In History-Rich Region, a Very New System Tracks Very Old Things





The field of archaeology and the timeworn Middle East would not seem the obvious places to look for a wiki revolution. But next month in Jordan, officials who oversee that country’s vast store of antiquities will begin an experiment aimed at bringing 21st-century tools to the task of protecting ancient sites, which is an especially pressing need in neighboring Iraq, where looting is once again on the rise.

Over the last four years the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles, with financing from the World Monuments Fund and help from the Jordanian Department of Antiquities, has built an ambitious Web-based system that will allow archaeologists and conservators there, for the first time, to gain access to decades’ worth of records about Jordan’s sites and to monitor the condition of those sites much more easily.

Known by the slightly science-fiction-ish name MEGA — for Middle Eastern Geodatabase for Antiquities — the system functions in both English and Arabic, and the information in it is obtained via Google Earth satellite images. These let users find any of Jordan’s more than 10,000 sites, from the ancient city of Petra to tiny unearthed remnants from antiquity, like wine presses, threshing floors and burial grounds dating to the Neolithic period....


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