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Jordan launches online geodatabse of antiquities

Amman, Jordan: Jordan launched world’s largest online antiquities geodatabase, Middle Eastern Geodatabase for Antiquities (MEGA). It is accessible at https://megajordan.org. It details every archaeological site in the country and aims to help preserve its treasures. Its creators said the Web platform could be a model for Iraq, where looters have plundered its ancient heritage. The USD 1 million MEGA programme was developed in co-operation with Getty Institute of Los Angeles and the New York-based World Monuments Fund.

Experts said the geodatabase is the first such countrywide system. The site uses GIS to map 11,000 registered sites in the country and a click on each reveals inventories of what they contain and reports on their conditions. It aims to help tourists.

Scholars and inspectors approved by Jordan’s Antiquities can update the information in a user-friendly way for other professionals to follow and for authorities to keep track of threats to the sites.

Jordan hosts a number of World Heritage sites, most famously the 2,000 year-old rose rock city of Petra — but also Umm er-Rassas, a city dating back to the 5th century that features ancient Byzantine churches, and Qasr Amra, an 8th century Islamic castle. It is also dotted with sites dating from the Neolithic Age, through Biblical times to the Crusades.

The online system defines the boundaries of each site, an important factor in trying to prevent urban encroachment on antiquities zones, its creators say. It can help authorities in planning strategies for research and tourism development, and makes it easier for government agencies to share information. Those working in the field can report theft of wear and tear caused by tourist traffic.

Source: Seattle Times