tDAR digital antiquity

Vote for our project in the Knight News Challenge!

Digital Antiquity and ASU Libraries just submitted a project proposal to the The Knight Foundation Knight News Challenge, and we need your help to get our project funded.

The Challenge poses the question, “How might we leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities?” Our project, Digging Up Data – Teaching and Learning with Digital Repositories like the Digital Archaeological Record, is designed to help teachers and students learn to find and use the information stored online in digital repositories. Many digital repositories  provide free and open content to users who are searching for information on a topic, and  include everything from documents, to 3D printer files, to photographs, and audio and video collections.

The goal of Digging Up Data is to give teachers and students an incentive to use digital repositories and become familiar with the wealth of information they contain.  Libraries understand how to collect, archive and make digital information accessible – in digital repositories.  But, if you ask someone “where should I look for information on X” they will likely respond “read a book” or “search Google” but not “search in a digital repository.” The Digging Up Data team want to help teachers and students leverage digital repositories to find the “hidden” information, the new special collections, that libraries and domain repositories are now building and maintaining. Our project employs a contest format to incentivize teachers to design assignments that help students engage with and make use of the amazing digital materials in repositories such as tDAR.

To find out more about our project please check out our proposal at the Knight News Challege Website (direct link to tDAR’s entry here). Submissions are evaluated by a team of outside reviewers, but the projects are visible to the public who are able to show support (via “applause”) and provide feedback.  Any comments or suggestions for improvement would be very welcome in the comments section at the end of the proposal, as would your “applause”. Thanks!

tDAR’s Entry to the Knight News Challenge:

New 3D Scans in tDAR from Macchu Pichu, Tiwanaku, Ostia, and Stabia

The Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies (CAST), University of Arkansas advances research, education, and outreach about geoinformatics, geomatics, and related digital data techniques (e.g., GIS, geospatial modeling, high density survey, remote sensing, etc.). The center, in collaboration with NSF, announced the Spatial Archaeometry Research Collaboration (SPARC) program to further the promotion of geospatial research in archaeology. 

CAST recently published 3D scans of several famous archaeological sites through tDAR to publish the center’s work. As part of a Digital Antiquity grant project, CAST researchers curated scan data from high-density surveys at Machu Picchu, Peru; Tiwanaku, Boliva; Ostia, Italy, and Stabiae, Italy.

CAST’s 3D scans allow you to experience the built environment of these incredible places. Moreover, the center’s data allow researchers and interested users to conduct metric analyses of scanned structures and features.

Explore Macchu Pichu, its temples, and neighboring Huayna Picchu at

Visit Tiwanaku and study the site’s monuments at

Take a digital trip to Ostia, Italy and examine its architecture at

Finally, experience Stabia, Italy and the site’s Villa Arianna at

CAST researchers created documentation to help you download and view the center’s 3D scan data sets. User documentation is available at the following web address: The guide also teaches you how to get started with simple metric analyses of these data sets.

tDAR Software Update (lithic)

We’re proud to announce tDAR’s twelfth production release: Lithic.  This release contains numerous bug fixes, performance enhancements, and security related improvements.  Some specific highlights include:  
  • Simplified sign-up, purchase, and download experiences
  • A new dashboard where non-contributing users can search and use tDAR more easily
  • Various performance and security improvements 
  • New “Contact” functionality allows users to request access to a confidential file, suggest a correction, or connect with the record owner for any tDAR record
  • Redesigned  Collection edit page to make it simpler to use
  • Improved loading speed for image galleries with lots of images
  • Improved searching:
    • Better relevancy ranking and results for resources in tDAR for a number of cases including Site Codes, pluralization, and multi-word terms
    • Collections that may be related to your search are now displayed along with search results
    • When viewing search results on a map, hovering your mouse over a result will reveal that resource’s geographic area (for  public resources only)
    • Better relevancy ranking when displaying map results
  • User Notifications on the dashboard are more personalized and dismissible
  • The ability to copy or duplicate existing resources in tDAR 
  • Improvements in data integration:
    • Simplified filter page for data integration that does not permit filtering of values that do not exist in the selected data
    • Users can now auto-select specific columns when integrating resultsUsers can now associate external DOIs with any resource type except projects

New Member of the Digital Antiquity Board of Directors

The Center for Digital Antiquity is delighted to welcome Cynthia Pillote as the newest member of the Digital Antiquity Board of Directors. Ms. Pillote is an attorney specializing in intellectual property at Snell and Wilmer, a law firm based in the Phoenix area with offices throughout the western United States.

