Big data in landscape archaeological prospection


While traditionally archaeological research has mainly been focused on individual cultural heritage monuments or distinct archaeological sites, the Austrian based Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology goes beyond the limitations of discrete sites in order to understand their archaeological context. This is achieved by investigating the space in-between the sites, studying entire archaeological landscapes from the level of individual postholes to the mapping of numerous square kilometres. This large-scale, high-resolution, multi-method prospection approach leads to enormous digital datasets counting many terabytes of data that until recently were technically not manageable. Novel programs and methods of data management had to be developed for data acquisition, processing and archaeological interpretation, in order to permit the extraction of the desired information from the very big amount of data. The analysis of the generated datasets is conducted with the help of semi-automatic algorithms within complex three-, or even four-dimensional geographical information systems. The outcome of landscape archaeological prospection surveys is visually communicated to the scientific community as well as to the general public and stakeholders. In many cases, a visualization of the scientific result and archaeological interpretations can be a powerful and suitable tool to illustrate and communicate even complex contexts to a wide audience. This paper briefly presents the great potential offered by a combination of large-scale non-invasive archaeological prospection methods and standardized workflows for the integration of big data, its interpretation and visualization. The proposed approach provides a context for buried archaeology across entire archaeological landscapes, changing our understanding of known monuments. We address the overcome and remaining challenges with the help of examples taken from outstanding landscape archaeological prospection case studies.

Proceedings of ARQUEOLÓGICA 2.0 - 8th International Congress on Archaeology, Computer Graphics, Cultural Heritage and Innovation