Archaeological CD-ROM Believed To Be Unique

January 27, 1998

CHAPEL HILL -- A unique new CD-ROM full of scholarly detail and general information about North Carolina's Occaneechi Indians could change academic publications in archaeology forever.

"Excavating Occaneechi Town: Archaeology of an Eighteenth-Century Indian Village in North Carolina" from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Research Laboratories of Archaeology and UNC Press details the archaeological discoveries made at the 18th century Occaneechi Indian village in Hillsborough.

"This is the future of archaeological publishing," Dr. Vincas P. Steponaitis, professor of anthropology and director of the research laboratories, said of the first of its kind CD. "You are always constrained by the cost of publishing research. But the key is to show what you found."

Publishing archaeological research usually means a monograph supported by tables and photographs. But those items are only the tip of an iceberg of information, which lies stored away in the musty corners of academia awaiting other scholars. Publishing all findings in print form would be prohibitive.

The technology of a CD-ROM, however, places every table, artifact, map and photograph of an archaeologist's fieldwork only a click away.

"We had to reinvent the wheel," said Dr. R.P. Stephen Davis Jr., a UNC-CH research archaeologist. "There were no software applications available that we could use as a model."

Luckily, Patrick Livingood already was a competent programmer when he stopped by the archaeology lab looking for work as a freshman in 1992. During his sophomore, junior and senior years, Livingood, now a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Michigan, worked from a multi-media authoring program to develop the CD-ROM, which compiles the information Davis and Dr. H. Trawick Ward collected during a 1983-86 dig at the Occaneechi site.

"We learned an awful lot from the process," Davis said. The laboratory's next effort on CD-ROM won't take nearly as long, because Livingood's template can be used for other archaeological reports.

The CD-ROM includes historical background, a breakdown of the quarter-acre site by 10-foot squares, maps, videos, hypertext links to bibliographic references, sophisticated navigation and search tools, a copious listing of 100,000 artifacts and more than 1,000 color illustrations.

While the disc lists enough pottery, stone tools and shell ornaments to satisfy an archaeologist's need for detail, it also is a teaching tool. Thanks to the "electronic dig" feature, a student can simulate an archaeological excavation by clicking, or "digging," through photographs and diagrams of the site right into the pits where artifacts are frequently found.

From the CD-ROM the layman can glean a brief history of the Occaneechi, who arrived in Hillsborough after being driven out of Clarksville, Va., in 1676. An archaeology primer provides video explanations of archaeological techniques. - 30 -

Note: The archaeologists can be reached at (919) 962-6574. Contacts: David Williamson, Bret Johnson, (919) 962-8596.
UNC Press, 1-800-848-6224.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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