Codifi for Managing the Paleolithic of Peyre Blanque

Peyre Blanque is an important Palaeolithic Site in the Foothills of the Central French Pyrénées (Ariège). Meg Conkey, one of the Directors of the project, is entrusting CoDA to build a customized version of Codifi to help manage the site's excavation data.

The Codifi Peyre Blanque sprint and the challenge

Peyre Blanque is an important Paleolithic site in the foothills of the French Central Pyrénées (Ariège). Meg Conkey, one of the PI’s of the project, is entrusting CoDA to build a customized version of Codifi to help organize and manage the site’s excavation data. Meg is going to be in the field in France in July 2016 specifically to organize digitally Peyre Blanque’s field records, journals, finds and photo inventories. Team CoDA is up for the challenge of setting up the Peyre Blanque (PB) project with a fully fledged archival platform by then. This is for CoDA the first digital project involving paleolithic excavation data. Our collaboration with Meg Conkey involves also the Between the Caves project, aimed at harmonizing 20 years of Paleolithic data from survey into a coherent and integrated Codifi database.

Peyre Blanque is an open-air site that was discovered in 2006 within the framework of a long-term survey project, although it is not located in one of the hundreds of ploughed fields that have been surveyed. These fields have yielded thousands of Paleolithic artifacts, attesting to a much greater presence of prehistoric peoples in this region than the previous cave excavations might have indicated. Peyre Blanque is instead located on the crest of a sandy limestone ridge where the archaeological deposits have been well-preserved within the structural geological setting. More than 12,000 chert artifacts have been recovered at the site, including nuclei, laminar cores, and flakes which testify for in situ knapping activities at Peyre Blanque. The team is focussing on the analysis of two features that make this Paleolithic site very peculiar and particularly interesting: a variety of pigments and pigment-processing tools; and a construction of stones which, although it is not yet fully excavated, so far extends at least nine meters east–west oriented roughly parallel the crest of the ridge. Such a detailed study of the site has resulted in a high volume of field notes, field forms, object inventories, specialist data sheets, and photo and video documents. The task at hand for this site is to ensure that all this varied documentation is well organized digitally, manageable, and useful for later analysis and publication of the research results.

Given the time constraints (we have a lot on our plate!), and also because we love it, to accomplish our goals for the PB project we’ll follow a CoDA|Agile hybrid management strategy, where a single, 4 week sprint will take place in 4 iterations with breaks in between for feedback and retrospective. In this approach we merge our tested interdisciplinary project management strategies with Agile project management as we know it. The four iterations, starting in mid-May, are designed to build on each other as follows:

Iteration I: Planning, Design, and Content Development
Project planning meeting, all content gathered and assessed, exemplar media and documents produced, all data tables and fields defined, reverse engineer the media processing, create Pivotal backlog for approval.

Iteration II: Initial build
This initial build will focus on the Entity Relationship Diagram (ERD) with implementation of basic functionalities; building a realistic project backlog and prioritization, building the initial tables and relationships in the backend of the database. At the end of Iteration II, we will review the backlog, accepting/rejecting stories, noting new additions if needed, removing stories no longer relevant. As part of the session, a short retrospective will allow us all to talk through what worked and what needs improvement for next iteration.

Iteration III: Production Build
Complete workflow, proxy layouts, core functions; refine scripting protocols. User testing (internal); add stories and note bugs, fix if possible; adjust backlog. Bug crushing; underlying structure + logic + programming; workflow complete. Another user testing (internal); final bug fixes; polish added to layouts. At the end of Iteration III, reviewing the backlog, accepting/rejecting stories, noting new additions if needed, removing stories no longer relevant.

Iteration IV: Finalization for Deployment
Layouts and UI scaffolded; exemplar content in place for all entities. Selection of ready-to-go data content is codified; in parallel, selection of media is milled through Lightroom and prepped on server; database tuning. User testing (internal) sample documents, media prepped and staged. Server MVP version complete; walkthrough with internal team.

At the end of Iteration IV, we should be in mid-June and the solution should be complete in its agreed features and content. We will give a demo to Meg Conkey and hopefully toast to her upcoming successful season in Peyre Blanque! Stay tuned!