GIS and digital documentation

Melkoya project have been using digital methods for measuring, documentation and analysis.

GIS (Geographical Information Systems) are collections of:
  • Hardware
  • Software
  • Data
  • Methods for treatment of data

The software and the maps we use are the basis for the visual representation of the procedures in the system for treatment of data. Still, GIS is not primarily a package for presentation of digital maps and distribution of objects. The core elements of GIS are:

  • Data capture: mapping with totalstation, GPS
  • Data storage and convertion
  • Statistical analysis
  • Visualisation
  • Geographical analysis

GIS is a database made for collection, storage and analysis of objects and phenomena where geographical placement is an important or determining characteristic for the analysis.

The essence of GIS lies in its ability to analyse data and transform it to interpretabable information. The quality of the analysis is dependant of the quality of the base data, like it is in all other aspects of data treatment. Low standards on maps and methods for documentation in the excavation give low standard on the analysis.

More about GIS and archaeology can be found here

The software used for analysis is ArcView 3.2


Technical solutions
The project has used the following hard- and software in our collection and analysis of data :

        • Sokkia Set 500 totalstation
        • SDR 33 datalogger
        • ProLink
        • MapSuite+
        • AutoCad LT
        • ArcView 3.2
        • ArcGIS 8
        • Surfer 8

Measurement took place in almost all kinds of weather

Digital documentation in the field


The totalstation was used for collection of data about the localisation of structures in the field. These were plotted onto maps which were continously updated. We were then able to have maps showing us the relation between the different structures, and could be used for the planning of the excavation as it took place.

Grid systems

The totalstation was used for construction and maintenance of the local grid system, and for placement of local grid in the national system. Specially in Sundfjaera we were digging in a complicated local topography, with boulders, uneven and rocky surfaces and marked differences in levels. Here the totalstation allowed us to quickly and accurately place supplementing coordinates for the excavation, and to plit important findings and other elements.


A microtopographic measurement was done of dwelling 8 in Sundfjaera. Here we measured every 20 cm. The intention was to make a digital model of how one of the many dwellings were placed and orientated in the landscape. We cose this dwelling because it is situated in an old beach surface and has realtively marked walls so it should be possible to reconstruct it three-dimensionally.


We wanted to use digital methods of documentation to try to reach a better understanding of the relationship between past settlement and past landscape. To achieve this we wanted to document the landscape as it appeared when the dwellings were in use. This meant that the topography had to be documented after the removal of several thousand years growth of turf.
In Sundfjaera we therefor did a macrotopographic measurement. The excavated area was measured after mechanical deturfing. A total of 7-8000 points were recorded.
The result is the documentation of the area for the future, and a digital model which illustrates how the landscape looks like under the soil.

More about landscape-modelling in the project can be found here

Analysis and visualisation

In the post-excavational stage the project is working with GIS for analysis and visualisation in the following areas:

    • Distribution analysis
    • Digitizing of drawings
    • Production of maps
    • Changes in landscape
    • 3D-modelling
    • Animations
    • VRML (virtual reality modelling)

More about analysis and visualisation in the project can be found here
Virtual reality model of Sundfjaera
A presentation of distribution analysis and surface construction





Tromsoe Museum-Universitetsmuseet, N-9037 Tromsoe, Norway
Telephone +47 77 64 50 00 Fax +47 77 64 55 20
Updated by Anja Roth Niemi

May 3, 2005

Editor: Stephen Wickler, Dept. of Archaeology, Tromsoe Museum