic and explanatory sections for amateurs or students, including an expanded introductory essay, written for a general "lay" audience, which summarizes the project's goals, methods, and results as well as outlining the history of archaeological research and interest in the area. A bibliography for the Pylos region (in specific) and for archaeological survey (in general) would assist with further reading (albeit in the more archaic format of the printed page).

For an index of other CD and Web site reviews available on the Web pages of the CSA Newsletter, see the review index.

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