SPP “Entangled Africa” and iDAI.world - A digital connection of time and space
Where have the same or similar types of tools, vessels and technologies been discovered? To which cultural phases can they be assigned, and were the phases contemporaneous with each other? Which sites belong to a cultural group? How were the inhabitants of North Africa linked through time and space?
The project on research data management (RDM) and the coordination of the priority program “Entangled Africa” (SPP2143) also pursue these questions. In a virtual exchange with specialists from the Department of Scientific Information Technology (Scientific IT) of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), they create new tools for the scientific discourse of all of the program’s projects on the temporal and spatial networking of the inhabitants of North Africa.
Developed by DAI’s Scientific IT, iDAI.world offers various web services to publish and link scientific data: iDAI.chronontology collects cultural phases according to different references and puts them in relation to each other in a visually vivid way. In the iDAI.gazetteer , archaeological sites are listed with coordinates or entire regions are displayed as polygons. Both systems can be related to e.g. excavation finds and reference literature stored in iDAI.objects (formerly ARACHNE) and iDAI.bibliography (Zenon), the library catalogue of the institute. The cooperation between the SPP and the DAI aims to enable online queries to answer comprehensive questions and to present the results visually. Through this modern political boundaries are removed from the historical picture and the networking mechanisms in ancient time are revealed.
Such queries seem well defined, but a lot of technical and scientific work is necessary to make them possible. The entries in the databases behind the DAI’s web services are now being supplemented by further input from the current research discourse. Regions and phases for which hardly any data were available before are added for the first time. An additional interface is currently created by the members of the RDM-project of the SPP that intuitively links the various web services and enables comprehensive queries optimized for the needs of the SPP. Complex programming structures run in the background, which retrieve the desired information from the existing services and display it as maps and graphics.
In weekly digital working meetings the members of the two SPP structure projects and DAI’s Scientific IT exchange information about the smallest details. Within a few months, a first version of the web interface should be available and allow a new approach to the questions of the SPP, while the webservices if the DAI provide means for the freely accessible publication and long-term preservation of the research data of the participating projects.
Fig. 1 (opener): iDAI.chronontology collects cultural phases according to different references and places them in relation to each other in a visually vivid way. [© DAI, screenshot: J. Sigl 20/07/2020]
Fig. 2: Virtual meeting of the members of the two SPP structural projects and the Scientific IT of the DAI to discuss the new application. [© SPP2143, screenshot: J. Sigl 16/07/2020]
Fig. 3: In iDAI.chronontology and iDAI.gazetteer linked data of regions and cultural phases are already present, e. g. for the Egyptian 18th Dynasty – the SPP is supplementing the databases by further input from the current research. [© DAI, screenshot: J. Sigl 20/07/2020]