Arachne (archaeological database)

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Arachne3 logo.gif
Web address


Arachne4 beta
Commercial? No
Type of site
Object Database
Registration Optional
Owner German Archaeological Institute (DAI) and CoDArchLab, University of Cologne
Created by Prof. Dr. Reinhard Förtsch

Arachne is the central object-database of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) and the Cologne Digital Archaeology Laboratory (CoDArchLab) at the University of Cologne.[1]


Arachne's database design uses a model that builds on one of the most basic assumptions one can make about archaeology, classical archaeology or art history: all activities in these areas can most generally be described as contextualizing objects. Arachne tries to avoid the basic mistakes of earlier databases, which limited their object modeling to specific project-oriented aspects, thus creating separated containers of only a small number of objects. All objects inside Arachne share a general part of their object model, to which a more class-specific part is added that describes the specialised properties of a category of material like architecture or topography. Seen on the level of the general part, a powerful pool of material can be used for general information retrieval, whereas on the level of categories and properties, very specific structures can be displayed.


The ancient sculptures database was originally started in 1995 using FileMaker, and has been supported since 2001 from the then newly established chair for Humanities Computing at Cologne university. It is also used by students undertaking development projects.

Thanks to significant and ongoing support by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft since 2001, Arachne started to integrate negative archives of ancient sculpture that went beyond the specialised documentation retained in Cologne itself: the Malter- and Fittschen Archives, and since 2003 the negatives of ancient sculpture of the German Archaeological Institute in Rome. All that totaled in 40.000 high quality scans of ancient sculptures, that are presented with a state-of-the-art scientific documentation. Started in 2006, the digitalization of historic glass plate negative collections resulted - until 2012 - in another 100.000 digital images, beginning with those of the German Archaeological Institutes in Athens, Cairo and Istanbul.[2] Beside this larger projects lots of activities are going on on different levels, for example the online preparations for the Corpus of Ancient sarcophagi.[3]

In 2004 Arachne has been reworked from the bottom structurally as well as editorially. After that it has been rebuilt from scratch using an MAMP environment. Being strategically positioned as a central object-database for a large federal institution which possesses about two millions of images inside their photographic archives and produces even more data each year in the course of its research activities, Arachne's potential is not too modest. To meet it, there is still a long way to go.


  1. ^ Ortwin Dally and Reinhard Förtsch (Spring 2007). "The Arachne Object-database". CSA Newsletter (Center for the Study of Architecture) XX (1). Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  2. ^ "Department overview". About the DAI. Deutsches Archäeologishces Institut. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 
  3. ^ "Corpus der Antiken Sarkophagreliefs" [Corpus of Ancient sarcophagi]. iDAI.images/Arachne (in German). University of Cologne. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 

External links[edit]