Modern technology used to report on ancient village

November 04, 2004, vol. 31, no. 5
By Howard Fluxgold



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About a thousand years ago wealthy, well-dressed nobles lived side by side with commoners and slaves, not in medieval England but right here in British Columbia.

Now, their story is being told by archaeologist Brian Hayden who has spent 20 years excavating and studying one of the largest prehistoric communities in B.C. at Keatley Creek near Lillloet.

Hayden is going high tech to tell the tale, releasing the third volume of his research on a CD-ROM called the Ancient Past of Keatley Creek.

The first two volumes reporting on the Keatley Creek project were in standard print format, but the learning and instructional development centre (LIDC) has created a vibrant, interactive CD for the third volume.

Keatley Creek is a large prehistoric housepit village site located on the terraces of the Fraser River, about 20 kilometres upstream from Lillooet. It is the largest remaining site of a series of unusually large prehistoric housepit villages in the area. About 1,200-1,500 people lived in the village between 1000-2000 years ago.

Hayden and a group of archaeologists and students began work on the site in 1986. They chose to put the third and final volume of their research on CD-ROM because, as Hayden says, “it was the most efficient way of doing it. The first two volumes were done in book form because they were more theoretical, with a wider readership. The CD has more technical details of interest to specialists.”

Hayden praised the work of LIDC. “They made it a showcase piece. It's interactive and user friendly. It's one of the best CDs of this nature that I've seen.”

The CD is especially good in setting out the floor plans of the pit houses, Hayden explains.

“We are trying to look at all the activities that took place on the floor. Some of those floor plans get very complicated. There are different kinds of artifacts, postholes, pits for storage, fireplaces and all sorts of things. With the CD, there's no problem using different colours and different symbols to record all that and make it comprehensible. We've done this for the most complex floors - some are exceedingly complex. But it's really essential for understanding how these groups were organized inside the houses. You can also use several layers to access whatever part of the site plans you want.”

H e adds that “by using a CD Rom we could include the entire catalog of artifacts for the site - more than 15,000 items with all their exact find coordinates and other important information about each piece, such as material and type of artifact. You can't do that in the print medium.”

While Hayden doesn't foresee the end of the traditional ways of publishing research, he does believe that new technology has its place.

“There are a number of archaeological reports that have come out on CD , but it is not the dominant mode. However, it does fill a definite niche.” The CD is available at the department of archaeology office for $15.

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