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Databases in archaeology

For archaeologists database development is perhaps the fundamental and most strategic area of their computational efforts. The DBMS (Data-Base Management System) offers the ability to digitally store the huge amount of data produced on the field. Which means non only less space for alphanumeric and graphical information, but also a straightforward and easy data retrieval.

The quality (structure and contents) of the DBMS will determine and affect the entire research process. This is particularly true because usually DBMS share data with G.I.S. and other information systems. If your DBMS don’t work properly, your information system won’t either. A “bad DBMS” surely means a bad G.I.S. platform, bad spatial analyses, bad website an so on. It is not enough to store the “right data”. It also has to be put in the right structure. In this discipline DBMS architectures might became particularly huge due to the complexity of the archaeological record. In most cases a relational data structure is required.

One of our first experimentations was the development of the Dizionario Geografico, Fisico, Storico di Emanuele RepettiRepetti website. Another database published on the web through this software was the the Inventario del patrimonio minerario e mineralogico della Toscana. One important element to take into consideration is the fact databases developed with this kind of SQL servers may be easily integrated between them.

Since spring 2005 the ASIAA lab had been testing solutions for the archaeologist, more operable, free and platform independent. Taking advantage of the possibility of interfacing a database with a web server, we are developing a solution that can be entirely managed from a web client; the user will be able to use this framework for insert, update and query his archaeological records.

Until now testing have been based on three components: a web server (Apache), a programming language for dynamic web pages (Php) and a strong object-relational DBMS (PostgreSQL). All these softwares can be used freely and are open source, giving the possibility to have source code and not only the “closed” binary. Many are the advantages that we obtain: users don’t require any specific DBMS software, but they only need a generic web browser; the solution, in this manner, is also completely platform independent. The archaeologist, only using a computer with web access, will be able to insert new data and consult the database from any location, for example from home, from a congress or indeed, with a wireless access, directly from excavation.

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