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Geographical Information System (GIS) for Archaeological Resource

Management in Sri Lanka

The project on "Geographical Information System(GIS) based spatial database for Sri
Lanka" is an on going research project executed by Department of Archaeology and
Urban Development Authority. This inaugurated the first official collaborative
archaeological project between state Archaeology Department and local semi government
authority. The project is co-directed by Mr. L.H.Indrasiri , Director , UDA/GIS and Mr.
Senarth Disssanayake, Director , Exploration and Registration, Department of
Archaeology and implemented by the author. Urban Development Authority funded
following technical and logistic assistance;
GPS facilities, GIS facilities, Laboratory facilities, Digital Data, Transportation and
Subsistence and payments of exploration officers for the field survey derived from
Department of Archaeology.
This paper discusses the creation of Geographical Information System(GIS) database for
Sri Lanka. Archaeological sites and monuments, the adopted methodology and how it
could be possible to apply various technologies related to Geographical Information
System(GIS) for archaeological resource management in Sri Lanka.
Geographical Information System(GIS) and Archaeological resource management in Sri
Archaeological resource management is one of the main responsible of Department of
Archaeology. The objectives of archaeological resource management are the protection,
conservation and enhancement of archaeological resources. To reach the objectives, site
specific management strategies must be implemented.
To effectively manage
archaeological resources, a systematic approach is required. The following steps provide
a methodological frame work for the management process.

Surveying and creating an inventory to document archaeological sites and

monuments, their historical setting and physical environment.
Assessing and evaluating archaeological heritage resources, their setting and values
Analyzing and investigating material subsistence, structural systems and the historic
and contemporary context to design suitable conservation policies.
Developing strategies for short and long-term programs for conservation management
and anticipated future changes.
Implementing , monitoring, reviewing and where necessary, revising the programs
that were developed.

Geographical Information System(GIS) is useful tool in assisting in the execution of all

of these procedures. Geographical Information System(GIS) is a set of computerized
tools to collect, archive, manage, retrieve, analyze and output geographic and associated
attribute data. It records the geometry and location of real world features in layers of a
digital map. Geographical Information System(GIS) has capabilities for database
management, mapping, image processing and statistical analysis. In the past
Geographical Information System(GIS) has been primarily used for archaeological
research, although now there is an increase in the use of Geographical Information
System(GIS) as a archaeological resource management tool. The creation and
maintenance of a archaeological resource inventory is one of the most important steps in
the archaeological resource management process and necessary for undertaking any
additional management and research activities The creation of site inventory is needed to
systematically account for the archaeological resources in a country. Creating a
archaeological resources inventory has two purposes. First a computerized spatial
inventory enables archaeologists to input, store, retrieve, analysis and update
archaeological data more effectively. Second , the inventory is used to communicate data
to third parties. If data is collected and simply archived, the data is limited use. When
Department of Archaeology and other Institutes and public utilize the data the potential
benefits of Geographical Information System(GIS) are realized. The spatial inventory of
sites and monuments is the major source of Information for understanding the local
historic environment. The inclusion of a site on an spatial inventory gives it formal
recognition in the planning process, and local planning authorities take account of this in
drawing up development plans and reaching planning decisions. They also provide the
basis for the formulation of management policies and provide a valuable resources for
research and education.
A Geographical Information System(GIS) cane centralize all relevant site data by
reviewing the inventory,'information gaps' in the data concerning heritage resources can
be identified and a program of research and documentation can then be undertaken.
Having access to up-to-date, accurate information enables archaeologists to better
understand the sites and more effectively manage its heritage resources.
There are two essential requirements for data to be compatible with Geographical
Information System(GIS) applications. First computerized information management
systems require standarized data stored with inflexible database structure. Second
Geographical Information System(GIS) database design requires that data be tired to
specific locations and features.
Project background
As mentioned above Department of Archaeology is responsible to maintain a register of
all known archaeological sites and monuments in Sri Lanka. The existence of site is a
first step on the path of effective and responsible archaeological management. In 1998
the Department of Archaeology took the first step towards establishing a national sites
and monuments database for Sri Lanka. Initially two attempts were made at designing
spatial database; the first in the early 1998, the second in late 2000 using Microsoft

Access with Auto Cad software. Both systems were unsatisfactory and never beyond the
experimental level.

