Samtavro Cemetery Data Visualisation

Academic

Dr Aleksandra Michalewicz
School of Historical and Philosophical Studies

Intern

Emily Fitzgerald
School of Historical and Philosophical Studies

Project Description

The Samtavro Cemetery (modern eastern Georgia) is the largest and most significant non-elite burial ground in the South Caucasus, dating from the Middle Bronze Age to the Late Antique period. It has been extensively excavated, but publications remain fragmented and disparate in focus. This project seeks to combine two significant data sets: one containing structure and contents of 1075 tombs, and the other geospatial information about the physical layout of graves across the cemetery. The internship will focus on linking these datasets and will explore mapping planforms that could bring together information about the cemetery landscape and excavations through an interactive visualisation.

Project Outcome

The data sets for this project initially were created using FileMaker Pro and ArcGIS. To join these data sets and visualise map excavation results from Samtavro cemetery we decided to use the open source and free mapping software, QGIS. At the backend Excel was used to clean up and combine datasets. Challenges encountered with this project included determining the most appropriate software to use, reconciling the two data sets and then joining the data for visualisation.

The project has resulted in a map of the site, with the ability to search for specific features. The purpose of this was to identify patterns pertaining to inhumation practices and the presence (or absence) of grave goods throughout the cemetery. By creating this visualisation, we are now able to undertake closer analysis of mortuary ritual at Samtavro (for example, identifying relationships between artefact subtypes, or examining certain treatments of the human remains). There are also opportunities to develop further the map, such as linking images to the visualisation, and adding GIS co-ordinates to lock the map onto global positioning.