An archaeology of the past cannot ignore the present, nor the ever-growing history between. It can, however, lose track of the historically situated twists and turns that lead to the present, and it can be lost in the development of the present – particularly when it ignores the people of the present – to the impoverishment of the past and the present. Since opening its borders to westerners in the early 1970s the Sultanate of Oman has concentrated on modernization of its infrastructure while maintaining a distinct cultural identity. Archaeological exploration is most frequently undertaken by foreign researchers, but always under the auspices and supervision of a government body (such as the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, the Ministry of Tourism, or the Royal Court). At the same time that some national ministries are exploring Omani cultural heritage, others (such as the Ministry of Transportation or the Ministry of Housing) are making important decisions about how to accommodate a growing population and all-new formal health, education, and transportation systems. In a context in which archaeological sites are being destroyed faster than they are discovered, management of cultural resources – through documentation and dissemination – takes on above-average urgency.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bat, Khutm, and al-Ayn is an excellent case in point. Although it is known to have extensive archaeological remains in and beyond the site boundaries, there has been little coordination of information about the site and its surroundings, and attempts to monitor archaeological remains have been scattered, sporadic, and rarely successful.
The core content and purpose of the Oman Digital Archaeology Archive (ODAA) is the establishment of a repository for survey data collected in and around the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bat in north-central Oman. In addition, the OA is built to make room for two broader levels of access and analysis: first, for the inclusion and analysis of further archaeological data (from excavation, survey, and other prospection techniques) conducted in Bat and elsewhere in the Sultanate; and second, to facilitate the development needs of an ever- growing modern population with a strong sense of history and identity.
Created by Charlotte Marie Cable (PhD Candidate, Anthropology), Oman Digital Archaeology Archive (ODAA) project combines the documentation of archaeological features, sites, and artifacts with an eye to cultural resource management over time. Materials included in the ODAA are raw data, field and laboratory forms, photographs and drawings, maps, published and unpublished literature and related citations, and government and UNESCO documents. To monitor change over time this digital repository is organized by “Event” (e.g., a site visit, a laboratory analysis, a monograph publication). KORA, an open source digital repository at MATRIX, is the platform upon which the repository was built and houses the ODAA. The ODAA preserves, stores, and manages archaeological data for the analysis and management of sites within a development framework.