Tuesday 31 August 2021

SuALT (FindSampo) Ends

             SuALT record of sword           

The funding from the Academy of Finland of the Finnish academic project SuALT (FindSampo) concludes at the end of August (Suzie Thomas, 'That’s a wrap!' SuALT blog 24th August 2021). Since no other funding was found to keep it sustainable, the project has come to an end after just 4 years and team members from the University of Helsinki, Aalto University and the Finnish Heritage Agency and other institutions, most of the Ixelles six are here, will be looking for something else to do than getting money for recording metal detecting finds. It seems they did not produce convincing arguments for the academic (or social etc.) value in prolonguing it. The project's PI, Professor Suzie Thomas has now moved on to become Professor of Heritage Studies at the University of Antwerp.
This means the project ends , and although the project is wrapping up there are still some articles in preparation to come, as well as some updates to the FindSampo portal due soon. The project has spawned yet more projects, not least the DeepFIN Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowships programme project led by Dr Eljas Oksanen. [...] Several more project ideas are in application phase, also at the international level, so expect more to come in the future!
Meanwhile, this is what Finland has "lost":
About the project / Projektista
The Finnish Archaeological Finds Recording Linked Open Database (SuALT) is a multidisciplinary project developing innovative solutions to respond to metal detecting and other non-professional encounters with archaeological material, applying semantic computing to “citizen science”. The growing flow of uncovered archaeological material poses challenges to researchers and collections finds data managers. We must support finders with legislative and also archaeological information. Easy to use tools to report finds and provide structured metadata are needed. Leaving finds cataloguing to curators is increasingly unfeasible given the increase in metal detecting. To make use of new data, cultural heritage managers, researchers and the public need search and analysis tools. Since finds are connected to existing collections, we also address cross-collection data interoperability. The methods and Open Source tools developed are also applicable to other cultural heritage citizen science fields.

Suomen arkeologisten löytöjen linkitetty [...]
Here is a list of publications of team members, but by no means are all of them about the project - there is the Ixelles Six's attack on Hardy included for example... some of the ALSO function in a parallel list of publications of the European Recording Network of Helsinki University.

Somehow, I do not see here anything that sets out a detailed assessment of the archaeological significance of this project. And trying to dig deeper makes one wonder. For example, I looked up a few of the objects. I am by no means any fan of the descriptions of the PAS as "prewservation by record" but beside that these SuALT descriptions are positively schoolboyish. There are, anyway, it seems only 3000 of them. They are pretty sketchy, very little description of the object but lots of measurements (which of course can be taken from the photos if they are of good enough quality). No real typological diagnosis, all very fluffy. Moreover the ones I saw have no "context" or even findspot detailed, they are "in the vicility of" type provenances. "Found by a metal detectorists", when, where, how and who is not stated... but then it turns out that some (many?) of them are already in existing records. Like a sword that was apparently found in 2013 (four years before the project began) and is in a museum collection, but listed here too for some reason (metal detector find?). For university archaeologists to give a sword with such a characteristic form a date of "(-0500 – 1300)" is just a joke. It seems there are many more examples of such superficial "records" in this "database". What is the purpose of this whole exercise (apart from getting grant money of course)?

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