tDAR digital antiquity

Best Practices for the Curation of Digital Archaeological Data and Information Workshop @ SAA 2015!

Modern archaeological investigations both produce and rely upon digital data: photographs taken in the field, GIS information, analytical and descriptive data sets, project reports, etc. These new data add to an existing, although underutilized, backlog of archaeological information, some of it in digital formats, some not. Without a well thought-out approach to data management, important information, whether in digital formats or not, will be overlooked or lost because it is forgotten, misplaced or damaged. Good digital data management requires attention to the means of data storage, aspects of archiving data, how data are to be preserved, and the curation of data so that is discoverable, accessible, and usable.

Digital Antiquity Staff will be hosting a workshop at the 2015 Society for American Archaeology meetings in San Francisco, on the background of data management, how good data management is organized, and tools and methods that they can integrate into their existing project and research workflows to ensure good management of digital data. Participants in the workshop will be introduced to the types of digital repositories that are available and where they can browse, access and download archaeological documents, data sets, images, and other kinds of archaeological information. Archaeologists, whether they work in CRM, for government agencies, or in academic positions, can use digital repositories to store, organize, and promote their archaeological work.

The workshop will focus on case studies and examples in tDAR (the Digital Archaeological Record). Participants will learn how to access and use resources in the repository and curate and manage CRM reports, data sets, photographs, GIS files, and other archaeologically relevant digital resources. Participants will need to bring their own laptop computer with wireless capabilities and a file (such as a report, dissertation, dataset, etc.) to upload to tDAR as part of the workshop.

Participants will receive a voucher for one free file (up to 10 MB) and a free copy of Caring for Digital Data in Archaeology: A Guide to Good Practice (for a total value of $80).

We also encourage you to stop by our booth in the exhibit hall.  Digital Antiquity staff will be on hand all week to answer your questions and give you a personalized tour of tDAR.  You can even sign up in advance for a 15 minute meeting with one of us to ensure you don’t have to wait!  Click here to access the calendar and select your time.

Faunal Data Entry and Integration in tDAR Workshop @ SAA 2015!

Katherine A. Spielmann (Arizona State University) and Tiffany Clark (Arizona State University) will be hosting a workshop to train participants in the uploading, mapping, and integrated analysis of faunal datasets in the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR) at the San Francisco Society for American Archaeology Annual Meeting.  tDAR provides an innovative and powerful approach to the synthesis of original archaeological data through the use of an analytical tool that makes it possible to integrate databases (or spreadsheets) that were recorded by different investigators using different analytical protocols. The resulting unified database can then be used to address a diversity of research questions.

During the workshop the instructors will introduce tDAR and explain what coding keys and ontologies are, and how they fit together in tDAR. They will then work with each participant to upload one faunal dataset and its associated coding key, and on mapping their coding key to the general ontologies for a broad range of faunal variables that are available in tDAR. Towards the end of the workshop they will demonstrate the integration of multiple datasets using the tDAR data integration tool.

If you register for the workshop, instructions for what you should do before leaving home will be emailed to you.

Sign up for the workshop when registering for the meeting. Have you already registered? You can edit your registration through the SAA registration page to add this and other workshops and events.

Wednesday, 15 April, 1:00pm–5:00pm;

maximum 10 persons;

$90 meeting attendees

We also encourage you to stop by our booth in the exhibit hall.  Digital Antiquity staff will be on hand all week to answer your questions and give you a personalized tour of tDAR.  You can even sign up in advance for a 15 minute meeting with one of us to ensure you don’t have to wait!  Click here to access the calendar and select your time.

Resources on Digital Curation, Preservation and Access

Digital Antiquity staff often get requests for information on curating, preserving and accessing digital archaeological material, and we try to share as much of our knowledge as possible through our blog, online seminars and in person workshops. Inspired by a recent conversation on Twitter, we thought we’d share resources we’ve put together and that people interested in these topics will find helpful.

Contributors to tDAR’s blog have addressed issues regarding curation, preservation and access in the selection of blog posts below:

Digital Antiquity and the Archaeological Data Service have also produced guidance on good practices for caring for digital archaeological data:

If you would like to learn more about curation, preservation and access for archaeology we encourage you to sign up for one of our workshops or online seminars offered through the Society for American Archaeology:

Do you have a specific question or topic you think we should explore? Feel free to leave a comment! Register for SAA 2015 Annual Meeting and sign up for our in person workshops. If you have already registered you can always log in and edit your registration through the SAA website. In addition to the workshops our staff are giving papers and posters and will be on hand in the exhibit hall all week.  We hope to see you there!

Preserving our Archaeological Legacy

The Center for Digital Antiquity (Digital Antiquity) and the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory (MAC Lab) are proud to announce that digital archaeological materials associated with the archaeological collections from Department of Defense bases and facilities that are curated at the MAC Lab and the Fort Lee Regional Archaeological Curation Facility (RACF) are now active and available on tDAR.  Making this wealth of archaeological information accessible was made possible through “Evaluating a Cooperative Approach to the Management of Digital Archaeological Records (ECAMDAR)” – a project funded by the Department of Defense Legacy Program. The two collections contain a wealth of archaeological data from 23 Army and Navy bases and facilities in the Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC area that has been collected over the past three-plus decades.

