About Suzie Thomas

University Lecturer in Museology. Interested in community engagement, alternative and outsider approaches to the past, museum security, and dark heritage.

Varaa päivät kalenteriisi! Virtuaalinen Löytösampo/SuALT-konferenssi – Save the dates! FindSampo/SuALT virtual conference 17.-18.5.2021

Varaa päivät kalenteriisi! Virtuaalinen Löytösampo/SuALT-konferenssi

SuALT-projekti järjestää virtuaalisen konferenssin 17.-18.5.2021, jossa esitellään Löytösampoa ja sen ominaisuuksia.

Ensimmäinen konferenssi päivä, maanantai 17.5.2021 klo 14:00-18:00 on suomenkielinen ja toinen, tiistai 18.5.2021 klo 14:00-18:00 englanninkielinen.

Konferenssi on pääsymaksuton, mutta tapahtumaan tulee ilmoittautua. Lisätietoa ilmoittautumisesta ja konferenssin ohjelmasta julkaistaan lähiviikkojen aikana.

FindSampo logo

Save the dates! FindSampo/SuALT virtual conference
 
On May 17 and 18 2021 the SuALT project will hold an online conference, also presenting FindSampo.
 
Monday May 17, 14:00-18:00 EET will be a Finnish-language event, with Tuesday May 18, 14:00-18:00 EET in English.
 
Registration will be free of charge, and details of both how to register for either or both days, plus the conference programme, will be released in the coming weeks.
 

Roomalaisaikainen emalikoristeinen hevosenkenkäsolki Pohjois-Savosta / A penannular brooch with enamel decorations: a Roman-era find from Northern Savonia

Metallinetsinlöydöt rikastuttavat kuvaa Suomen alueen historiasta. Osa löydöistä on merkittäviä myös siinä mielessä, että ne auttavat meitä ymmärtämään alueellista historiakuvaa uudella tavalla. Yksi esimerkki tällaisesta löydöstä on Lapinlahdelta löytynyt roomalaisaikainen emalikoristeinen hevosenkenkäsolki (KM41196:1). Ainutlaatuisen löydöstä tekee se, että Pohjois-Savon alueelta ei ole ennen löytynyt varhaisrautakaudelle ajoittuvaa esineistöä.

Enameled penannular brooch

Kesällä 2016 siilinjärveläinen metallinetsinharrastaja teki yllätyksekseen löydön Lapinlahden Kärjenniemestä. Rantaviivan läheisyydestä löytyi emalikoristeinen hevosenkenkäsoljen puolikas. Suomessa solkityyppiä käytettiin 300-400-luvuilla, nuoremman roomalaisajan ja kansainvaellusajan vaihteessa. Emalikoristeisia hevosenkenkäsolkia on usein kuvailtu aikakautensa näyttävimpinä esineinä. Mielenkiintoisen näköisen koruesineestä tekevät sen värikkäät emalikoristeet. Suomesta emalikoristeisia hevosenkenkäsolkia on nyt löytynyt yhteensä kahdeksan kappaletta. Löytöpaikat sijaitsevat yleisesti sisämaassa, erityisesti Hämeen alueella. Solkien valmistuspaikkana pidetään Virumaata, jolla tarkoitetaan virolaista muinaismaakuntaa. On myös esitetty, että emalikoristeisia hevosenkenkiä olisi mahdollisesti valmistettu myös Suomen alueella.

Emalikoristeinen soljen puolikas herättää monia kysymyksiä, joille ei vielä ole vastauksia. Mitä alueella on tapahtunut kyseisenä ajanjaksona? Mitä soljen löytöpaikalla on tapahtunut? Minkälainen tarina kätkeytyy puolikkaan soljen taakse ja missä sen toinen puolikas on?

Lisää tietoa emalikoristeisesta hevosenkenkäsoljesta löytyy Ville Rohiolan kirjoittamasta artikkelista, joka on nyt julkaistu sivustoilla Academia.edu ja Researchgate. Artikkeli on julkaistu alkujaan kirjassa ”Monttu Auki – Arkeologisia kenttätutkimuksia 2”.

