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World Heritage GIS

Dalarna's Museum is digitising data from the many archaeological investigations that has taken place within the World Heritage Site of the Great Copper Mountain in Falun. The project is run by the County Administrative Board of Dalarna.

The copper mine with its surrounding industrial landscape and the older city center in Falun was designated as a World Heritage Site by the UN agency UNESCO in 2001. This means that the area is so unique that it must be preserved for humanity. Both before and after the decision, many archaeological investigations have been carried out in this area.

A city and an area is a living place, people build stuff, society develops and the material world change. In order to carry out construction work that will somehow affect the ground, whether it is the building of a new home, the drawing of a road or digging and laying down waterpipes, the person responsible for the project need a permission of the county administrative board. The archaeologists are often involved in this process, either to provide the county administrative board with more data on the particular area or by documenting the archaeological remains that are destroyed by the construction project.

The County Administrative Board of Dalarna, in conjunction with Dalarna's Museum, is carrying out a project intended to digitise all the data that has been collected in the hundreds of archaeological investigations carried out in the World Heritage area over the years. The documentation is kept in archives in multiple forms, as printed reports, drawings, photographs, as archaeological artifacts as well as in field notes from the investigation. In the archives at the museum there is documentation material from both in house investigations as well as reports from other cultural heritage institutions and companies.

The project aims to transfer this data to a geographical database, or a GIS. The abbreviation GIS stands for Geographic Information System and is simply put a map on the computer that is linked to a database. The advantage of this compared to having loose paper in the archives is that it is possible to quickly see what has been done, and where, by a click on the map or a search in the database. A bit like the map application on your phone, but instead of seeing which restaurant is open where, you can see which excavation was done where, and what the archaeologists came up with. The GIS-map will in time become dotted with markings, because there is a lot of archaeological investigations that has been conducted in the World Heritage area over the years. It will be possible to conduct specific searches within the GIS, and to add new archaeological data as it is produced in the future. The project will make archaeological knowledge available that up until now has been sitting on shelves in the archives.

Considering the amounts of information that need to be processed, the museum has hired an archaeologist with special GIS engineering skills. In 2021 and XNUMX, Olof Håkansson has been employed to carry out the museum's part of the digitisation. A typical working day for Olof consists of going through archaeological documentation in order to pick out relevant data to enter into the database. The documentation is made up of printed reports as well as material created during the various stages of the archaeological process. Sorting through all the archaeological documentation means going through yellowing paper in old archive folders, handwritten notes, cut-out newspaper articles, slides, printed faxes, emails, letters, and dusty old section drawings and plans from the archaeological excavations. Some drawings are small temporary sketches in notepads and others, in particular the printed drawings from architectural firms, so large that they need to be laid out on the floor.

The first thing to do is to pin point the location of the excavation on the map on the computer screen. This is done by finding points in the plans from the excavation that correspond to current points in the map displayed on the computer screen. Buildings can be rebuilt or replaced, so various map services may be open in the browser so that building details can be inspected in order to determine the age of the houses. When corresponding points is identified in both the old and the new map, the old map is temporarily placed over the modern map in the software on the computer. Then the excavation area, the schafts and the individual layers are digitised, or sketched rather, from the the old map and onto the new on the computer screen. And thus! All the shapes from the old map is now in the new map and database.

Once the shapes and positions are in the map on the computer, the next step is to identify and retrieve data from the documentation material and enter this in the database. In the project special focus is placed on the height above sea level for the cultural layers and natural ground level. Cultural layers are layers of soil with traces of human activity and they may be indicated on drawings or mentioned in the documentation. The traces are shown through culturally produced waste such as bones and potsherds but also as slag.

To get the right information, Olof carefully measures with a ruler on the drawings from the archaeological investigations and then proceed to press the buttons on the calculator to transform the millimeters on the ruler on the desk to meters above sea level on the globe. It is indeed a form of detective work in the archives that is now being carried out at Dalarnas museum!

If you want to know more, contact Olof Håkansson on 072-145 19 31, olof.hakansson@dalarnasmuseum.se

Photos: Olof Håkansson