The Grammar of the Archaeological Record

2. The Manual

1. Preface

Giorgio Buccellati – June 2010

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1.1: Producing the Urkesh Global Record

The volume entitled A Critique of Archaeological Reason (along with its companion website CAR) provides the theoretical framework for a very specific digital approach to the process of excavation and of publication (cf. also the introductory section of the GRAMMAR). It does not deal, however, with the mechanics that are needed to implement the theory and to actually produce the record in question. That is the task of the present Manual.

Theoretically, the Manual implements the principles developed in the Critique. In point of fact, the final result, which is the Browser Edition, is possible only because of such close adherence in the field to the grammatical structure of the data as described in the Critique. One might say that the Manual is to the Critique what the «parole» is to the «langue».

Practically, the Manual outlines the concrete operations that are used in the field at Tell Mozan, in the excavation of ancient Urkesh. The process required to produce the record is quite distinct from its utilization, once completed.

In practice, the flow of operations is rather complex, and the purpose of this Manual is not to provide how-to directions that can be followed without supervision. It is only a reference tool for the use of the project staff, whether already familiar with the system, or being coached on the job. It is also geared very specifically for use within the Tell Mozan/Urkesh Archaeological Project, and some of the references are of interest only within that context – e.g., with regard to the LAN system used in the Mozan Expedition House.

As a result, it is not my expectation that the Manual may stand by itself and be so read and put in practice by external users. For this reason, too, the Manual is only made available as an in-house publication.

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1.2: The data

Three parts of the volume deal with the structure of the data. First, the input data (A. Data Input). This is the section that will be of most direct use in the field, and with which all users must be thoroughly familiar. It incorporates forms, protocols and instructions that have been routinely used over the years, but are here provided with detailed explanations.

Second, the data base (E. Data Base). This is the basic archival output, which is not intended for consultation, but as a formatted and organized basis for any ensuing analysis. No particular familiarity with this output (contained primarily in the O folder of individual books) is needed, and it has been used so far primarily as a way of checking the data after input. This may no longer be necessary, as the browser edition is now in full force, and the data will be checked directly against it. A basic knowledge of it will only be useful if one wishes to use the special programs described below in Part D. Auxiliary Programs.

Third, the browser edition (F. Browser Edition). What is described here is not its use (which is meant to be intuitive, and which is in any case described already in the Grammar), but rather the conditions that are required for its proper functioning. Once the proper set-up has been obtained, there should be no further need for the user to refer to it.

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1.3: The programs

Other three parts of the Manual (B. Operations; C. Core Programs; D. Auxiliary Programs) deal with the use of the special in-house programs that cover a broad range of operations.

Everyone on the staff ought to be familiar with the backbone of the system which is the JD suite. There is however no expectation that members of the staff make modifications to the programs themselves, which is why the actual code is not given here. I will continue to modify programs as needed, with the assistance of Federico A. Buccellati.

Unit Supervisors (the “Number Ones,” in our parlance) ought to be thoroughly familiar with the Endogenous Programs as well, and must monitor closely the output of the Exogenous Programs. The actual running of these Exogenous Programs is entrusted to those who are responsible for specific typological or referential areas, such as ceramic analysis or photography.

Operation of the Auxiliary Programs is not an immediate requirement, but will become more and more useful as a more personal utilization of the archive, i.e. of the Urkesh Global Record (UGR), becomes desirable.

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1.4: Data entry as publication

It is a basic principle of the grammatical approach I have established that every observation made is meant for public use, and hence be conceived as “published” from the very moment it is recorded. I will stress here two important corollaries:

  1. First, it is imperative that no "private" notes exist outside of the system as far as the documentation is concerned. (Interpretation may be considered outside of this mandate, except insofar as it affects strategy and therefore, ultimately, the documentary record of our overall effort.) It is therefore the responsibility of all staff members, but especially of unit directors, that all pertinent data get funneled to the "clean-tree" repository (Socrates) in the established grammatical format.
  2. Second, since every single entry is initialed and dated, a full record of all entries made by any given individual is available in the browser edition (under the entry for "Staff"). This can be used by the person in question as a bibliographical item in his or her CV.

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1.5: Typographical conventions

Throughout the Manual, boxes include sample data entry files. The following typographical conventions are used in these boxes:

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file content (J01 underline indicates entries to be changed as needed)

  • [comments – placed after any given entry to explain nature of entry];
  • ^ stands for tab;
  • blank lines are optional in all files;
  • ; a semi-colon or a single quote in first position indicate that the entry that follows is a general comment that will not be used by programs.

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