Catalhoyuk diaries: August 2006

It's hard to believe my time here has flown so quickly. I’m sad to be leaving on Friday, and I feel like there’s not enough time to get everything I want to done before I go. The Istanbul team left today and some specialists are starting to leave, so the site already feels a little like it’s winding down for the season.

This season I've mostly been concentrating on working through recording structures and developing the interface for a unified Clay Objects database application.

I've been talking about my ideas this application for the past two years so it's great to finally get a chance to make it real. I've had lots of intense discussions with pottery, figurines and building materials specialists as well as a new member of the team who is looking at the changes in the fabric of the site across artefact types and excavation processes.

Working with someone who'll actually be benefiting from this unified approach to recording, and re-examining existing recording so that as far as possible clay fabrics or matrices are recorded according to diagnostic evidence (particularly someone with a background in geology who is able to bring a lot of technical expertise to the project) has been a real advantage.

I've also been working with the Human Remains team on their database, but they've made my job easy by developing their own forms based on the data structures I sent from London. They've been really inspiring – it's one thing to tell people that they have the power to create their own interfaces and queries, but it's so much better to see people actually do it.

In between that (and sometimes the development happens in-between solving other problems) I've been dealing with smaller fixes to existing databases, dealing with network issues and all kinds of things that you come up when people ask you any computer-related questions.

My brain has been working overtime; there are so many new ways of interrogating the databases now that everything is becoming integrated that the possibilities seem endless. We’ve had a few seminars, and people presenting their PhD research, and I come out with ideas for new improvements every time. It’s also been fascinating hearing how their data translates into a picture of life lived on the mound.

The model of creating 'new' database applications by combining existing data across specialisms with new interpretation and specialist recording will be the basis for the architectural and beads databases, and I'm already excited by that. One idea that fascinates me is the idea of recording things like that the wall paintings in the database so they can be linked to other representational artefacts like figurines and stamp seals. A 'representational database' could look at similarities and differences in images across all and any materials or artefact types. Do wall paintings show the same kinds of artistic, personal or cultural concerns as the figurines? Do certain types of features occur with certain kinds of representational artifacts?

Anyway, I don’t want to hog the internet computer, so it’s back to work for me.

[Originally published on, August 2, 2006]

Catalhoyuk diaries: Settling in

It's my first proper working day on site this season and I'm slowly working my way through Sarah's documentation of the database work and general IT issues she's encountered while she was here. At this stage, I only have one major 'new' application to work on, and in large part that's thanks to Sarah's hard work over the past months, both on- and off-site.

I'm hoping that now that the hard grunt work of centralising, bug fixing, cleaning and consolidating the existing databases over the past few years is (mostly) over, and the applications I created in previous years are bedded in, I'll have a real chance to think about what else we can do with all this data. I was so busy before I left London that I hadn't really had a chance to get excited about coming back to Catalhoyuk but as soon as I was on my way I realised that this could be an immensely intellectually rich and rewarding two weeks.

There's always so much new technology, I'm sure there's a knack to not getting carried away by every new possibility. But I can't help but wonder what would happen if we recreated Catalhoyuk in Second Life or another 3D world. Imagine re-populating the mound with a living community of real people!

I'd love to see how we could use semantic web/Web 2.0 technologies to open up our data to the rest of the world. I'm interested in the tagging technologies emerging through folksonomies like, and wonder if we could apply them to the finds data we publish on the web.

I've realised that you could almost think of the excavation diary entries as blog posts, in which case Catalhoyuk has a blog that goes back to 1997.

[Originally published on, July 22, 2006]