The data integration project
Thomas Engel, Hartmut Müller, Lukas Werther
One of the main objectives of the Priority Programme 1630 is to answer cross-sectional questions of historic harbour development. A systematic integration of harbour and harbour related data is inevitable in order to achieve this. A highly flexible data acquisition system enables the gradual import of heterogeneous harbour data from each of the archaeological projects of the SPP. One of the major outcomes of the project will be a “data-product”, which is planned to be archived within a valid digital archive and at the same time serve as a digital publication.
The second main initiative of the project is the development of the HArbour Research Environment “HARE”, an efficient tool for cross-project, diachronic analysis. An open-data approach and the use of standardized open source Web-GIS services and technologies ensure long-term availability and usability. Additional harbour-related context information allow for an analysis of the complex interplay between harbours, waterways, ships, goods and society.
The data-collection process
The data entry process is based on simple EXCEL sheets. It proved to be streamlined and light-weight and already lead to the submission of more than 700 harbour and waterways/canals datasets and over 1500 water vessels from almost all of the SPP projects of the first funding period.
In the second phase, the data-collection process goes one step beyond and will also incorporate data on the level of functional complexes, rather than just on find spots. This enables each project to further refine their already submitted datasets. Furthermore, projects working on just few harbours can then submit data in much more detail.
HArbour Research Environment “HARE”
The SPP Virtual Research Environment HARE is a web GIS that allows users to see harbour related data in their web browsers. It is openly accessible under the following web address. Login as “guest” or with your project-specific login data:
While Desktop GIS are perfect for advanced analysis of geospatial data, web GIS applications can be a better fit for exploring spatial data without the need to download and layout it first. This has a special benefit for users with limited GIS knowledge and users who simply want to browse data first before integrating them into their Desktop GIS via services or download it locally. HARE has the following main purposes:
- Pivotal point of the integration of all harbour data and contextual datasets originating from the SPP as well as the research community
- Provide technically interoperable and therefore streamlined access to data, supporting mid-term reuse of data (e.g. for talks or papers)
- Information of the status quo between the SPP projects research data
- Dissemination of SPP datasets between projects and interested third parties
Since the initial development of HARE, two prototypical use-cases were identified.
- In 2015, the harbour datasets have been used for a case study to evaluate the data interoperability. Two different datasets of inland harbours in the catchments of Rhine, Danube, Rhône and Po have been integrated, spatially connected with additional hydrological data and transferred to a network analysis (cf. https://www.academia.edu/30138802/Connecting_Harbours._A_comparison_of_traffic_networks_across_ancient_and_medieval_Europe). The homogenous data structure and the use of a general (although preliminary) terminology proved its value for cross-project tasks.
- Based on work conducted by M. Nitter and J. Coolen in the framework of SPP project “HaNoA - Harbours in the North Atlantic” in 2015, a technical case study dealt with the calculation of the wind-fetch. Fetch, also called the fetch length, is the length of open water over which a wind has travelled before meeting an obstacle, like a shore or reef. Fetch length, along with wind speed, determines the maximum size of waves produced. Existing GIS methods were amended by the HARE development team to allow for the creation of layers from 8 different wind directions for the Adriatic sea in collaboration with the SPP project “The Adriatic communication area”. As a result, the integration of the fetch layers into HARE provides SPP Projects with high-quality context information for coastal analysis purposes.
The process shows how context information derived from existing data can be of additional value and offer new insights.
The important task of long-term availability and -reuse cannot be covered by HARE, as its infrastructure is currently not bound to a certain institution. As a consequence it is unclear how the system is maintained and supported after the runtime of SPP 1630. The second and more long-lasting outcome of the data integration project will therefore be a bi-lingual data-product, consisting of collected datasets and necessary descriptions. During the project runtime, research infrastructures like IANUS (http://www.ianus-fdz.de/) and ADS (http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/) , who typically ingest archaeological research datasets, are evaluated. Once the open datasets are submitted to one of these services, each dataset will get a DOI and hence become referenceable. As a consequence, these infrastructures ensure long-term preservation and availability.
Outlook and Participation
The harbour research environment HARE is designed as a modular, dynamic system which is intended to grow in technical capabilities, as well as in content. Therefore, we invite all researchers within as well as outside the framework of SPP 1630, to cooperate. Please contact the project team if you wish to contribute.
T. Engel/A. Kunz/H. Müller/L. Werther, Towards a virtual research environment for ancient harbour data. In: Harbours as objects of interdisciplinary research – Archaeology + History + Geoscience. Proceedings of the Conference at Kiel 2016. Interdisziplinäre Forschungen zu Häfen von der Römischen Kaiserzeit bis zum Mittelalter (submitted).
Frequently asked questions:
Is HARE also open to non-SPP researchers?
Yes, it is open to the scientific harbour research community. Nevertheless, until 2018 not all the data will be available to public. Please contact us for details.
How can I get the EXCEL-Sheets to submit data?
Please contact Thomas Engel (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Lukas Werther (Lukas.email@example.com) for the latest versions.
(Until when) Do I have to submit a dataset?
Although no project is constrained to submit their data, the submission of datasets from all SPP 1630 projects is the declared goal of our initiative. If the data-integration EXCEL-sheets are not adequate for your type of data, please let us know. The majority of datasets will be delivered throughout the year 2017, so that they can be included in HARE and in a second step issued to IANUS/ADS.
Is it possible to calculate fetch in coastal areas for my project?
We are happy to support your request. However, calculating fetch is a complex task so it would be best to talk to us for further advise.