A penannular brooch with enamel decorations: a Roman-era find from Northern Savonia 

In summer 2016, a metal detectorist found half of a penannular brooch with enamel decorations (KM41196:1) in Lapinlahti Kärjenniemi, Northern Savonia. This brooch type is shaped like a horseshoe, and it was once an impressive object with its colourful enamel decorations. The group of brooches is assumed to have been made in the ancient county of Vironia in Estonia.

Enameled penannular brooch

In Finland, this type of brooch was used at the turn of the early Ro­man period and Migration Period, in the 4th and 5th centuries AD. The brooch found in Lapinlahti was decorated with smelted dark red, blue and black enamel. What makes this find significant is that no other objects dating back to the early Iron Age have previously been found in the area of Northern Savonia.

The closest findspots representing the same period are in Viitasaari and Konnevesi, Central Finland. The findspot has been inspected, but without excavation it is not possible to say whether this is an individual artefact or an indication that the custom of burying bodies with objects had spread to the wilderness of Northern Savonia.

An article about the penannular brooch with enameled decoration by Ville Rohiola is published digitally in Academia.edu and Researchgate. The article was originally published in the book ”Monttu Auki – Arkeologisia kenttätutkimuksia 2”.

EAA Virtual conference 2020 – Presentation from Ville Rohiola

Due to the pandemic, the European Association of Archaeologists’ annual meeting is virtual this year. Among the many online presentations in the scientific programme, Ville Rohiola of the Finnish Heritage Agency is presenting about FindSampo in the session “Challenge, Change and Common Ground: The Role of Socially Engaged Practice in Community Archaeology in Modern Europe”, scheduled to run on Friday 28 August.

FindSampo presentation slide

Ville’s presentation is titled “FindSampo: A Cooperative Citizen Science Platform to Manage and Curate Archaeological Find Data in Finland”, with the following abstract:

FindSampo (Fi. Löytösampo) is a web portal under development in Finland for archaeological finds made by public, particularly by avocational metal detectorists. The database is developed by the Finnish Archaeological Finds Recording Open Linked Database (SuALT) project. The four-year consortium project funded by the Academy of Finland involves the Finnish Heritage Agency (FHA), the University of Helsinki and Aalto University.

The goal of the project is to develop innovative solutions for reporting, researching and managing archaeological find data. As a result, FindSampo will provide public, archaeologists, and other researchers a web service to study find data and its spatial information online globally. For FHA, the platform will work as a tool to manage and curate disseminated find data and archaeological information. It will also streamline the processes of heritage management dealing with metal detecting. The database applies citizen science and activates participatory collaboration between the public, researchers and heritage managers.

Ontologies and metadata models are needed to represent archaeological information as a digital resource for research and for wider public. For Archaeological Collections it is essential that the self-recorded find data (by public) is compatible with the FHA’s collection management. The ontology infrastructure is needed to make linked data interoperable with national and international databases. For example, the concept-based ontology of archaeological object names, that the FHA has developed, is essential to record accurate and compatible find data. With formal data structures, it is possible to disseminate archaeological information for different user needs. This paper discusses the importance of open access data and public domain use of archaeological information, especially of archaeological object finds.

The session begins at 14:00 CEST (15:00 in Finland), with Ville’s presentation scheduled to take place at 16:15 CEST (17:15 in Finland). Registration for the conference is open to all EAA members, with details about joining and registration via the conference website.

New open access article debating responsible and responsive artefact stewardship

In the latest issue of the journal Antiquity, Suzie Thomas has written a Debate piece with Bonnie Pitblado, titled “The dangers of conflating responsible and responsive artefact stewardship with illicit and illegal collecting”.

