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Intrasis... the best there is?

What is Intrasis?
Intrasis is a GIS designed to handle and structure archaeological documentation and field data. The software is flexible and user friendly.

By using Intrasis all data related to one excavation or site becomes easy accessible and possible to combine. This increases the possibilities of interdisciplinary research when data from for example osteology or paleo-ecology can be combined with the archaeological information.

The system is developed by Archaeological Excavations Department of National Heritage Board , Sweden (UV).
Intrasis has since April 2000 been used at all archaeological excavations at UV and is today used by all major archaeological institutions in Sweden. It is also used in e.g. Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Great Britain.
Used it on English Heritage sites and loved it! If I could afford it would use it on all sites I work on. Same as anything else it takes a bit of getting used to but once you do it is such a useful resource.
I use it on a day by day basis here in Norway.....It's not as great as people would make out, but I am hopeful that the integrated input and analysis version due out next spring will solve some of the problems in the programme. Whether it is the best archaeological GIS is a matter of debate, there is that Spanish/Oxford thing.......the important thing to my mind is that it is a GIS.....Could I do the same thing using ArcGIS or QGIS? Um...yes with a little bit of thought. It is difficult to see that Intrasis itself will provide an adequate archiving format as its coding system uses local language settings and therefore is not interchangeable across can produce datafiles and vector mapping data compatible with lots of other formats i.e Access, shp, DXF files etc. The million kroner question is do you need to spend ??? per year for a programme whose output usefullness can be achieved by many other cheaper programmes..... That said it is intended to become the Norwegian national recording methodology for field excavation from next year. So we have to live with it and learn to love its eccentricities...

And just to correct David's intro (and perhaps the blurb from the Swedish web-site) Intrasis is used by a number of archaeological organisations in Sweden, BUT NOT ALL ORGANISATIONS!! Agree with was fun using it at EH, but that had more to do with the nice people running the system than the system itself.....!!
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...
Intrasis is a good GIS and database, but not the best at either job. The two big issues are that 1) it is so customisable that it takes serious effort to set it up before first use (and effort=money!) if you don't wish to adopt the SNHB's own complete recording methodology, and 2) it belongs to somebody else, so you're paying license fees to SNHB in perpetuity. Intrasis lets you record all sorts of data about all types of site records (contexts, finds, samples, plans, etc) and link them together so others can quickly sift through them as needed, but every bit of info needs to be lovingly entered by the on-site staff, who consequently spend less time actually out on site. To get best use from the database/GIS you really need big projects that run long enough for lots of data to be entered in order to give the staff something to play with - if the site is too simple there is nothing to be gained over simpler procedures like paper recording and CAD/GIS mapping, and if it is too short you'll be doing all the data-entry and investigating in post-ex anyway where there are cheaper tools. Trouble is, EH and most others here simply don't run the kind of large, long digs that could see the best return on investment.

Sadly, the true digital recording future for British Archaeology is open-source...
barkingdigger Wrote:.... the true digital recording future for British Archaeology is open-source...
I think that is right and many of us would love the time and resources to play with open source .....until we do Intrasis fits the bill, providing my employer is willing to foot the bill (and at the moment they are!!)

I'm not so sure that 'setting-up' Intrasis is that difficult. It does require some parameters to be set, but generic site recording fields can be set as a template and once set can be reused time and time again. No more complex really than page-setting a context sheet for the first time and then photo-copying subsequent copies......One of the major gripes I hear from users here in Norway is that Intrasis isn't suited to particular types of period sites, especially stone-age. Not sure that is really true...very few stone-age archaeologists in Norway have yet to embrace stratigraphic recording let alone GIS so that particular complaint seems to me to be fatuous!! There is also the arguement that somehow hand drawn plans and profiles are more 'accurate' than digitally captured drawing data and of course Intrasis does rely on digitally captured data. Again this is something I wouldn't agree with....

Intrasis does provide a much quicker turn around of data and I would argue one of its strong points is that data is processed on site during the excavation. This does lead to significant savings in post-ex time, but of course doesn't necessarily suit a funding system where the excavation and post-excavation are seen as separate tendering processes. It works better in a system where savings to the OVERALL budget can be achieved and not just in in singular parts of the budget. A tenderer who used Intrasis in the field would perhaps appear more expensive if judged just on the field budget alone......
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...

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