The Harris Matrix Composer - A New Tool to Manage Archaeological Stratigraphy

Christoph Traxler, Wolfgang Neubauer
The Harris Matrix Composer - A New Tool to Manage Archaeological Stratigraphy
In Digital Heritage, Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Virtual Systems and Multimedia, pages 13-20. October 2008.
[paper]

Information

Abstract

The Harris Matrix - formulated by Dr. Edward C. Harris in 1973 - is the established way of representing the archaeological stratigraphy of an excavation. The Harris Matrix is a sequential diagram defining relations between stratigraphic units. It is an important method to document the stratification that is destroyed by the excavation process and hence a vital tool for analysis. Although the Harris Matrix has become a quasi standard of archaeological stratigraphy, only a few software tools exist to create and edit these diagrams. An evaluation of these tools showed that they do not completely comply with the theory or suffer from poor usability. Therefore we decided to develop a new application, called Harris Matrix Composer (HMC). Dr. Harris was involved in the evaluation of early prototypes to guarantee compliance with his theory. User tests were undertaken to address usability problems. The HMC provides a graph editor with an intuitive graphical user interface for editing a Harris Matrix throughout the entire excavation process. It supports valid Harris Matrix creation and indicates invalid units and relations. The theory has been extended to allow for temporal relations as well. Furthermore units can be grouped into structural entities called phases and into periods, assigning them to a historical epoch. A powerful interface to the GIS system ArcGIS will be developed to access layers for visualization and analysis by selecting units of the Harris Matrix. In this way the HMC becomes also a unique tool for the management and retrieval of digital archaeological data.

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image: HMC Screenshot image: HMC Screenshot

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BibTeX

@inproceedings{TRA08,
  title =      "The Harris Matrix Composer - A New Tool to Manage
               Archaeological Stratigraphy",
  author =     "Christoph Traxler and Wolfgang Neubauer",
  year =       "2008",
  abstract =   "The Harris Matrix - formulated by Dr. Edward C. Harris in
               1973 - is the established way of representing the
               archaeological stratigraphy of an excavation. The Harris
               Matrix is a sequential diagram defining relations between
               stratigraphic units. It is an important method to document
               the stratification that is destroyed by the excavation
               process and hence a vital tool for analysis. Although the
               Harris Matrix has become a quasi standard of archaeological
               stratigraphy, only a few software tools exist to create and
               edit these diagrams. An evaluation of these tools showed
               that they do not completely comply with the theory or suffer
               from poor usability. Therefore we decided to develop a new
               application, called Harris Matrix Composer (HMC). Dr. Harris
               was involved in the evaluation of early prototypes to
               guarantee compliance with his theory. User tests were
               undertaken to address usability problems. The HMC provides a
               graph editor with an intuitive graphical user interface for
               editing a Harris Matrix throughout the entire excavation
               process. It supports valid Harris Matrix creation and
               indicates invalid units and relations. The theory has been
               extended to allow for temporal relations as well.
               Furthermore units can be grouped into structural entities
               called phases and into periods, assigning them to a
               historical epoch. A powerful interface to the GIS system
               ArcGIS will be developed to access layers for visualization
               and analysis by selecting units of the Harris Matrix. In
               this way the HMC becomes also a unique tool for the
               management and retrieval of digital archaeological data.",
  month =      oct,
  booktitle =  "Digital Heritage, Proceedings of the 14th International
               Conference on Virtual Systems and Multimedia",
  editor =     "M. Ioannides, A. Addison, A. Georgopoulos, L. Kalisperis",
  isbn =       "978-963-9911-00-0",
  location =   "Limassol, Cyprus",
  organization = "VSMM Commitee",
  pages =      "13--20",
  keywords =   "Harris Matrix, Excavation Management and Analysis,
               Archaeological Stratigraphy",
  URL =        "https://www.cg.tuwien.ac.at/research/publications/2008/TRA08/",
}