Archaeology Data Service

Technology, material and population ecology: a new AHRB Archive

Over the last few months ADS staff have been working with Dr Gil Marshall of Southampton University to create a digital archive for an AHRB - funded research project - "Lower Palaeolithic Technology, Raw Material and Population Ecology". In this article Dr Marshall describes the archive and how it was created. This archive is the first ADS collection to be made available using ColdFusion, one of the new software tools acquired to enhance the catalogue architecture.

This archive, soon to be fully operational, forms the primary dataset of a Southampton-based study into Acheulian biface technology at the continental scale. The study was funded by the AHRB and directed by Clive Gamble of the Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins (CAHO) at Southampton, and Derek Roe of the Baden Powell Institute for Palaeolithic Research in Oxford. The dataset was generated by Gilbert Marshall from CAHO.

The aim of the project was to collate metric and descriptive data from a large number of biface assemblages from the South of Africa to the North of Europe. Analyses of this type wouldtypically involve manually measuring and describing artefacts. Although perfectly acceptable, it was decided that a useful by-product of this research would be a database of digital images of all the artefacts included. With the development of digital photography and storage capacity this is now perfectly feasible.

Practically, this involved bifaces being described and photographed but not measured. The photographs themselves were used to provide the measurements, a process automated using software developed at Southampton in collaboration with Computer Science. The visual, metric and descriptive archive can be interrogated for a total of 3556 bifaces, images viewed and measurements downloaded. The archive provides a useful tool for both teaching and research, and it is hoped that it can be expanded further by the addition of more collections.

Three shots of Bifaces from the collection

Exemplars from the bifaces archive. The top image is a side view of a handaxe from Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. Olduvia is the location of many of the most important finds from early prehistory. The lower image is frontal view of a flint tool from Boxgrove, the most productive, and perhaps most famous palaeolithic site in Britain for many years. Each of the 3,556 tools was recorded in detail to allow for detailed statistical analysis. The measurements, were derived from images that give different views of the surfaces and edges of the artefacts. Both images and measurements are included in the archive.

Dr Gilbert Marshall, Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins, University of Southampton,
gilmarsh@ukonline.co.uk

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