Thursday, 7 May 2015

The Iceni hypothesis — part fifteen

Relational database structure
diagram: Willow Brugh
Most Celtic coinage distribution maps show a particular type of coin; coin finds of all types within territories; or all coin finds. Even if a dot or number on a map is supplied with the name of that place and exact details of the specific coin type, it will probably not mention the types found at that same place of a coinage that is not the subject of that particular study and associated other objects will most likely not be mentioned at all. This would be especially noticeable with stray finds, but would not be applicable at all with an archaeologically excavated site in its excavation report.

As I surmised that details of an archaeological site with Celtic coins would provide more than just numismatic information, when I designed the layout of the Celtic Coin Index Online, I included a field for associated finds. This was lacking in the original card index at Oxford and there was nothing compensatory in its rather rough local database built later. After reading Haselgrove, who did mention all associated finds in his thesis study. I thought I should include such in my design under the archaeology heading. I thought: "If you build it, they will come." I expected that many of the archaeologists who had excavated sites where Celtic coins had been found might send me an email saying what else they had found. So I built it, but nobody came. The field became just a dream and it does not appear in the new version online now. Not one archaeologist seemed to want to contribute. For the gold coins of Cunobeline, Carrie imported all of Derek Allen's die data and we included it in the records. Carrie thought that might encourage those who had done their own study of a coinage to contribute the same. It didn't. We started to feel as if we were were trying to push a chain. By the way, when I first had sorted the Coriosolite issues, I catalogued all of the Oxford CCI Coriosolite images and sent the resulting catalogue to them.

So for what I say here, I am holding no hopes abouts its implementation. I'm sixty five years old now, somewhat jaded and cynical, but otherwise in good humour, and I look at each one of my grey hairs as a trophy to my life. Fate seems to agree by not allowing me to go bald at all.

Without such data about the site relationships between different sorts of coins; different dies within the same coinage; the same die products showing up not too far from that specific findspot (for non-site metal-detected finds); and the often telling associated finds. We might think we are trying to thread a needle while wearing boxing gloves. Of course, for the archaeological sites, we can just gather up all of the excavation reports and find what we are looking for and the next person to do a different sort of study of the same material can do the same, all over again. Would it not be better and far more efficient and economical to have it all as an online resource for anyone with an interest (I think there might be a few such people out there, somewhere)?

Later, I came up with another database structure that contains three nested categories:
object; attributes; subsidiary objects. It could catalogue and reference everything in the universe and find hitherto unknown relational patterns. A database expert told me that such a thing is beyond our current technological means. I'm not sure if that is still true.

Here are examples of each category in a hypothetical situation.

Object: 1949 Volkswagen Beetle (with model details, colour etc.)

Attribute: its steering wheel; fuel tank; tires, etc., anything it has that is part of its identity and make up.

Subsidiary object: a box of oranges on the passenger side front seat. (boxes of oranges are not a standard VW component. It is just something that was placed in one of those cars by someone for some reason of their own).

A search will find relationships not otherwise obvious. for example, an international museum database query about Ming Dynasty blue and white porcelain bowls would find a one that was depicted in a Rembrandt painting. It would be an attribute of a particular painting (object), but the frame currently on that painting would be a subsidiary object as it is not part of the actual painting and could be later and from some other place than where the painting was produced. Yet, depictions of Ming blue and white porcelain bowls could be other objects in their own right, complete with their own attributes (pigments, vehicles, types of brushstrokes) and subsidiary objects (such as the names of the artists, other objects in the paintings and so on).

Any category can be promoted to the main object but it will still have its nested other categories. I think that this is somewhat like the way our brains operate as well.

Tomorrow, some of the ramifications of the Iceni hypothesis as it now stands.

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