Systems Design and Programming From the Dig Brother Case Study

Systems Design and Programming From the Dig Brother Case Study
Systems Design and Programming From the Dig Brother Case Study

From four thousand year old burial sites, through Roman villas and Tudor palaces, to the Industrial Revolution and the secret operational bases of the Second World War, there is virtually no town or village in the UK that doesn’t sit on layers of history. Sometimes that history is very visible: a castle on the top of a hill or a circle of standing stones, but much of that history lies buried in back gardens and under terraces of Victorian houses. Many people are fascinated by the rich, complex history under their feet and being able to share in that heritage can provide a sense of community and attachment.

As part of the trend for Citizen Science, many local historical societies organise community archaeology projects, where volunteers carry out small excavations in their own gardens, or in public areas such as parks. Each hole that’s dug is usually 1 metre squared, and one metre deep and it’s important that every hole is the same so that the data from each can be reliably compared. Volunteers collect any manmade items they find in that hole – china, pottery, glass, metal etc – and return it to a central area where each piece is washed, sorted and catalogued: this allows archaeologists to get an overview of where people were living and what they were doing in different areas and any particularly interesting or unusual finds can then be followed up with a more extensive, professional exacavation.

These Citizen Archaeology projects provide invaluable data that would otherwise be incredibly difficult and expensive to collect and process. They allow experts to explore areas of the country that may have previously been overlooked because there was no historical record of anything happening there and they can give insight into the lives of ordinary people in a single area across a long period of time (this is known as a longitudinal study). However these projects also face huge challenges: there’s unlikely to be any money available to hire professional equipment such as ground-penetrating radar and very few volunteers will have any practical experience. They may discard valuable evidence because they don’t realise what it is (for example some kinds of pottery found in the UK can look very much like stones) and there may be particular issues with things like wood which don’t survive well in the British soil. For long periods of time, most buildings in the UK were made of wood which survives only as stains in the earth: these can be difficult for even professionals to identify but could be lost forever if it’s excavated by someone without training.

Dig Brother is a volunteer organisation staffed by academics and professionals from history, archaeology and geosciences. It aims to provide Citizen Archaeology projects with access to specialist advice and support, as well as data management before, during and after the excavations. This allows the specialists to explore new areas, gives Master’s and PhD students a chance to practise their skills, and helps to ensure that precious evidence isn’t lost through misidentification. Before the excavation takes place, they help to plan the places to focus on; during the excavation, they operate specialist equipment, provide guidance on health & safety, help co-ordinate, identify and sort the finds. When the excavations are complete, they help to process the evidence that’s been collected, for example dating and preserving the finds, process the data and make recommendations about where further archaeology should take place. The long-term aim is to compile the data from a range of Citizen Archaeology projects, to get detailed information covering the whole of the UK.

All of this requires considerable organisation and resource management, so Dig Brother want a custom desktop application (without internet connectivity) to keep track of their previous and upcoming excavations, the volunteers who will be participating in any one particular project, the equipment they have available (and whether it’s in working order) and the distribution of finds resulting from a given dig.

DB_Central will need the following items:

Custom Classes

ExcavationID = “London_130419”

GridPosition = new Point(2,3) //see extra guidance section below

FindType = eFind.pottery

FindDate = eEra.roman

FindCount = 5

Interface Elements

Guidance Note – Finds Grids

To help get a sense of the distribution of finds across a site, archaeological studies often divide the site into a grid – for our purposes all grids are four by four and each square in the grid is identified by a pair of numbers indicating how far across and how far down it is. The first diagram below shows the IDs of squares in a four by four grid, with north at the top:

0,0 0,1 0,2 0,3
1,0 1,1 1,2 1,3
2,0 2,1 2,2 2,3
3,0 3,1 3,2 3,3

Each of these grid squares will be represented by one object of the Finds class and you can place numbers in each grid that represent the total number of items of a particular type or era. The example below left simulates the results you might get for Roman finds; the example below right simulates the results for the same excavation but for medieval pottery (so you can see that the centre of the site has moved to the northwest over time):

0 1 0 2
0 3 8 4
1 2 15 9
1 5 8 7
6 11 6 0
12 23 13 1
9 15 9 3
5 8 1 2

Coursework Structure

The Coursework is divided into three sections:


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