Spatio-temporal integration of archaeological data in the DFG Priority Programme 1630 - Harbours

Scenic representation of the harbour area of Haithabu ©Wikinger Museum Haithabu, All rights reserved

Within the framework of the information pooling of archaeological data, the core information of the individual projects on ports and port-related infrastructure is compiled in a specific data model and made available to the other projects while respecting the respective author’s rights. This creates an overarching and consistent database, which is essential for analysing the overarching questions defined in the framework application of the priority programme.


During the first funding period of SPP 1630, the necessity of synthetically combining data and information from the individual projects was identified. On this basis, conceptual preliminary work took place in order to develop a long-term sustainable model for data integration, analysis and re-use. A prototype WebGIS based on tabulated data on individual ports has already been created, which demonstrates the possibilities of data visualisation and serves as a basis for further development in terms of content and technology.

The following overarching questions defined in the SPP framework proposal are to be served with the help of the emerging system:

  • Structural developments of ports, taking into account possible technology transfers as well as the interactions between shipbuilding and port construction.
  • Interactions between topography and harbour construction, taking into account landscape changes caused by or for harbour constructions
  • Structural change in economic and transport areas, taking into account the connections between transport links and the economic function of ports as well as their integration into trade networks.

In this way, a further analysis taking into account external data, such as NAVIS or river networks, can result in a database that can be used and queried as a web application.  Furthermore, through the use of standardised web services, there is no binding to limited WebGIS functionalities. This enables integration into external virtual research environments as well as use within cooperative scientific work.


A WebGIS was designed and implemented in the “Data Merging” project. This is a web-based application that makes it possible to store, analyse and display the data collected in the SPP. The WebGIS consists of a PostgreSQL database with the PostGIS extension, a server for geodata provision, the GeoServer, and a web application that makes the data from the database displayable in the browser.

The main component of the WebGIS is the data provided by the project participants of the SPP, in the meantime about 6,000 especially port-related locations and sites as individual points. For spatial orientation, various base maps and a map of sea depths have been implemented. Further data layers, such as de Graauw’s harbour dataset, a fetch dataset on wind susceptibility in the Adriatic and infrastructure elements of the Digital Atlas of Roman and Medieval Civilizations enable the classification of the collected data from SPP 1630 in the external specialist world. A detailed developed data collection guideline also enables external researchers to provide data in the WebGIS of the SPP. Several researchers have now taken up this offer, demonstrating the practicality of this approach.


After two data volumes were presented in 2018, six more have already appeared in 2019, which are deposited in the European Harbour Data Repository of the Digital Library Thuringia at the Thuringian University and State Library Jena. The data is also archived in the Digital Library Thuringia for long-term availability. The European Harbour Data Repository is licensed under the Creative Commons License CC-BY-NC-SA.
Each volume reflects the results of a project team within, but also outside, the priority programme; the individual volumes therefore differ considerably in spatial and temporal focus as well as in the size of the datasets.

The database scheme on which the publications are based was developed by a team of archaeologists, historians, geographers and computer scientists from the University of Jena and the University of Applied Sciences Mainz. They were supported by the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology Schleswig and the other participating institutions and projects within the priority programme.
The published volumes are edited by Lukas Werther, Hartmut Müller and Marion Foucher, supported by Sebastian Steppan. The basis of a volume is an Excel table. It catalogues Roman and medieval ports, port-related infrastructure and ships throughout Europe. Before publication, the data sets are checked with the help of a protocol to avoid inconsistent and missing data as well as spelling mistakes. The various datasets are available both as Excel files and as .csv to allow for long-term reusability. Additional information and critical comments are available in an attached pdf. Further datasets for publication are in progress.