The article is Open Access, and has the following abstract:

Archaeology and private artefact collecting have complex and inextricably linked histories. Archaeologists have long drawn attention to criminal activity among collectors, but to assume that all private owners of cultural material—and any archaeologists who interact with them—have ill-intent or engage in illegal behaviour can cause as much harm to the archaeological record as the criminal actions themselves.

In addition to the article are three Response pieces, from Pieterjan Deckers, and also Joe Watkins (The Archaeological and Cultural Education Consultants, and Society for American Archaeology), and Morag Kersel (DePaul University), with a final reply from Pitblado and Thomas. The Responses are not open access, but contact Suzie Thomas for more information about these.

Reference information:

Thomas, S., & Pitblado, B. (2020). The dangers of conflating responsible and responsive artefact stewardship with illicit and illegal collecting. Antiquity, 94(376), 1060-1067. doi:10.15184/aqy.2019.201

Deckers, P. (2020). Archaeology’s awkward allies. Antiquity, 94(376), 1068-1070. doi:10.15184/aqy.2020.50

Watkins, J. (2020). ‘Not with the same brush’. Antiquity, 94(376), 1071-1073. doi:10.15184/aqy.2020.45

Kersel, M. (2020). Engaging with demand and destruction. Antiquity, 94(376), 1074-1076. doi:10.15184/aqy.2020.62

Pitblado, B., & Thomas, S. (2020). Unravelling the spectra of stewards and collectors. Antiquity, 94(376), 1077-1079. doi:10.15184/aqy.2020.99

New research output – FindSampo: A Citizen Science Platform for Archaeological Finds on the Semantic Web

Pejam Hassanzadeh did his master’s thesis on designing and developing a prototype of a citizen science platform for the SuALT project in Semantic Computing Research Group at Aalto University. The prototype aims to facilitate the reporting process of archaeological finds and also visualise available archaeological data which is collected by citizens.

The prototype (FindSampo) is designed adopting a mobile-first and user-centred design in order to enable potential users to report their finds effortlessly and also study diversely archaeological data. FindSampo is developed using Semantic Web and emerging Web development technologies.

In his thesis, Hassanzadeh points out that the developed prototype takes the current state of archaeological resources a step further by means of citizen science, Semantic Web and emerging Web development technologies. The evaluation of the prototype and user experience surveys also reveal that the platform improves significantly archaeological data collection, analysis and interpretation processes. Furthermore, it provides further research opportunities by visualising archaeological data as well as improving its availability and accessibility.

The prototype finds reporting system is an important output of the SuALT project, as it points to future ways of incorporating citizen science more fully into existing practices.

European Public Finds Recording Network

FindSampo is a member of the new European Public Finds Recording Network, a group that promotes publicly accessible recording schemes such as FindSampo for reporting and researching archaeological finds discovered by the public.

EPFRN recently launched their website, and can also be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow them for updates on joint publications, news, and events. In addition, the site features information about procedures for responsible metal detecting in not only Finland but also Denmark, England and Wales, Flanders (Belgium) and the Netherlands.

FindSampo and Finnish Heritage Agency at Helsinki Book Fair / Löytösampo ja Museovirasto Helsingin Kirjamessuilla

How popular is metal detecting in Finland? How can the hobby help archaeology? What is the law concerning metal detecting and other non-professionals wishing to engage with archaeological material? And what’s the latest with FindSampo?

On 26 October at 14:00, at the Helsinki Book Fair taking place in Messukeskus, Ville Rohiola and Suzie Thomas will discuss with Sami Raninen from the Finnish Heritage Agency about metal detecting in Finland and the development of FindSampo. We will discuss mostly in English but also in Finnish.

You can find us at osasto 7m130, at the Finnish Heritage Agency’s stand. If you are at the Book Fair already on Thursday, you can meet with Ville Rohiola at the stand at 15:00-17:00.

Welcome to join our conversation!

