10/2: Mapping Praxis Assignment

When starting my project, I knew that I wanted to explore topics within archaeology. One dream of mine had always been mapping out places that had sites, monuments, or artifacts in common. For myself, this was going to be a way to try and find connections between cultures or other data points that stand out. This map that I had imagined spanned across time as well as geographic locations, a kind of combination of a timeline and global map. Since my undergraduate career, however, I quickly realized that it was difficult to accumulate that sort of data without knowing the content intimately or being shown the resources. This is since much of the data is either not published yet or down so many scholarly rabbit holes that it is difficult to track down. I also encountered this when trying to design my mapping project.

When searching for open data sets, I was also looking for something that was intriguing to me. After some time, I ended up coming across a list of archeoastronomy sites that were listed by country on a Wikipedia page. Archaeoastronomy is the study of archaeological sites that may have been used to study astronomy. The idea then popped into my head, not only to see the sites marked on a map, but to see a sort of time lapse (either during the time period of the site, if possible, or present day) of the stars from the point of view of whatever site you click on. Although I felt like the sky-gazing part of the project would not be feasible with the programs we were starting out with, I was still curious to see where these sites were located and if there were any sort of pattern. I only resided on using Wikipedia due to the topic and the fact that much of the data I was finding was not something I could map.

When starting, I decided to create an excel sheet with the columns listed as follows: Country, Site, Location, and Coordinates (later separated to Latitude and Longitude). In order to get the coordinates for each site, I searched for the sites on Google Maps. Of course, this means that I was relying on the accuracy of Google Maps, but since there was no other way I could get the coordinates without physically being on site, it worked.

This process was interesting for many reasons. First, I noticed that there were some sites where their exact locations were not published, such as the Puyang tomb located in China. When trying to search for this site, on both Google Maps and through the search engine, there was no mention that I could find that clearly stated the location; not even an area that it was near besides Puyang. Thus, this coordinate was left blank. Some other locations that were like this one, I just used the coordinates for the nearest town. What stood out to me about this was that I did not have this trouble with any of the Western countries. Many of the Western locations were either more well-known or better mapped than those in Non-Western locations. This, however, also lead me to think that maybe the exact location for some of these sites were kept secret for a reason. When I was on a dig (one that had not been published yet) we were always told to not tell any of the locals that we were digging at an archaeological site. This was to keep away any potential looters.

In addition to this, there were topics on the Wikipedia page such as Nuraghi in Italy. A Nuraghe is a type of archaeological structure that is located all over Italy. Since this is something that appears many times in many different locations, it was not something that I could use as data points. The others that showed up like this were the temples on Malta and the Funnel-Beaker culture that appeared in Finland and ended up spreading throughout the Mediterranean.

On the opposite end to this, the listing for India was so extensive that many names were left off the list and the reader was referred to a book that discussed archaeoastronomy at sites located in India.

Being able to go through the names one by one on Google maps, although time consuming, was also fun for me because I was able to see sites that I have never seen or heard of. It was so interesting and made me even want to visit some of these sites one day.

When going to use a program, I checked out a few from the article we read but I eventually settled on QGIS. I am not sure what I was expecting (having never used a mapping program before) but this was not it. There was nothing to show me how to get started or where to go for even the simplest of things. Thus, I went to Google.

The first thing I knew I wanted to do was have a world map background to be able to map my coordinates. Eventually I came across a YouTube video that showed me how to set up three different types of map backgrounds, a regular map, a terrain map, and a satellite map. I decided that I would just use the regular and terrain maps.

Once I got the map background, I needed to figure out how to set up the coordinates. I ended up finding a tutorial page on how to import spreadsheets. This is when I had to separate my Coordinates column to Latitude and Longitude so that the information could import properly. Once imported, the items only showed as dots to mark the coordinate spots. After some searching and exploring the program some more, I was able to figure out how to add site labels to the dots. Once the labels were up, I noticed that there were some letters with accents and from other alphabets that did not transfer over well from my spreadsheet. I took some time to see if I could edit the labels within the program itself or, if I were to edit the labels within my CSV file, if I could overwrite the information I previously imported for more up-to-date information. I was not able to figure it out or find it online, so I just edited my CSV file and imported a new layer, deleting the previous one.

The next step that I tried doing was to see if the labels could only show if you were to either hover over the dot or clicked on it. I saw a few pages that were talking about how to set up the map for the web where you could use HTML and have the labels activated on hover. The problem with those pages, however, was that there were plugins that had to be installed in order to do this. The different plugins that I was told to search for never ended up showing up on QGIS for me. I am not sure if this was due to the fact that the plugins I was showed were out of date or if they were renamed. Whatever the case might be, I was not able to figure out how to do the pop-up labels.

If I had more time and a place I could go to look up different things that could be done in QGIS (a documentation file that is updated?) I think I would enjoy using QGIS. I am not sure, though, if QGIS would be able to support my original idea of being able to show a time lapse of the sky (though if it could be in the form of a video maybe that could work?). I have attached a PDF of the map I made down below.