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Digital Management of Rock Art: the African Archaeology Archive Cologne (AAArC)

Abstract

Archaeology is a costly and object-affine practice requiring sophisticated technical equipment, and therefore is largely initiated and run from industrialised countries. Accordingly, also data and objects are largely lodged in these countries. In rock art, this leads to the paradoxical situation that many motifs and sites with outstanding prehistoric art are better known and more often shown in northern hemisphere urban centres than in the global south rural areas where the art in fact is found. This paper will focus on the possibilities and benefits of a digital archive in making pictures, data and other archaeological source material accessible anytime from everywhere. An open online archive will in the long run flatten the hierarchical order of access to the results of archaeological research and heritage archiving. Today, this is still concentrated in the western metropoles and rarest in African hinterlands. The open access to thousands of pictures will facilitate dissemination of motifs in particular since the distribution of smartphones and network coverage are ever growing particularly in Africa’s rural areas. The African Archaeology Archive Cologne (AAArC), being licenced under Creative Commons, provides open access to tens of thousands of rock art photos and to the enormous Brandberg-Daureb Data Base that contains 39,000+ rock art figures. Additionally AAArC stores all kinds of digital archaeological products from across Africa (mainly Sudan, Algeria, Chad and Namibia), including audio and film documentary.

Résumé

L’archéologie est un domaine sophistiqué qui nécessite assez souvent un équipement technique important et cher. Elle est donc largement initiée et gérée par les pays industriels. Par conséquent, les données et les objets relevés sont en grande partie déposés dans les pays qui ont financé les recherches. Concernant l’art rupestre la situation est devenue paradoxe, car les motifs représentés et les sites sont mieux connus dans les centres urbains de l’hémisphère nord que dans les zones rurales de l’hémisphère sud à l’origine de ces œuvres. Le présent article focalise sur les possibilités et les avantages d’une base de données de l’art rupestre sur internet. Elle ouvre l’accessibilité - toujours et partout - aux images, aux documents et aux autres sources archéologiques. Une telle archive publique permets d’aplatir l’ordre hiérarchique de l’accessibilité aux résultats des recherches et rends possible l’archivage du patrimoine à long terme. Encore aujourd’hui, même les archives numériques de l’art rupestre se trouvent souvent dans les métropoles occidentales et très rarement dans l’arrière-pays africain. L’accès publique et libre aux milliers de photos et d’autres documents facilite la diffusion du patrimoine même pour les zones rurales d’Afrique, car le réseau internet est souvent parfaitement développé. Aujourd’hui l’AAArC offre déjà - sous les licences Creative Commons - un accès libre aux dizaines de milliers de photos d’art rupestre et à la base de données importante de Brandberg-Daureb avec plus de 39,000 figures. En outre, l’AAArC stocke aussi toutes sortes de données archéologiques numérisées et numériques provenant de toute l’Afrique (principalement du Soudan, de l’Égypte, de l’Algérie, du Tchad et de la Namibie), y compris des documentaires (radio et télévision).

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful for valuable comments by two reviewers and the guest editors of this issue of AAR. The staff of the iDAI world and particularly its director R. Förtsch were always accessible for us, and without their relentless support and cooperation, AAArC could never have been realised. The figures were executed by the named authors; their development however was a collaborative team effort and their copyright rests with AAArC.

Funding

The project African Archaeology Archive Cologne was funded by the German Research Foundation DFG (grant number LE 1117/4). Scanning of Hasselblad slides was enabled by funding through the Franz-und-Eva-Rutzen-Stiftung.

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Correspondence to Eymard Fäder.

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Lenssen-Erz, T., Fäder, E., Jesse, F. et al. Digital Management of Rock Art: the African Archaeology Archive Cologne (AAArC). Afr Archaeol Rev 35, 285–298 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10437-018-9303-5

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Keywords

  • Rock art
  • Data management
  • Heritage management
  • Open access
  • African archaeology