A semantic wiki as repository to review published palaeo-data in East Africa

Our research interests in palaeo-studies in East Africa remain high, partly because of the Out-of-Africa hypotheses predicting Homo sapiens origin to be situated in East Africa. Since several decades archaeologists and geoscientists explore suitable sites to answer related questions. Simultaneously, analytical methods applied to the archives improved in their sensibility or resolution over the given time. The amount of published scientific data is enormous, but has to be carefully checked on their robustness compared to modern standards. Therefore, it is necessary to compile datasets and excerpt the given data that are source of scientific interpretations (e.g., palaeoenvironment, palaeoclimate, evolution patterns, time models etc.). In addition, the names of the study sitesin East Africa are often transcribed from different languages or hold several synonyms for various reasons. Thus, we decided to use a semantic wiki to have the advantage of queryable structured data combined with the ability of web based frontend for collaborative editing of the content.

The presented application is based on Semantic Mediawiki (SMW), an extension of the famous Mediawiki software, the widely used wiki system mostly developed and maintained by the Wikimedia foundation as the software base of Wikipedia. The SMW extension allows to enter structured semantic data on wiki pages. This data can then be queried through several interfaces within the wiki and the Mediawiki API as well as an SPARQL endpoint for access from external applications. Query results can be exported in several well known formats, such as CSV, XML, JSON, and more. It is also possible to display query results directly in the wiki, using a number of provided display formats, like tables, data graphs or maps.

The presented system allows to collaboratively develop and maintain a data basis and thus implements a collaborative research environment (CRE). The data can be exported for use in scientific software packages for e.g. statistical or GIS analysis. A further outcome of the approach is a domain data model of the structured information stored in the system, which can be formalised and mapped to existing data bases to allow data integration between applications.

Details of published and unpublished archaeological and geological sites/localities in East Africa are collected in the presented wiki including their bibliographical reference. For example from sediment records, results from available sedimentological/chemical/biological proxy data (e.g., grain size, total organic carbon, stable isotopes, diatoms, ostracods, magnetic susceptibility) are copied into the database including their spatial resolution. Related dating samples (i.e., 14C, OSL, TSL) are also included with their metadata and lab-codes.

Additional Info

Field Value
Creator Willmes, Christian;Esteban, Sarah;Vogelsang, Ralf;Viehberg, Finn A.
Contact CRC806-Database
DOI http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.5880/SFB806.10
Discipline Earth Sciences
Language German
PublicationYear 2015
Publisher CRC806-Database