Scope of work
The main task identified to be carried out by the project is to:

Designing spatial database for archaeological sites and monuments

Collect, collate and compile data on archaeological sites and monuments and
develop a spatial database.
Apply various Geographical Information System(GIS) technologies for
archaeological resource management

Adopted methodology
The methodology adopted in this project is based on Geographical Information
System(GIS) techniques. Different methods were adopted at various stages in
compilation of the data.
The mothodology consists of three main steps.

Data capture
Database designing and management
Develop interrogation methods

Data capture
Data capture is the process of inputting spatial data and associated attribute data into the
Geographical Information System(GIS). UDA supplied the digital database based on
1:50000 topo sheets covering Sri Lanka. GPS readings of sites and monuments were
collected in to the system using Leica Planning GPS as point or polygon layers.
Archaeological data will be collected by field survey. Photographs of sites and
monuments were taken using digital camera. Manual site plans will be scanned and will
be connected to the system as images. The images of plans cane be screen digitized and
cane be connected to the system as layers.
There are two types of data.
1. Spatial data
2. Attribute data

Spatial data
The basic digital data covers the following;
Administrative boundaries (Provincial, District, DS and GN Divisions)
Other boundaries (Forest reserves, wildlife)
Rivers/ streams/water bodies
Soil types
Important point features
Place names
Archaeological sites and monuments
Spatial database
Spatial database has created using Arc/View software by UDA. The source data for
spatial database is 1;50000 topographic maps, satellite images (high resolution
IKONOS), GPS and field observations were adopted for updating the 1:50000 data.
Attribute data
Attribute data on archaeological sites and monuments will be collected using the
SMR(Sites and Monuments Registration ) form. (please see SMR form)

Designing the database on archaeological sites and monuments (Attribute database)

The database has designed according to the International Monument Inventory Data
Standard (MIDAS).
Each monument entry includes sub records for different
archaeological entities or items and contain data in four categories.

Location and Identification


To effectively and accurately provide information there was a requirement that the data
about different subjects be stored in different tables. When manipulating the data, facts
cane be combined and presented in a variety of different ways. When designing a
database it is necessary to first breakdown the information into individual subjects and
then establish the relationships between the different subjects so that the computer can

bring the required information together when requested. One of the main problem was to
provide a user interface friendly enough to be managed without problem by people
unfamiliar with computers. Because of features contributing to ease of use such as popup menus, handling and screen design, Microsoft Access was preferred choice.
When create the Archaeological Site and monuments attribute database the next step is
link it with the spatial database.
Linking Archaeological Sites and monuments attribute database with spatial database.
There are two methods to link databases. One method is linking full database to another.
The other method create queries and link these queries with the spatial database. As
mentioned before Archaeological sites and monuments attribute database has created
using Microsoft Access. Bu comparing Arc/View software, Microsoft Access has more
advanced and more standard query facility. Because of this reason the second method
was used to link databases. Queries were created and linked with spatial database using
SQL connection.
Interrogating the spatial database to gain information
This is a user friendly system and the user can easily gain information. Contained within
the database are a number of standard queries for interrogation the database. But it is also
capable of responding to individual customized quarries entered by a user through the use
of Arc/View query builder tool. Different access levels has been introduced according to
the users requirements.
Details of one of a query shows in figure 01

Site name:
Monument Name:
Short Description:
Site Class:
Site Grade:
Site type:
Status: queries are as following;
of the standard

Site Number:
Monument Number:


Database interrogation through geographical location. Find information on a site

or monument in a particular province, district, Ds.division or GN division and a
village with a map .
Find a site or monument using its name or even just the first letter of the site or
Grouping of monuments and sites according to their class, type, protection status or
Maps showing 400 yards buffer around protected monuments
Archaeological sites or monuments with required spatial layers. For example with
rivers and tanks

Future development
For this year it was planned to establishing the database and collect data on protected
monuments in Western province. Already the database creation has completed. The
archaeological exploration is progressing.
The benefit of using Geographical Information System(GIS) can be realized only if data
on Archaeological sites and monuments is maintained and regularly updated. A survey of
all monuments must be undertaken of periodic intervals to monitor the condition of
monuments. With this information, appropriate action cane be planned and implemented.