The Newsletter of the Megiddo Expedition

Virtual Reality
Temple Complex
In Memoriam
Thutmose III
Faunal Remains
Charms Capture
The 1998 Excavation
In the Footsteps... OI
The Gossip Corner
Archaeological Virtual Reality

One of the most exciting ‘behind the scenes’ activities in the Megiddo project is the effort to depict the finds from Megiddo, from the seemingly most insignificant bead to the massive structural walls of the megaron temples, with the help of advanced computer technology. 

Three-dimensional representation of the massive Early Bronze 'temenos' walls discovered in the 1996 season below the well-known megara temples of Area J 

According to Dr. Itzhak Benenson of the Tel Aviv University Geography Department who is heading up the project, the computerization of the Megiddo data is divided into three stages. The first is storage of the excavation data. Traditionally, drawings, photographs, find location data, non-spatial characteristics and some kind of description of the finds were all stored separately, often in different rooms, or even different buildings or cities, making a comprehensive processing of their relationships like trying to reassemble that 500-page proposal after your briefcase falls open on a windy day in Chicago. That’s where modern Archaeological Information System (AIS) comes in. Combining an alphabet soup of programs and theories, like SIS (Spatial Information Systems theory), 3DV (Three-Dimensional Visualization), SSA (Spatial Statistical Analysis), 4D GIS (Four-Dimensional Geographic Information Systems) and TIN (Triangulated Irregular Network—which you and I thought was some kind of Sumerogram for Persian rice), AIS allows the simultaneous storage, updating and management of spatial, imaginal, attributive and temporal data in one place. 

What do Itzhak and the other computer gurus do with this huge database once they have constructed it? It then comes time for the spatio-temporal analysis of that data. Itzhak describes this process as a multiple recurrent querying of the data sets according to their attributive, spatial and temporal characteristics. In other words, rummaging through dusty photo archives, sorting through hundreds of mis-labeled drawers of architectural drawings and searching for that one piece of Mycenaean pottery from a Samarian highlands site that someone thought he remembered seeing in 1967, one can simply double-click on the appropriate field to view an object and see exactly where and in what relation to its surroundings it was found. With immediate access to such a huge amount of information, one can rapidly find accurate answers to those ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions archaeologists have a habit of asking. 

These questions demand the perception and reasoning of the human mind which no computer (at least not yet!) can match. However, the third aspect of Itzhak’s work may aid the archaeologist in his search for answers to these questions, too. From the information gathered it is possible to develop a three-dimensional reconstruction of an ancient site and even ‘walk’ through it in virtual reality. Judith Dekel has been working tirelessly on her Auto-CAD system, transferring the information gathered from the field into a graphically represented format. Left is her representation of this summer’s dig through the massive Early Bronze ‘temple’ complex, discovered below the already famous Early Bronze megara in Area J. 

The excavation’s directors foresee this powerful tool contributing to the clarification of stratigraphic problems, the layout and palaeotopography of multi-period sites and the distribution of a site’s finds; e.g., the relationships between faunal remains and types of pottery, faunal and botanical remains, etc. The results should open new avenues for domestic archaeology, i.e., identification of the function of the various parts of the house/site from the economic and demographic points of view, and by studying the distribution of prestige goods, further the understanding of the social stratification of a population.

Jared L. Miller