|into a systemized array of archaeological information, followed by inevitable data loses and distortions. A draft survey showed a very dull picture of 40-50 % of data, that could be traced and recorded, neglected in the process of excavations on Russian archaeological sites. To some extend it is provoked by the notion of wide-scale excavations, when quality is sacrificed to speed. Although the main reason, effecting in such a dramatic loss, is within the technique of excavation record itself.
2.1. Methodological dead-end
The dominating excavation strategy used in Russia is planar/section method (planum system). The future excavation ground is regularly divided into 1x1 or 2x2 m logical squares. After that, a site is excavated by consequent strictly horizontal layers with predefined elevation interval set most commonly to 10/20 cm – or spits. The revealed archaeological evidence is manually recorded at sketch plans made after each spit is removed (fig. 1). Therefore, the sketches contain the discrete data from the “logical layer” borders, while the evidence concealed within the spit is generally roughly recorded or even neglected. All finds and other artificial evidence are registered within logical squares with uneven precision in each individual case, and are drawn in index books (fig. 2).
Much more attention is paid to vertical sections, which are thoroughly drawn with great detail once the excavation is finished. Thus, vertical stratification is regarded as the major source for chronological/periodic reconstructions and archaeological interpretation of the revealed evidence (fig. 3). For more detailed description of the planum system refer to the recently published article by Darvill (Darvill 2000:30-36).
The disadvantages of the described excavation technique are evident:
1. The archaeological evidence concealed within cultural layers is recorded with insufficient detail and precision.
2. Vertical sections are used as a primary source of stratification sequence record and archaeological interpretation of excavated evidence only once the excavation is finished. This makes a flexible and efficient direction of excavation process and on-the-fly interpretation of data impossible. From the other hand, vertical sections disintegrate the whole archaeological context of a site into regular yet incoherent mosaic.
3. An archaeological evidence revealed in the course of excavations in true 3-D space is projected or “compressed” onto consequent planar sketches with considerable data loses and distortions
4. Finally, excavation record is stored in a paper-form in a sole copy, dramatically limiting the access and interpretation of data by multiple researchers, especially those not involved in particular excavations, as well as possibilities for its safe storage, publication and wide-scale distribution.
Further refinement of the described excavation and recording technique is dead-ended, providing no noticeable data surplus and overburdening the excavation process.
2.2. Seeking for solutions – a 3-D approach
Inspired by the evident methodological stagnation of the archaeological science in Russia the workgroup of Smolensk archaeological expedition launched a fundamental research project in summer year 2000. The expedition has been conducting a research work on the largest medieval complex of archaeological sites in Russian inland - Gnezdovo, belonging to the Viking period for more then 50 years. The mainstream of our efforts was concentrated on the development of digital excavation data recording techniques. In recent years, there have appeared a number of publications proposing different strategies for computerization of excavation record (e.g. see Huggett 2000:117-122; Ryan, Pascoe, Morse 1999: 269-274; Norbach 1999:275-278 and other), handling particular blocks of excavation record; though no versatile digital technique covering all stages of excavation process and all types of excavation data was suggested. Our workgroup has presented an initiative of an all-embracing recording strategy rejecting the principle of data projection. Instead, the notion of direct copying of evidence data from a true 3-D space of an excavation ground to a modeled 3-D virtual space was introduced. The completeness and integrity of a recorded data, which is neither “compressed” nor projected, thus, is limited only by the capability to trace it. Thereby, the complete change of a recording technique demands a change in