Ms. Pillote’s expertise is in working with clients to develop, implement and manage business strategies for procuring, maintaining and enforcing intellectual property rights.  Her practice includes U.S. and foreign patent, trademark and copyright prosecution; patent due diligence; technology transfer and licensing; and business transactions.  Cynthia’s technical experience has primarily focused on nanotechnology, semiconductors and semiconductor manufacturing, medical devices and products, organic and inorganic chemistry compounds and processes, pharmaceuticals, life sciences, electronic commerce, mechanical devices, mining technology, green technology and electronic communication.

Ms. Pillote holds a B. S. in Chemical Engineering and a M. S. in Materials Science Engineering from Arizona State University. She also is a graduate of the Sandra Day O’Conner College of Law at ASU. Cynthia’s knowledge, skills and abilities will greatly benefit Digital Antiquity. We look forward to her input and guidance as tDAR and Digital Antiquity continue to grow!

Your Digital Media Won’t Last Forever: The Pitfalls of Storing Data on Compact Disk

 Earlier this week NPR’s All Tech Considered explored the question, “How Long Do CDs Last?”  Since the 1990s an increasing amount of data began to be stored on CDs.  According to Michele Youket, a Library of Congress preservation specialist quoted in the story, there is considerable variation in manufacturing standards for CDs.  This means there aren’t standard tools for preservation that will work on all CDs. So, as these CDs age and decay, the data stored on them is at risk of being lost. 

 While individuals, libraries, and archaeological curation facilities around the country store CDs that contain archaeological information, many are not equipped to preserve them properly.  A better solution to continuing to store important archaeological data on CDs—where it might be lost—is to put them in a digital repository, such as tDAR. tDAR is a dynamic solution for archaeologists worried about losing important data and information.  Digital files archived in tDAR are stored and preserved with rich, discipline specific metadata.  The files are actively checked for corruption at the time of ingest and then on a regular schedule. Additionally, tDAR combats software obsolescence by maintaining files in current standards so that our users can download and use them long into the future.  This level of service and support is something you will not get from a CD. If you’re interested in learning more about ensuring the long term preservation of your digital archaeological information, contact us today.

Dissertations in the Digital Age – Keeping Dissertation Data Alive

Written By M. Scott Thompson
M. Scott Thompson is a Digital Curator at The Center for Digital Antiquity. He received his PhD from Arizona State University in May 2014.

Dissertation data should remain alive in the digital age. I am trying to maintain my dissertation data as living, usable data by curating multiple sets in a widely accessible digital repository – the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR). Let me tell you how and why I ditched the appendix.

Curating Dissertation Data in a Digital Repository

Recently, I completed my dissertation titled “Interaction with the Incorporeal in the Mississippian and Ancestral Puebloan Worlds.” The project is a comparative examination of the performance of mortuary ritual in the Prehispanic American Southeast and Southwest to understand the identities for the spirits of the dead in these two cultural environments. The examination involved the collection, management, and analysis of large amounts of mortuary data that span multiple archaeological culture areas.

I decided to present the dissertation data solely through tDAR (no appendices necessary). You can view the dissertation project page at the following URL: Here is how I “published” all that data online.

Foremost, I curated the dissertation’s primary, raw data in tDAR. I uploaded the complete relational database that I used for collecting and managing the project’s information. I was able to make the primary data available immediately to other researchers who are interested in the dissertation. Moreover, I continue to manage and enhance the primary data and all the associated metadata. I am still currently documenting the large amounts of metadata that describe the database.

Second, I wanted to curate the processed data sets that I used in each of the study’s analyses, as well as the metric results that each statistical analysis returned. In the dissertation project, I conducted a series of multivariate, exploratory data analysis (EDA) procedures to characterize particular aspects of mortuary ritual within large mortuary samples. In order to perform these analyses, I had to process and format the raw data a great deal. During the course of the analyses, I gathered analysis results (such as multiple correspondence analysis [MCA] and multidimensional scaling [MDS] scores), and then continued to manipulate that information to interpret it. I needed to present these data in a way that allowed other researchers to obtain and use it – with no additional effort.