Miten suosittua metallinetsintä on Suomessa? Miten harrastus voi auttaa arkeologista tutkimusta? Mitkä lait koskevat metallinetsintää sekä muuta arkeologiseen aineistoon liittyvää harrastustoimintaa? Mitä kehitteillä olevalle Löytösampo-portaalille kuuluu juuri nyt?

Lauantaina 26.10. Klo 14:00 Helsingin Kirjamessuilla Ville Rohiola ja Suzie Thomas keskustelevat yhdessä Sami Ranisen (Museovirasto) kanssa arkeologiasta ja metallinetsinnästä sekä Löytösampo-portaalista. Keskustelu käydään pääosin englanniksi, mutta osin myös suomeksi.

Keskustelu käydään Museoviraston ständillä, osastolla 7m130. Jos olet messuilla jo torstaina, käy moikkaamassa Ville Rohiola ständillä klo 15:00-17:00.

Tervetuloa kuuntelemaan ja keskustelemaan!

Of Ontologies

By Sisko Pajari

As a research assistant to SuALT-project I’m currently working with ontologies. Ontologies are a way to categorize things in the world. It all goes way back to philosophy in Antiquity. In the museum field the general aim is to categorize things in order to keep collections manageable and to be able to search information from databases. SuALT’s aim with its database tool and internet portal “Löytösampo” is both to share and collect knowledge from the users. There is obviously hope that people can both see its information and use it worldwide for research and other interests.

But how to link concepts from different cultural or linguistic areas, which today is demanded from data? Do people actually conceptualize things in the world the same way? This is where mapping terms to each other, comes in hand. In Finland at museum field we have conceptual structures called MAO/TAO (Ontology for Museum Domain and Applied Arts) but also ESI (Esihistorian asiasanasto) is under development by ontology team of archaeology experts. In Britain, the museum field uses Getty (Art & Architecture Thesaurus Online) for cataloging.

So, my work is to link by mapping Getty to thesauruses used in Finland. For users of Löytösampo all the conceptual structures are not seen, but the most important ones are – those concerning object sub categories, types and object names. The SuALT-team needs to think how meticulously they wish users to inform about their finds. Does information need to get to the level of typologies (for example type A, type B etc.), or is types, sub-types, object names level of information sufficient. Of course for some users it probably is interesting to learn more about typologies – say for example of brooches that already have good typologies in Finland.

It has been very interesting for me to work with this project. Everyone I have met has shared from their knowledge and expertise, especially Ville Rohiola and Mikko Koho. Looking forward to see how things proceed and how metal detector hobbyists, researchers, students, and museum professionals come to turn Löytösampo into account.

Sisko Pajari and book research

Sisko Pajari and some of the books she is using for the ontology research

Tutkimusavustajana SuALT- projektissa teen työtä ontologioiden parissa. Ontologiat ovat tapa luokitella ja järjestää tietoa maailmasta. Tämä kaikki palautuu antiikin ajan filosofiaan asti. Museoissa luokittelua tehdään sen vuoksi, että näin pystytään pitämään paitsi kokoelmat järjestettyinä ja myös siksi, että tietokantoihin voidaan synnyttää järjestelmällistä tietoa. Suomen arkeologisten löytöjen linkitetty tietokanta ja sen kehittämä ”Löytösampo” portaali toimii netissä, missä myös käyttäjät voivat jakaa tietoa. Ilmeinen tarkoitus on, että käyttäjät ympäri maailman voivat hyödyntää Löytösammon tietoja tutkimukseen ja muutoinkin.

 Mutta kuinka linkittää yhteen käsitteitä erilaisilta kieli- ja kulttuurialueilta, mikä on vaatimuksena nykypäivän tiedolle? Entä käsitteellistävätkö ihmiset asioita samalla tavalla? Tähän ongelmaan ratkaisuksi on haettu niin sanottua “mäppäystä”, joka tarkoittaa termien keskenään linkittämistä. Suomessa museokentällä asioiden luokitteluun käytetään Museoalan asiasanastoa (MAO), Taiteen asiasanastoa (TAO) sekä myös juuri kehitteillä olevaa Esihistorian asiasanastoa (ESI). Puolestaan Iso-Britanniassa museoiden käyttämä asiasanasto on Getty (Art & Architecture Thesaurus Online).

