As part of an extension of my 2019-2020 CHI Fellowship, I have spent the summer working on updates and additions to Archaeology 101, an interactive educational website created by myself and Autumn Painter. Over the last few months, I have been working to improve the interactive map located on the site’s “Place” page and have added an “Excavation” page as well. As usual, I have had both successes and failures in working on these new components.
My first goal for this summer’s work was to create a map that was more appealing to a wider audience and that utilized the updated Mapbox platform. As such, Mapbox GL and Mapbox Studio were used to create a new map. Originally, this map only displayed archaeological sites that were located in the state of Illinois, but Autumn and I wished to make this map cover a larger geographical area so that it would be more appealing for those who live outside of Illinois. I decided to create a map that displays 2 historic and 2 pre-contact sites for each state in the contiguous United States. I also wanted each site to be public, so that people could go visit these sites if they wished. It turns out that public archaeological sites are harder to find than I hoped (especially public pre-contact sites). Some states only had one or two public sites, necessitating that a few non-public sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places were also included. In order to protect site locations, points on the map were not placed exactly where sites are, and the ability to zoom in on the map is restricted. Unfortunately, it also took more time than expected to find all of the 192 sites required for the map, so I was only able to include points and site names on the updated map. I plan to add short descriptions and a photo to each pop-up during the fall.
Alongside this map, I also created a new “Excavation” page that introduces visitors to how archaeologists excavate at sites. Two sections of text were created, one that outlines a simplified version of the excavation process, while a second section outlines the importance of notes and how we document our excavations. Like other pages on the web site, I (with some assistance from Autumn) also added a few interactive elements that help to re-enforce what is discussed within the content of the page. First, a 3D model of a test unit (courtesy of the MSU Campus Archaeology Program) was embedded into the page using an iFrame from SketchFab in order to provide a clear and interactive example of what a test unit looks like and the different soil changes that can be revealed by one. A “Dig Deeper” modal button was also added that quickly introduces some of the tools archaeologists use during excavation. Finally, in the note-taking section, the EaselJS painting action (part of the CreateJS package) was used to make an interactive element where visitors are instructed to create their own profile drawing of an image of soil stratigraphy (the same stratigraphy seen in the 3D model). Using their mouse or their finger, visitors are able to draw lines and shapes on an image of grid paper, providing them with the opportunity to interpret soil colors and learn the basics of how archaeologists create profile drawings in the field (a key part of documentation during archaeological excavation). There are still a few kinks to work out with this element as well, as there have been some issues with sizing the canvas element needed for the painting action. I have struggled to convert it to a size percentage instead of pixels, so it is not yet mobile friendly.
Overall, I am very excited about the additions that have been made to Archaeology 101, and I look forward to continued improvements and additions to the web site in the future!