I uploaded to tDAR the processed data and the results that pertain to each multivariate analysis. These data are directly linked to figures and tables that present analysis results in the document. I placed persistent URL addresses in relevant figure captions and in the text to direct readers to appropriate tDAR resources/pages. You can view several of the processed/analysis results data sets at the following URLs: and

I hope that the curation of my dissertation data with tDAR ensures that these data are widely available in easily accessible, active formats. Like all others who spend too many years to count with their dissertation projects, I want the data to be used. I want other researchers to continue to analyze the information, to build upon or perhaps refute my study’s results, and to discover novel ways to approach these data in order to answer other questions.

Thinking Beyond the Appendix to Save Your Dissertation Data

In the paper age, authoring a dissertation presented many challenges for publishing associated data. The document itself was often the only venue for presenting these data. A manuscript does not offer ideal or even suitable formats for publishing large amounts of data. Presentation of data in a dissertation requires an author to make difficult decisions about data simplification simply to fit information into neat tables, which then span page after page after page. It eliminates any relationships that exist among the pieces of information. Finally, it lengthens a manuscript that, as your chair and your committee often remind you, is already long enough.

The dissertation’s primary vehicle for data presentation was and typically still is the dreaded appendix. Lurking beyond the dissertation’s references, appendices are often a no man’s land of supplementary information. They are long halls of formatted tables, with lists of categorical variables, numbers, and codes. Because they are printed, they require researchers to conduct hours of work to recreate the data in a format that can be manipulated and used. Thus, the appendices are only visited by those researchers who have such a pressing need to understand a dissertation’s primary data that they are willing to digitize it and re-analyze it.

In the digital age, there are new and emerging ways to disseminate dissertation data. These technologies and digital venues can lift dissertation data from the depths of appendices and place the information in curated formats that are widely discoverable. Through the use of digital data repositories, authors can preserve their primary data in perpetuity and make them widely available. Most importantly, though, they can use digital repository tools to ensure that the data are usable, right away.

It’s Still Alive

Let’s make the printed dissertation appendix a vestigial structure. With new digital technologies and venues, we have an opportunity to move beyond the simple publishing of data.

We have tools that allow us to curate and present primary data in increasingly flexible and creative formats. These tools enable authors and other researchers to interact with primary data in the formats in which they were originally created. More importantly, they allow researchers to interact with primary data in new and exciting ways, which can promote and even demand collaboration, continued manipulation, and growth of existing data. Let’s consider the management and presentation of dissertation data as a living process.

Dissertation data should not become the undead. Dissertation data should remain alive.

The National Endowment for the Humanities Grant Opportunity

The National Endowment for the Humanities has announced an opportunity to support projects that make it possible to preserve and share information from collections of books and manuscripts, photographs, archaeological and ethnographic artifacts, art and material culture, and digital objects. The Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant is filed under the Division of Preservation and Access. Institutions with large and important collections of archaeological information that needs to be digitized, organized and/or more accessible to the general public may apply. The professional and highly-trained staff at tDAR would be happy to collaborate with you to develop a budget or proposal. The deadline for applications is July 17 for projects beginning May 2015.


To read more about this opportunity, click here. Or send us a message at for more information on collaborating with tDAR.

tDAR at Two Conferences This Week – CAA and SAA

Digital Antiquity and tDAR will have a strong presence at both the Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA) and Society for American Archaeology (SAA) conferences this year. Come see us at either conference this week!


Keith Kintigh will discuss some of the challenges he sees in the future for digital repositories and digital research.

What do you want from Digital Archaeology?

Friday, April 25 2:00 – 4:45 PM, Panthéon S02

Enormous quantities of archaeological information and knowledge are embedded in articles and often-lengthy reports. Only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of gray literature and published reports is digitally accessible. These reports are often the only available data that document the excavation of important sites that are now thoroughly excavated, destroyed, or otherwise unavailable. We must develop improved methods of finding and extracting relevant information and knowledge that is embedded within those texts.


tDAR will also be at the SAA Annual Meeting in Austin this week. Stop by our booth (511) in the exhibit hall and enter to win a prize, or learn more about tDAR at one of the following events:

Forum on using tDAR

Thursday, April 24, 6:00 – 8:00 PM, Room 9C (Convention Center)

How do your colleagues use tDAR? Come hear students, faculty, CRM professionals, and agency archaeologists discuss how they’ve made tDAR work for them.


Lightening Talk on Data Integration using tDAR

Friday, April 25, 12:45 – 1:30 PM, Meeting Room 414 (Hilton)

Interested in data integration with tDAR? Come see our lightening talk at the Digital Data Interest Group meeting. The 3 minute talks start at 12:45 and we are in slot #7. We should go on at 1:03!


