Digital Hierakonpolis Initiative

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Hierakonpolis (25°06'N, 32°46'E), or Nekhen as the ancient Egyptians called it, lies 650 kilometers south of Cairo and 113 Kilometers north of Aswan. Intimately associated with kingship and the formation of the unified Egyptian state, Hierakonpolis was the primary religious center for the god Horus (Horus of Nekhen), to whom every Egyptian king was assimilated and whose sacred bird figured in the site's later Greek name, Hierakonpolis (meaning "City of the Falcon) The site itself is currently known as Kom el Ahmar, "The Red Mound," after the heaps of ceramic sherds located close to the transition from the line of cultivation to the low desert. The enormous growth of the settlement in late Predynastic times ( c3500 BCE) testifies to the importance of Hierakonpolis as a regional center of power, possibly as capital of an early kingdom.
Today, Hierakonpolis appears as two separate archaeological zones. The first, a low mound located on the floodplain, represents the remains of the town and temple complex of the Dynastic town of Nekhen . The second, an assortment of numerous sites stretching for over 3.5 km across the low desert, from Wadi Khamsini to Wadi Tarifa, and extending westward for 2 km into Wadi Abu Suffian. These desert sites represent the largest collection of extant Predynastic remains still accessible anywhere in Egypt . More importantly, however, is the fact that the low desert sites are also the last Predynastic remains still preserved as a unit, containing all the components which made up an obviously large and complex ancient urban settlement.
The first scientific exploration of Hierakonpolis was conducted between 1897 and 1899 by the British Egyptologists J.E. Quibell and F.W. Green. Within the first week of their excavations, they discovered two artifacts that have now since become synonymous with Predynastic Egypt. First, a large gold religious statue of Horus, who, in the form of Horus of Nekhen, is intimately liked with kingship in ancient Egypt . Second, a life sized copper statue of the 6 th Dynasty pharaoh Pepi I. Both objects were discovered beneath the floor of a mud-brick temple which had been constructed over an earlier Late Predynastic/Protodynastic shrine, which itself was constructed on a stone reveted mound of clean white sand. Many scholars presume that it is to this early shrine that the famous cache of discarded temple furnishings and votive offerings, known collectively as the" Main Deposit," were originally dedicated. Among the "Main Deposit" were hundreds of ivory, stone and faience objects, as well as some of the most important documents of the Early Dynastic period: the Narmer Palette and the Scorpion Mace Head - both of which have been used to partially support the pivotal role Hierakonpolis played in the creation of a unified ancient Egyptian state.
Although the site was subsequently investigated by a number of scholars, it was not until the current expedition , formerly led by Walter Fairservis and Michael Hoffman (now under the direction of Renee Friedman), took to the field first in 1967 that the Predynastic underpinnings of these traditions became apparent. As a result of the current expedition's work, a far fuller picture of this city emerged, and with it, a better understanding of the developments which led to the rise of a unified Egyptian state around 3100BCE.
The expedition has recently committed to a long term technology initiative designed to enhance its data collection, data management, data distribution, and public education/outreach efforts. At the behest of Dr. Renee Friedman, the expedition's director, The Digital Hierakonpolis Initiative, as is has been called, will be carried out under my direct supervision. Despite the fact that the initiative is still very much in its infancy (due to it being designed as a post-dissertation project), the Hierakonpolis expedition, has committed to providing limited funds as well as logistical support. The ultimate goal is that each of the individual Digital Hierakonpolis Initiative projects will be supported by external funding.
While the Digital Hierakonpolis Initiative is designed to umbrella any number of projects, the flagship projects will include the following:

While the Hierakonpolis expedition embraced the web as a medium for public outreach and education, new interactive projects such as Becoming Human and the Theban Mapping Project Interactive Atlas have raised the bar for immersive archaeologically inspired interactive applications.
From professional Egyptologists to school children, Hier@konpolis Interactive will be a rich and immersive standalone online learning environment that will ultimately serve the needs of a wide and diverse audience. Visitors unfamiliar with Hierakonpolis will be able to go on a virtual tour of the site, watch narrated mini-documentaries, and keep real time tabs on ongoing excavations. For experienced academics and scholars, Hier@konpolis Interactive will offer the opportunity to research the architecture and decoration of Hierakonpolis' dynastic tombs, browse real-time archaeological data, and view diagnostic artifacts from the various localities.

Even today, the overwhelming majority of archaeological projects (regardless of the geographic region in which they are taking place) rely almost exclusively on pen and paper methods of data collection and record keeping. Unfortunately, beyond limited post-excavation database creation and management, few archaeological projects have embraced a fully integrated and holistic information management system. Even fewer have seriously considered integrating a data management system that is wireless, pervasive, and, perhaps even, location aware.
The Hierakonpolis Mobile Data Project is designed to provide a functional wireless infrastructure that can accommodate any number of task specific applications. The ultimate goal of the Hierakonpolis Data Project is to support forward thinking, creative applications that not only allow the various members of the Hierakonpolis expedition to carry out excavations, analyses, and other tasks with better efficiency, but also extend the scope and possibilities of archaeological data collection and management in ways never thought of before.

For many archaeologists, the almost total lack of any kind of standardized system of data collection and management for stone tool analysis is unbelievable frustrating. While mostly deeply pedagogical in nature, the reasons for this situation is also logistical. Many lithic analysts have not been offered the opportunity to participate in projects that include lithic assemblages from numerous different projects and sites (and other lithic analysts) - thereby necessitating a standardized system of metric data collection, archiving, and analysis. The Hierakonpolis Lithic Standards Project, which is the first proposed application of the Hierakonpolis Mobile Data Project, is designed to at least partially circumvent this problem.
The inherent, multi site/multi component nature of the Hierakonpolis concession requires that each lithic analyst is collecting and analyzing metric data in exactly the same way. Further, a system of data archiving is required so that data is seamlessly available across multiple excavations. The Hierakonpolis Lithic Standards Project has two components:
PHASE 1: Development of Lithic Analysis Standards : The foundations of the project lie upon the successful establishment of analytical standards that will be adopted by all lithic analysts working for the Hierakonpolis Expedition. This includes a standard body of diagnostic type tools, standard points of metric data, and standard terminology.
PHASE 2: Development of Data Collection and Archiving Systems: This portion of the project involves the creation of both mobile (handheld & tablet) and fixed (desktop) systems for collecting data in the field as well as in the lab. The systems will allow metric data and analyses to be archived on a central sever that will be seamlessly accessible (over both wired and wireless connections) across the entire expedition.
While the initial scope of the Hierakonpolis Lithic Standards Project will be aimed exclusively at the expedition itself, I ultimately intend to expand it to include other expeditions in the area (Adaima, El-Kab, Abydos, etc.). By doing this, all involved would gain access to a far larger lithic assemblage than ever before, thereby allowing the chance for a far more regional approach to lithic variation during the Predynastic.

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