Frameworks for the web-based acquisition and processing of archaeological geo(specialist) data

Transparent representation of an archaeological mapping via Ortophotos i3mainz, CC BY SA 4.0

General requirements are often placed on Web GIS applications for processing archaeological geodata. Two very different case studies show how these can be fulfilled by a Web GIS framework.


Geographical and temporal modeling is a central aspect of archaeological data models. On the one hand, this is due to the relevance that the spatial reference has for archaeological data. On the other hand, many analyzes that generate a better understanding of the data are only possible in this way. Web-based GIS can enable research groups to edit their data in a geographical context. The requirements for such systems include core elements that occur very frequently. These include:

  • Administration, collection and manipulation
  • Analysis and visualization
  • Provisioning and Access Control

Two very different use cases show how these requirements can be met by using a Web GIS framework. The DFG priority program “Ports from the Roman Empire to the Middle Ages” works with data on port facilities from antiquity and the Middle Ages throughout Europe. For the evaluation of exchange scenarios for the resulting research data, i3mainz has developed a web-based proposal with freely available data. A second project is themed around the Bronze/Iron Age at Monte Bisenzio in Lazio, Italy.


In numerous projects, i3mainz has gained experience with different Web GIS frameworks. The OpenGeoSuite is used for the projects discussed here. This software has been developed and provided open source by the company Boundless for several years. With the goal of an OGC-compliant Web GIS platform, the OpenGeoSuite is based on widely used, powerful FOSS projects that Boundless is co-developing. PostgreSQL/PostGIS is used as the database, GeoServer as the OGC web service provider and GeoExplorer as the web GIS client. These components cover the core requirements mentioned and, thanks to their open source licensing, can be adapted to other requirements and expanded with additional functionality.


The Web GIS Client for the SPP Ports Project enables stakeholders to collect and manage data on ancient and medieval ports. In addition to the data modeled as point geometries, line and area geometries can also be processed. In addition, selected (settlements, roads and hydrological structures), freely available vector data sets from the Pleiades project were taken and integrated.

In contrast to the SPP Häfen project, the second example has a more local spatial extent around Monte Bisenzio on the Italian Lago di Bolsena (Viterbo, Lazio). The resulting Web GIS integrates a wide variety of raster data sets (orthophotos, historical aerial photographs, terrain models and topographic maps as well as archaeological specialist data) and also enables vector data to be recorded in the various geometric forms. The aim is to provide the planned research project with a platform for uniform visualization and the exchange of existing databases during the project period.