Joten, tehtäväkseni on tullut linkittää Gettyn asiasanastoa Suomessa käytettyihin. Löytösammon tuleville käyttäjille kaikki luokittelukategoriat eivät näy, vain ne tärkeimmät, eli ne, joiden avulla voidaan luokitella esineitä lajeihin, alalajeihin sekä nimeltä. SuALT-työryhmän tehtäväksi tulee miettiä, kuin tarkkaan he haluavat Löytösammon käyttäjien luokitella ilmoittamiaan löytöjä. Tarvitseeko ilmoittajan valita tietokannasta tietoa typologioiden tasolle asti (esineryhmän sisäistä luokittelua, esimerkiksi tyyppi A, tyyppi B jne.) vai onko laji, alalaji, esineen nimi riittävä tiedon taso. Toki joillain käyttäjillä on kiinnostusta esineiden typologisointiin esimerkiksi sellaisten löytöryhmien kohdalla, jotka ovat jo hyvin tyypitelty Suomessa, tästä hyvänä esimerkkinä soljet.

Työskentely tässä projektissa on ollut todella kiinnostavaa. Kaikki ovat jakaneet omasta osaamisestaan ja tiedostaan avuliaasti, varsinkin Ville Rohiola ja Mikko Koho. Odotan innolla nähdäkseni, millainen tulevaisuus Löytösammolla tulee olemaan metallinilmaisin harrastajien, tutkijoiden, opiskelijoiden ja museoammattilaisten käsissä ja käytössä.

A Research Mobility Visit to the SuALT Project

by Eljas Oksanen

In the last week of March I had the pleasure to visit the SuALT project on a research mobility programme. Born and (mostly) raised in Helsinki, though now having spent the larger part of my life abroad, the city has a special place in my heart and it is always a pleasure to go back there. Special thanks are owed to Anna Wessman, Suzie Thomas and the University of Helsinki for inviting me and for arranging all the details of the trip so brilliantly.

I am a medieval historian with a keen interest in digital humanities and archaeology, and in the recent years I have worked on a GIS-led research project with the Portable Antiquities Scheme based at the British Museum in London. As PAS, SuALT and other bourgeoning small finds recording schemes in Europe have demonstrated, there is a tremendous amount of potential in digital humanities analysis of metal-detected finds for reappraising our understanding of historical material cultures. With new data beginning to be made available to researchers and members of the public by the new continental schemes, there is also increasingly a demand for its foundational statistical and GIS analysis.

The purpose of my visit was to participate in the conversation on DH research on Finnish metal-detected finds. The week seemed to fly past extraordinarily fast. Suzie and Anna introduced me to the department and we discussed the current work conducted by SuALT. Ville Rohiola at the Finnish Heritage Agency gave me a very generous amount of his time for discussing the various cultural heritage databases and projects that the FHA supports. Professor Eero Hyvönen and his team invited me over to the Semantic Computing Group, Aalto University, and showed me their work on linked-data databases and on the prototype online portal for self-reporting finds. On Wednesday I gave a paper on my own research and experiences with the PAS, which sparked interesting conversations on how various archaeological databases that seemingly serve similar purposes nevertheless enable different research directions. As was noted, databases are themselves cultural artefacts, the character and capacities of which are shaped by design, development and data input priorities particular to their institutional environments.

Photo: Suzie Thomas

Having worked within a British metal-detectorist context it was interesting to see how the histories and cultures of the respective detectorist communities differ, and how this encourages different solutions in heritage management. Finnish metal-detectorists appear to be particularly ready to embrace new recording technologies!

