There are two major next steps in the development of our MSUDAI project, The Online Map of Bioarchaeology (TOMB): 1) create the framework for the project, and 2) develop the content. Over on the MSU Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative blog, Lisa shares our plans and the progress made on the development of the map, website structure and GeoJSON. While she has been busy working on that aspect, I’ve been developing the content. Since our project is going to feature a wide range of bioarchaeological examples, we wanted the content to reflect the diverse types of burials and methods that are out there, as well as be something that was useable to the public and academia.

The content can be divided into two categories. First, there is the map-based content. This includes the name of the site or project, the time period under investigation, the location of the burials, the number of individuals and graves at the site, categories that this site is related to, and a brief description. This data is primarily so that the user can get a quick peek at the material from the site and determine whether or not this fits their interests. For example, one of the sites that we will include is the burials from Jamestown. The map based content for this site will likely look something like this:

  • Site: Jamestown Illicit Burial
  • Period: Colonial
  • Location: Jamestown, Virginia, USA
  • Minimum Number of Individuals: 1, Teenage Female
  • Grave Type: Illicit Burial in Trash Pit
  • Categories: Cannibalism, Inhumation, Secondary Burial, Illicit Burial, Historic
  • Brief Description: Archaeologists at Colonial Jamestown recovered the remains of  a 14 year old English girl in 2012 from a trash pit along with horse and dog bones that had been clearly butchered. Only 66% of the skull was recovered and some other bones including a tibia. There is no evidence for cause of death and all cut-marks were made post-mortem. The evidence of cannibalism consists of: four shallow cuts along the frontal bone, seven shallow cuts along the lower mandible, deeper cuts along the temporal, the cranium had been split at the back, and there were marks along the tibia. They posit that the girl was likely a servant on one of the re-supply ships who died of natural causes, but was then butchered due to the starving conditions.

The second type of content that will be developed is the longer version of the site for users who want to learn more about the burials, projects and look up external resources. If a user clicks on the burial for Jamestown, they will be taken to a full page that includes information about the broader excavation and investigations occurring at Jamestown, more details on the specific bones recovered and evidence for cannibalism, and how this relates to the archival evidence from the site. This content will also includes links to resources, such as the original project documentation, news articles about the find, archival documents, and other related sources. Finally, we will provide links to other related projects so that users can further explore the topic, such as complete books and resources on the subject of cannibalism, links to individuals who are researching these types of finds, and other online materials.

The goal is to provide users with a multi-faceted experience so that they can learn at different levels. Our final aim for content, which will be developed later in the project, is the creation of teaching resources so that educators can learn how to use this content in their courses to supplement learning. Further, it will provide a location for the listing of resources for learning more about specific types of burials. There are dozens of books that focus specifically on certain bioarchaeology topics, and this project will provide a location for users to easily locate them.