The EuroPreArt Database System
Andrea Arcà - Footsteps of Man
The EuroPreArt project has two mains goals: prehistoric art documentation and its diffusion. Its EuroPreArt Database System is the key to both aims. Development can be summarised in four steps: preparation, data collection, intermediate treatment and sharing data online . In all steps, specific archaeological and rock-art expertise merged with that of information technology (mainly data management, html scripting and Web design).
- Preparation. The first step of the EuroPreArt project partners was to outline a database system, in the process, reviewing concepts disclosed in documents and meetings for more than two decades. Important sources include the files of CIARAO (International Commission of Western Alps Rock Art 1990) and WARA (World Archive of Rock Art), and a system called RAD (Rupestrian Archaeology Database). In this first phase, the project structured a "rocks file" with forms to catalogue each engraved or painted prehistoric rock surface, decorated menhir or portable art object. Future work will add a "sites file" and a "figures file", in order to achieve an integrated documentation path under a general sites-surfaces-figures structure. The main themes of this first file are related to environment, description and chronology of the "art", and analysis of the state of conservation, adding also as much information as possible about bibliography and intervention.
- Data collection. Establishing a EuroPreArt data entry form was the second step. It runs under Microsoft Access (chosen for its availability) and has five tables (main, bibliography, keywords, links, institutions), seven tabs, 72 fields (numeric, text, logical and memo). The first two tabs data relate to location, geography (position, orientation, land usage) and proximity to any important natural or human landscape element. The third tab, probably the core tab, displays information about detailed chronology and detailed description of the "art" (style, overlappings, comparisons, correlation, technique, figures). The next tab is entirely for the bibliography. There is a pragmatic limit of 8 specific titles for each record but it is possible to insert as many titles as needed in the general bibliography. Bibliographical data are managed by the online site to generate three different lists: specific (surface or object related), general (country related) and total (the entire EuroPreArt bibliography). The fifth tab is for conservation: status (public, private), detailed description of the state of conservation and of the risks of damage, information about restoration, recording, site management and education. The sixth tab is for images: photos and tracings are not stored in the Microsoft Access file, only entries referring to separate picture-files kept outside the database. The last tab is for additional notes and information about the institution and compiler of the record. Have a look at each one of the pages below and download the Access file. Members of the database development team are M.S. Abreu (UTAD, Vila Real), A. Arcà and A. Fossati (Footsteps of Man Society), A Velho and G. Velho (IPT Tomar). A. Arcà (Footsteps of Man, Italy) structured and designed the dynamic Web site.
- Intermediate treatment. Beside this common structure, EuroPreArt partners worked on their separate geographic sets of records. Therefore, the third step consisted in manipulating various Microsoft Access tables, which were exported and merged into two main databases: "prehistoric art" and "bibliography". Exportation takes care of memo fields and the ANSI character set required by different European languages. The final format chosen was xBase (FoxPro or dBaseIV dbf), which is greatly customisable in terms of data management and html implementation and free from Microsoft ASP or server constraints. Shareware and freeware software, readily available online, greatly helped in this intermediate phase.
- Online data-sharing. The best choice to achieve the second main goal of the EuroPreArt project, its diffusion is the world-wide-web. The technical solution for this final step is a dynamic Web site, where a template-based structure dynamically generates pages in response to data retrieval requests. The final form, which obviously contains the same data of the original data entry forms, shows texts and pictures with a properly formatted graphic interface, readable and printable with almost any web browser. BASERUNNER (www.baserunner.com), a shareware resource, provides the database capability of the EuroPreArt Web site (europreart.net). It runs under Linux or Windows servers. No ASP, SQL or ODBC commands are needed: commands, functions, expressions, variables and memo files are the usual ones of an xBase environment.
The EuroPreArt Database System presents its results in the europreart.net site: seven European countries are involved (Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden), with more than 750 records of prehistoric art, 2000 images and 2500 reference titles. We hope that the project will be able to offer significant data to both general and specialist audiences. We hope also that future improvements will add new sets of records, widening the covered area and deepening the documentation capabilities, so achieving a complete sites-surfaces-figures structure.
Page A - Location
Page B - Environment and Surface
Page C - "Art"
Page D -
Page E - Conservation
Page F - Pictures - tracings
Page G - By