Between meetings and informative conversations I had some time for examining a download of the luettelointitietokanta, which contains records of the metal-detected finds sent to the FHA and taken into their archaeological collection. While this dataset is only a portion of the material recovered over the last half a decade, it was nevertheless possible to start working out broad trends in the finds data. Like in the UK coins are the most numerous object type, followed by copper/copper-alloy dress accessories. On a very large scale the spatial distribution of finds might be interpreted as reflecting demographic patterns (e.g. the weight of the finds lies in the south) but are likely to correlate more directly with active regional detectorist communities (see map).

Map: Eljas Oksanen

A comparison with trends in the PAS data helps to tease out local biases. In relative terms iron objects are very rare in England and Wales (< 1 percent of all finds) but form a substantial minority population of the Finnish finds (16 percent). In the UK the vast majority of metal-detecting takes place on fields where a great deal of scrap iron may be encountered, and detectorists are even known to set their detectors to ignore iron signals. In Finland many finds are made in forests where scrap metal ‘background noise’ may not be such an issue. Perhaps there are therefore differences in detectorist habits that directly influence the composition of recorded material? Conversely there were few reported lead objects among this sample of Finnish finds – a real difference in material culture or another result of different recovery/recording biases? Many more questions remain to be asked.

The week was densely packed with activity and has given me a great deal of food for thought. SuALT is working to established an enhanced context for managing metal-detected finds that incorporates archaeological perspectives, IT solutions and cultural heritage management concerns. From my particular perspective as a digital humanities researcher it is clear that SuALT will empower new ways of examining and understanding the past.

Towards the new SuALT application

By Pejam Hassanzadeh

Hi all!

It is nice to be here and tell the good news about the SuALT application. Firstly, I want to mention that I am happy to be a part of this project which is also related to my masters thesis at Aalto University. When I heard about the SuALT project for the first time, I became very interested and wanted to be a part of it. Many thanks to all who helped me to take part in this project.

Technology is growing at a rapid rate and changing our lives continuously. Nowadays, most of the services are digitalised, and these digitalised services have great importance in our daily lives. Digitalisation improves efficiency and productivity, and at the same time, it boosts all other processes. SuALT aims to produce a digital platform for reporting and studying archaeological finds. Furthermore, it intends to enable the end users to contribute directly to collections.

We have started designing the prototype of the SuALT application. In this prototype, we have used user-centred design which means that we have focused on the users and their needs. We aim to create a highly usable service for the end users. We have tried to take into account the most critical user needs and created mockups based on them. In this stage, we have followed the following design principles:

  • Mobile first
  • Clean and fresh
  • Communication

We will focus on providing a responsive and mobile friendly service which should work without any problems on all mobile devices.  In this service, we would like to have a clean and fresh design. Clarity and simplicity help to create a better user experience. In addition to these, communicating efficiently the end users is essential for us. We would like to have a balance between readability, legibility, colour and texture.

The SuALT application will have an intelligent form which will help the users to report their finds. In addition to reporting, it educates them by providing continuous feedback and learning materials so that the SuALT application can work as a teaching tool. The main idea here is to teach during the form filling process.

In this form we have followed the following design principles:

  • Make it simple
  • Reduce cognitive and physical load
  • Use conditional logic
  • Break into steps
  • Provide help and autocomplete
  • Teach by filling in

We want to keep the intelligent form as simple as possible. To achieve this we strive to minimise the total number of free text fields which will reduce the interaction cost so that the end user will accomplish more with less effort. Furthermore, the form will provide autocomplete functionality and use ontologies for the core form fields. For example, it will be able to retrieve location coordinates and the current date automatically.

The intelligent form will make it possible to use a device camera so that users can take pictures of the find and surroundings. Guidelines for taking more professional and consistent photographs will be provided. Also, the form will use conditional logic to configure fields to display or hide based on the user’s response to other fields. In addition to these, it will consist of multiple steps and a possibility to save it as a draft during these steps.

We are going to publish the first test version of the SuALT application this year. Stay with us!