Digital Gordion

Beginning in 2007 the Gordion Archaeological Project at the Penn Museum began the process of digitizing the content of the Gordion Archive. Our goal is to produce not only a digital version of the archive, but also a tool to facilitate research and publication of the materials.

Recently available digital technologies can powerfully organize, process, and rapidly deliver large quantities of information (including masses of photographic imagery) to researchers throughout the world. At the same time, they can improve the researcher’s analytical toolkit, provide a backup of the data, and facilitate collaboration among scholars working on the same data from different locations. They have the potential to shave off years of post-excavation publication programs by liberating a research team from heavy logistical burdens and allowing them to concentrate on the actual interpretation and presentation of the material.

These benefits should enable the Gordion Project to overcome logistical obstacles that were practically insurmountable before. To examine the “paper” excavation records in the Gordion Archive, study visits have proved prohibitively expensive for researchers across the world, and usually inadequate in terms of the study time actually needed. Evaluation and processing of the enormous Gordion dataset has been time consuming and arduous, especially in terms of dealing with the complexities of the site’s stratigraphy and the manifold details of specific archaeological contexts.

A graphic showing how users, the Digital Gordion interface, the database layout, and the database engine all connect and work together.

In creating Digital Gordion, we have used mainstream, tested technologies with broad standard compliance. More importantly, we used Open Source software wherever possible, but we have not shied away from creating our own when needed. For example, while the engine that drives our database is standard MySQL, we built the layout (or schema), the back-end logic, and the interface from the ground up in order to meet our specific requirements. Here too, we prefer the use of standard open source technologies: the interface for Digital Gordion is a Web application based on HTML, PHP, and Javascript, thus making it platform-independent and accessible from anywhere.

Further Reading

  • Darbyshire, G. and G.H. Pizzorno. 2009. “Building Digital Gordion,” Expedition 51.2, pp. 23–30.