The purpose of the ECAMDAR project–led by Sara Rivers Cofield, the Federal Curator at the MAC Lab–was to evaluate tDAR as a potential repository for the DoD’s digital archaeological records. The study used collections from the MAC Lab at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum (JPPM), and the RACF at Fort Lee. Together, the MAC Lab and RACF curate collections from 25 DoD installations. Existing digital data files from these installations were submitted to Digital Antiquity where digital curators, led by Jodi Reeves Flores, checked files, migrated them to current digital format standards (as needed), drafted metadata for each file, redacted very specific site location data (as needed), and uploaded the files to tDAR.  In total, 6,889 files/17.6GB from 23 installations were added to tDAR where they are now protected in perpetuity as irreplaceable records of archaeological sites and are accessible in accordance with 36 CFR Part 79 and DoD regulations.

The project was designed to test whether the features and functionality of tDAR is appropriate and sufficient to manage DoD data in a manner that is secure, cost-effective, and of benefit to the military mission. The process demonstrated that tDAR is capable of meeting these requirements and could be adopted by bases and facilities throughout the DoD. The tDAR software and features are flexible enough to handle files from many different installations. The results were positive, so comments regarding DoD-wide implementation are included in the project report submitted to the Department of Defence Legacy Program and now under final review for approval.

Digital Antiquity would like to thank Rivers Cofield and the project participants from the different installations for their time and commitment to the project, as well as the DoD Legacy Program for recognizing the importance in preserving and making accessible digital archaeological materials.

Take Advantage of Your Society for American Archaeology Student Member Benefit Today!

The Society for American Archaeology supports a generous tDAR benefit for student members, and time is running out to take advantage of this offer for 2014! All SAA student members are eligible for a voucher that allows them to upload three files (totaling 30MB) to tDAR, valued at $150.  This is a wonderful opportunity to develop good digital archiving habits, and to preserve and make accessible your archaeological information.  Students have used these in a variety of ways.  For example, Angela Huster used hers to archive the data associated with her publication in Advances in Archaeological Practice.  Saul Hedquist turned a class paper into a conference poster, and archived the data set, the poster, and the references in tDAR. 

You need not be as far along with your research as Angela or Saul were for their tDAR projects.  For example, you might archive data, photos, maps, or reports gathered to support your Master’s thesis or dissertation research, even if these materials aren’t final or the results aren’t yet published.  Photos, maps, and field notes or reports may be ready to archive now — even before you’ve completed your analysis or interpretations.  If you plan to add to your data sets in the future you can upload a current copy to tDAR for safekeeping, and replace the file when you have new data.  If you haven’t yet published the information you can embargo the file in tDAR, which will prevent others from downloading it until a date specified in the future.    

If you aren’t sure what to put into tDAR, or how to get started we encourage you to sign up for one of our online seminars through SAA’s Online Seminar Series.  Introduction to Archaeological Digital Data Management is offered on February 12th, 2015 from 12-2PM EST.  Introduction to Digital Repositories for Archaeological Materials: tDAR (the Digital Archaeological Record) is offered on September 28th from 2-3PM EST, and is free to SAA members.  Read more about and register for these and other online seminars offered by SAA here

To take advantage of your SAA student member benefit please email and request your tDAR voucher for 2014 before January 31st, 2015.  If you haven’t yet registered to become a tDAR member visit to sign up.  Then head over to tDAR’s pricing page (, enter your voucher number in the “Redeem Code” field, and click “Next: Review & Choose Payment Method.” Your credit will be added to your account and you can begin uploading files! 

tDAR Software Update (Munsell)

We’re proud to announce the latest release of tDAR (Munsell).  This release was focused on modernizing and re-designing tDAR’s Data Integration tool to make it easier to use and faster, but also has a number of major feature updates across the application.

Completely re-designed data integration tool:
For those unfamiliar with tDAR’s integration tool, it provides a means by which users who have uploaded data sets to tDAR can combine multiple data sets with different schema and coding conventions into a unified, shared data set. 

We’ve redesigned it to simplify the user-interface.

main integration screen
Adding data sets is simpler.
Users can search for data sets that are bookmarked or integrate-able (that is, having one column mapped to an ontology), as well as  by keyword.

selecting tables

It is easier to add integration columns via a drop-down menu.

selecting an integration column

Once data sets have been added, if they share a mapping to an ontology, users can add an “Integration Column.” Integration columns allow users to further filter the resulting data set by selecting terms.

Once an integration column has been created, users can then "filter" results by selecting values from the ontology. tDAR display's a checkmark where each data set has actual values.

Once an integration column has been created, users can then “filter” results by selecting values from the ontology. tDAR display’s a checkmark where each data set has actual values.

A new “count” column type that represents count data in data sets.

adding a count column

A screenshot of a count column being added to an integration.

It’s easier to add a display column.

adding a display column

A display column being added to the integration. Each data set can supply one column to be included in a display column.

We’ve added better documentation of the integration in the excel output.
Viewing results

The Integration Results preview screen which includes a summary table, a preview of the results, and a link to download the full results.

