British

Archaeology

The voice of archaeology in Britain and beyond

Cover of British Archaeology 92

Issue 92

January/February 2007

Contents

news

Ancient trading power near Inverness

Rare insights into a medieval city

Possible new neolithic enclosure on Orkney

Roman Colchester unveils more of circus

In Brief & Phase 2

features

Stonehenge Douai manuscript discovered
Christian Heck describes his surprise Stonehenge find, a new medieval depiction

Transit van excavation
Bristol students find more than bunk in an old Ford van

Are these the pyramids to revolutionise Europe?
Anthony Harding investigates date claims of 12,000 BC/BP near Sarajevo, Bosnia.

Among tombs and stone circles on Banc Du
A history of discover of Neolithic earthworks and causewayed enclosures

on the web

Recommended websites

letters

Views and responses

CBA news

Headlines from the CBA office

 

ISSN 1357-4442

Editor Mike Pitts

on the web

Archaeology in the news

Caroline Wickham-Jones gets out the maps.

The internet is more than text: images, video and sound can all be integrated. Some search engines have started to exploit this. The use of maps is particularly exciting for archaeology where so much information has a geographical dimension.

Map-based websites fall into two types: general (usually national, eg Scotland) and themed (usually chronological, sometimes regional). Canmap must be one of the oldest general facilities. It provides an alternative entry into the numerous records of the National Monuments Record of Scotland (www.rcahms.gov.uk), with an excellent spatial overview as well as specific site records. It is one of the most used sites on my computer. Awider range of Scottish sources can be explored using Pastmap (jura.rcahms.gov.uk/pastmap/start.jsp), which includes listed buildings records and gardens and designed landscapes.

English Heritage offers PastScape (www.pastscape.org.uk) which eschews map searches for images in a fancy system. The results are more visually polished than Canmap, and less dry, with links to a wide range of text, pictures, maps and references. In Wales, rcahmw has developed Carn (www.rcahmw.org.uk/data), which uses a map only for the initial stages and quickly turns to brief text entries leading to standard academic records. InNorthern Ireland the service is less sophisticated and a steady hand is needed. The Environment and Heritage database links directly to the map-based search facility of ahds in York where a click pulls up a list of records from a 10km square centred on your mouse. For the rest of Britain ahds offer a more refined map allowing selection of a closer geographical area (ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/index.cfm?cfid=5785&cftoken=75323176), though it is still coarse compared to the sophistication of Pastmap or Canmap.

Themed maps tend to be privately developed and vary greatly; some are highly refined. One of the best is the Megalithic Portal (www.megalithic.co.uk/mapserv), which allows you to build and zoom in to an interactive map of selected sites. Layers include later material such as hillforts, and the incorporation of contemporary culture, museums or mazes is welcome. The map leads to text and images, with links to further queries (via Google) and transcripts from appropriate records. Stone pages (www.stonepages.com), in contrast, provides a simpler map, still with plenty of information.

Roman Britain is mapped by the Roman Britain website (www.romanbritain.org/maps/maps.htm), slow to download, but good coverage with further information and links. Timeref covers medieval Britain (www.timeref.org). Maps are not comprehensive, but contain other elements such as virtual reconstructions. Area specific material is so far limited to well-known locations such as Stonehenge (www.english-heritage.org.uk/stonehengeinteractivemap), which has an interesting chronological element. Mythical Ireland has a simple but effective map of the Boyne valley sites (www.mythicalireland.com/ancientsites/interactive-map.php) though links from the map are limited.

Further maps and developments of existing sites are no doubt on the way. It is nice to see archaeology at last breaking free from the confines of fixed text and using the versatility of the web for more intuitive research and exploration.

Websites with maps

  • Megalithic Portal – www.megalithic.co.uk/mapserv
    • Not just Britain, check out sites across Europe and link to Google Maps (or another source) to view before you visit.
  • Pastmap – jura.rcahms.gov.uk/PASTMAP/start.jsp
    • The doyenne of academic "official" information. The format can be off-putting but it is full of useful detail whether you are planning a holiday or researching fieldwork.
  • Kilmartin House Interactive map – www.kilmartin.org
    • A good example of what can be done, though at the moment maps like this are only likely for well-known sites.
  • Roman Britain – www.roman-britain.org/maps/maps.htm
    • For the soldier in us all, view how others planned their occupations.
  • PastScape – www.pastscape.org.uk/homepage/index.html
    • At last, a website from English Heritage that works. Lots of links.

Recording the threads of absurdity

Leo Schmidt and Axel Klausmeier were commissioned to document the remains of the Berlin Wall. One result was a fascinating and moving website.

Though the cold war itself is a comparatively recent historical event (c1947–91), its physical heritage is already fast disappearing. This process began with the war's most evocative and iconic site, the Berlin Wall.

Huge efforts were made, mostly in 1990 and 1991, to dismantle and eradicate all of the border fortifications encircling West Berlin; a vast structure 155km in length. Many people believe the wall has disappeared almost completely. Whilst the emotional need of Berliners to eliminate the wall is entirely understandable, people might have sensed even then that the demolition was somewhat draconian in its thoroughness. Indeed there were a few warning voices from those convinced that one could not simply remove the wall, and pretend nothing had happened. It had shaped the lives of many people so painfully and for so long.

What has survived of this unique border in Berlin constitutes a scar that runs right through the city from north to south: a landscape of memory scattered with remnants and traces of the former border fortifications. A decade after the fall of the wall, Berlin politicians finally showed signs of awareness – signs of interest in seeing the border's extant remains documented and, as far as possible, preserved from further destruction. Therefore, in 2001, the Senate Department for Urban Development and Berlin's Conservation Authority instigated a full investigation and documentation of the existing remains. This work has been published as a comprehensive guide, both in German and English (Wall Remnants – Wall Traces, Westkreuz-Verlag 2004), and is now also available, in both languages, at www.stadtentwicklung.berlin.de/denkmal.

Whilst the "Berlin Wall" should be perceived as a single monument, it is in fact a compilation of countless fragments scattered over an extended area. The documentation is therefore primarily an archaeological survey covering the full extent of the border strip, including the restricted zone on its eastern side. The extant remains, in their totality, provide a relatively detailed and vivid image of the system of border obstacles and the way in which they were arranged from east to west.

Like the book, the internet documentation aims to show the existing remains of the Berlin Wall as comprehensively as possible. The website is easy to use as the whole area has been divided into sections of manageable size. Maps enable orientation in a larger context; the entire course of the border is shown from north to south in detailed maps. Symbols in the maps refer to photographs of each situation or to further information on the sections listed as monuments.

The insights gained from this documentation led to the listing of a significant number of Berlin Wall sites, though by no means all the existing sites and remnants illustrated in the documentation are now protected. No precise timespan can be forecast for the fragments at risk: indeed it is obvious that the gradual loss of wall remnants has continued throughout the making of this survey, and that a number of examples we illustrate have already disappeared. This is only one of the reasons why the documentation and now the website have been, and still are, of great importance as a source to researchers as well as tourists preparing their trip to the capital of Germany.

Leo Schmidt and Axel Klausmeier are at the Department of Conservation of the Brandenburg University of Technology in Cottbus.

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