Make the Most of Your tDAR Student Membership

Friday, April 25, 1:00 – 5:00 PM, Room 8B (Convention Center)

Are you a student member interested learning more about your tDAR member benefit and ways you might use it? We’ll be dropping in on the Student Futures Forums to answer any questions you may have!



Heartbleed Response and tDAR Security

Last week, internet security experts announced a major flaw ‘heartbleed‘ in commonly used encryption software (OpenSSL).  We take the security and safety of data entrusted to tDAR seriously.  We wanted to take a moment and both outline what we’ve done regarding the ‘heartbleed’ bug, but also take a moment to discuss how we protect your data. 

Was tDAR affected?

Like much of the internet, tDAR’s infrastructure was running a version of OpenSSL that was affected. We have seen no evidence that this bug was exploited.  The Digital Antiquity staff took immediate action on a number of fronts including:

  • immediately patching each of the affected servers within hours of the announcement
  • working with our vendors to re-issue the SSL certificates that may have been compromised in the process

How do we handle server security?

The security of client’s data is of critical importance to us.  We take a number of standard approaches to managing the security of tDAR.  These include:

  • Limiting access to each of our machines and running and testing firewalls that limit this access
  • Running Enterprise focused OS versions which tend to be more conservative from a security standpoint and undergo more testing.
  • Patching our servers regularly, usually daily.
  • Limiting the services and applications running on our machines.
  • Coordinating with external IT specialists in the University and elsewhere to test our servers for common vulnerabilities.

How do we handle application security?

  Beyond testing and patching our servers, we also test the application regularly.

  • We work with external IT specialists to run common security analysis tools on our software to identify vulnerabilities.
  • We try to hack our own software.
  • We run over 1000 tests on our software prior to release, many of these are focused around rights and permissions. A number of these tests also attempt to perform actions that a user would not have rights to perform, eg. escalate permissions.

Preserving Archaeological Legacies: Turning a Citation into a Resource

In 2011 the Center for Digital Antiquity used information about archaeological reports found in the National Archaeological Database (NADB) to creates over 350,000 tDAR citation records. These new tDAR records improved this information with enhanced metadata and a display of geographic information that enable for easier discovery and access. In tDAR these records can be edited and improved; for example, if a digital file of the report described in the citation record is available, it can be uploaded and added to tDAR, thereby greatly enhancing accessibility to the information.

Recently David Hughes discovered the tDAR record for a report he co-authored in 1987: The Courson Archeological Projects, 1985 and 1986: Final 1985  and Preliminary 1986. The report documents the results of fieldwork done at the sites Courson A (41OC26) and Courson B (41OC27) as well as the almost pristine Kit Courson site (41OC43), and it also covers the history of archaeological work done at an area known as the ‘Buried City’. Anyone interested in the history of  archaeological practice during the early twentieth century–and who isn’t?– will find this section very engaging, as this introduction indicates (Hughes & Hughes-Jones 1987, pp. 7):

Many interesting human details about archeological investigations are rarely published. The stories exist in field notes, correspondence, anecdotes and rumors about the personal and professional relationships of those involved, the behavior of the crew, the weather, the attitudes of the local landowners, and vehicle breakdowns and other nuisances of field work. Particularly for the Moorehead expeditions, there is more to the history of archeological investigations at the Buried City than appears in published reports. Part of the story lies in the methods of archeology some 60-80 years ago, and part lies in the relationship of two strong-willed scholars of different backgrounds and, apparently, different values. The untold story explains a significant loss of data that occurred even before the passage of time between Moorehead’s last expedition in 1920 and the current project in 1985. This story is so important to the history of archeology on the Courson Ranch that we present it in some detail here. 

Hughes contacted Digital Antiquity and offered to scan a copy he had of the report, which he then sent to us. We were able add the digital copy to the existing tDAR record and add additional metadata. This means that this once hard to access record of archaeological practice  is now easily find-able and accessible thanks to NADB, tDAR, and Hughes.

We’d like to encourage other archaeologists and tDAR users to please get in touch if they have access to a copy of one of the  citation-only records already in tDAR.  A digital curator can work with you to add the file to the repository at no cost.  Do you or your organization have multiple reports or a legacy of archaeological work that you want to see preserved? Please get in touch to learn about the services that Digital Antiquity can provide so you can turn your archaeological materials into a long lasting legacy.

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