Additional Features:
  • Integrations can now be saved and restored.
  • We’ve improved support for larger integrations 10+ data sets
  • The results of integrations are now sorted by the selected integration columns.

Other Major Features of the release:

  • Embargoed files can now be restricted for different periods of time — 6 months, 1 year, two years, and five years.
  • Institutions can now have email addresses and be used as contacts.
  • The material keywords section now includes free-form material keywords as well as the existing controlled vocabulary.
  • Contributors now have access to their view and download statistics for the resources, billing accounts, and collections they own or have administrative rights to. These statistics show the number of views and downloads for resources over time.
  • Dedicated web pages have been introduced for keywords for improved browsing.
  • Updated “user profile” pages in tDAR.
Backend and Technical Features:
  • tDAR’s OAI-PMH endpoint now supports “sets” which represent each of tDAR’s user-generated collections.
  • The tDAR Import APIs now support replacing files and setting the same access restrictions on files as other materials.
  • A new Authentication API.
  • A number of backend changes to improve long-term sustainability.

Digital Antiquity at Archaeological Institute of America Meeting

If readers are at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in New Orleans now, they can visit the Center for Digital Antiquity table in the exhibition area.  Executive Director Frank McManamon will be there throughout today and Saturday morning.  Feel free to stop by for a quick consult on digital curation or to find out more about Digital Antiquity and tDAR.
On Saturday afternoon, Digital Antiquity’s Director of Technology, Adam Brin will participate in the workshop: “Projections for the  Future, Best Practices for the Preservation and Publication of Geospatial Data,” which will be held 1:45 to 4:45 in the Southdown Room of the AIA meeting hotel, the New Orleans Sheraton on Canal Street.

We look forward to seeing you at one of these events!

Taking a look back at 2014

We have a great deal planned for 2015, and it’ll start with a bang. We have a new software release almost ready to go, and our contributors continue to upload and add lots of materials to tDAR. The tDAR application had two major updates in 2014, knap and lithic. A bunch of new features were added including enhancing users’ profile pages, allowing users to duplicate resources for faster customization and upload, and dedicated pages for keywords.

New content was added to tDAR by our clients and contributors including a number of amazing 3D scans from around the world uploaded by CAST; materials from the USAF Shaw Air Force Base and Avon Park Air Force Range; and reports from PaleoResearch Institute. Closer to home, our ASU colleagues Michelle Hegmon, Margaret Nelson, and Katherine Spielmann and their students continue to add content related to their research on Mimbres ceramics and sites and Southwestern faunal collections to tDAR.

We are continuing our work, begun in earnest last fall with the Corps of Engineers and the US Air Force on digital archaeological archives for their bases and other facilities. We are also still working with the Phoenix Area Office of the Bureau of Reclamation and Midwest Archeological Center of the National Park Service on their rich archives of archaeological material.

We have partnered with the relatively new Center for Archaeology and Society here at ASU and begun collaborating with the Archaeological Institute of America, about which more in another post. We continue our work with our partners at the Society for American Archaeology on activities that promote good digital curation of archaeological data. We can’t wait to see what the rest of 2015 holds.

Content added to tDAR in 2014




Usage Statistics

While we do not maintain detailed statistics on users or use to protect user and contributor privacy, we can share some interesting aggregate data. Below are the most frequently viewed and downloaded resources.

Most Viewed

Most Downloaded

ASU archaeologist awarded Don D. and Catherine S. Fowler Prize

Archaeologist, Glen Rice, emeritus professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University and former director of ASU’s Office of Cultural Resource Management, has been awarded the 2014 Don D. and Catherine S. Fowler Prize for his  forthcoming book, Sending the Spirits Home: The Archaeology of Hohokam Mortuary Practices, to be published by the University of Utah Press. The honor acknowledges “substantive research and quality writing [that] focus on the human experience in the American West.”  Some of the archaeological data and information upon which Dr. Rice drew for his book are available in tDAR (the Digital Archaeological Record).

Rice specializes in the Hohokam and Mogollon cultures, which has given him the opportunity to oversee several excavations of Hohokam sites done by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT).  In 2003, Rice and Brenda Shears, an ASU colleague received funding from ADOT to digitize the large number of highway archaeology reports and other information about the archaeological investigations in the Phoenix basin.  These were published as Intersections:  Pathways Through Time, a set of CD-ROM disks, cutting edge technology at the time.

In 2010, the Center for Digital Antiquity added all of the Intersections material to tDAR where it now can be accessed widely. Since being added to tDAR, the Intersection project page, from which all 39 of the reports published for the various highway archaeology investigations can be accessed and downloaded, has been viewed over 3,630 times.      

Congratulations to Dr. Rice for this well-deserved award!

Digital Antiquity at the South Eastern Archaeological Conference

Digital Antiquity staff will set up in the exhibit hall in Greenville, South Carolina at the South Eastern Archaeological Conference.  Stop by our table to learn about tDAR to preserve and share your archaeological information!  We’ll be available Thursday through Saturday morning and giving away daily prizes.  We look forward to talking with you.

Archives by Year:

Archives by Subject: