tDAR digital antiquity

Three Ways to Connect with Digital Antiquity Staff at the SAA Meetings in Austin

Going to the SAA Meetings in Austin?  Connect with Digital Antiquity staff to learn more about Digital Preservation, tDAR, and Digital Antiquity by:

Attending our forum on Digital Preservation and Curation for Archaeological Data – Thursday, 6PM

  • You’ll hear from public agency archaeologists, CRM firms, researchers, teachers, and archivists who discuss the successes and challenges of digital preservation and data reuse.

Scheduling an appointment with one of our digital curation experts at SAA.  Click here to schedule your appointment! We can help with specific problems or questions, such as:

  • New to tDAR?  Ask for a quick guided to tour!
  • Are you an SAA student member and need help deciding what to archive with your tDAR credit? 
  • Are you planning a new archaeological project and want to ensure good digital data archiving from the outset?
  • Do you want to learn how to budget properly for digital curation using tDAR in responses to RFPs?
  • Are you interested in learning more about data integration for synthetic research? 
  • Are you afraid your digital archaeological legacy is at risk, but don’t know where to start? 
  • Would you like to see how easy it is to add a file to tDAR? 
  • Do you know how much to budget for digital data management for your next grant or project proposal?
  • Do you need help organizing managing your personal, project, office, or agency archaeological files?

Visiting us at the Digital Antiquity booth in the exhibit hall anytime.

  • Our booth number is 511 and we will be open from 9 AM – 5 PM.
  • You can say hello, and enter to win one of our daily giveaways!

 Hope to see you there!

Shaw AFB and Avon Park AFR Archaeology Archives now in tDAR

In partnership with the United States Air Force (USAF), the Shaw Air Force Base (Shaw AFB) in South Carolina and Avon Park Air Force Range (Avon Park AFR) in Florida archaeology archives were recently added to tDAR.  Each archive contains documents, images, and other data from archaeological and other cultural resource research conducted at both bases.  The creation of these digital archives is part of a pilot program to investigate the feasibility of the USAF using tDAR as a long-term repository for archaeological information important for the management and protection of important archaeological resources on USAF bases.  The records in the Shaw Air Force Base Archaeology Archive are organized as a collection within tDAR which includes 512 files.  The Avon Park Air Force Range Archaeology Archive also is organized as a tDAR collection and includes 219 files.

Most of the information in the archives is generally available.  However, due to confidential information, mainly specific site locations, included in some of the files, the collections’ material are accessible according to three  categories depending on their content.  Confidential records contain sensitive USAF information and are available only to the USAF officials responsible for the archaeological resources or others authorized by these Air Force officials; confidential with redacted copy available are files from which USAF sensitive information has been removed and a redacted version is available to registered tDAR users; and, available to all users are files  that contain no confidential information and are available to all registered tDAR users.

The USAF digital archives project demonstrates how staff at the Center for Digital Antiquity can work under contract or cooperative agreement with public agencies to provide digital curation services directly to agencies.  Some of these services include: organization of materials, drafting of metadata, examining files for potentially confidential information, and uploading files to tDAR. The USAF project to date has been funded by a contract administered through the CRM consulting firm GMI (now part of Versar).  USAF staff worked closely with experts at Digital Antiquity to review draft metadata and redacted versions of files before final versions were made public in tDAR.  At Digital Antiquity we look forward to working with the USAF on more digital archives for facilities and with other agencies on similar projects.

Have questions about the USAF pilot, or a similar project you would like to start, contact us.

Tips: Troubleshooting Data Sets in tDAR

Over the past few years we’ve seen a lot of data sets go into tDAR. In that time, we’ve learned a great deal about what makes a data set ready for archiving, and conversely, what some of the common problem-spots are. Within tDAR, we try to catch many of these errors and provide users with warnings. We want to make the uploading process as easy as possible! We’ve put together a few tips to avoid the most common issues we see when archiving a CSV, TAB or Excel data set. Click here to view all the tips.
Have you discovered any shortcuts that make it easier for you to upload data sets? We would love to hear them! Send us an email at with your tips, comments or concerns.

tDAR Poised to Help with Grand Challenges

In a recently published paper in American Antiquity, Kintigh and colleagues describe an effort to identify “What are archaeology’s most important scientific challenges?” This question was posed to the archaeological community to crowd source key themes, and the results were used to inform and augment the topics developed by an esteemed group of scholars.  The top 25 “grand challenges” they identified are replicated at the end of this post.

What the authors argue is most needed to address these important research questions is not more data (though, undoubtedly some new field work will be undertaken), but rather, a discipline-wide effort to locate, synthesize, and interpret the extensive amounts of data that have been collected through extensive archaeological efforts to date.  tDAR’s data integration tools have been developed and refined with these tasks in mind, and the repository is capable of serving as a storage facility for the data and the supplementary information that support them. 

Data sets archived in tDAR can include detailed column metadata describing the data so that researchers unfamiliar with the data set are still able to understand and reuse the data.  Furthermore, multiple discrete data sets can be integrated into large, synthetic data sets using tDAR’s data integration tools.  In addition, data sets in tDAR are afforded the myriad other benefits to being archived in tDAR—archaeologically specific metadata and long-term preservation with forward migration to ensure that data files are accessible and usable long into the future. 

Get started today!  Add your data sets to tDAR, find others, and begin synthetic analysis!


Archaeology’s Grand Challenges

Emergence, communities, and complexity

  1. How do leaders emerge, maintain themselves, and transform society?
  2. Why and how do social inequalities emerge, grow, persist, and diminish, and with what consequences?
  3. Why do market systems emerge, persist, evolve and, on occasion, fail?
  4. How does the organization of human communities at varying scales emerge from and constrain the actions of their members?
  5. How and why do small-scale human communities grow into spatially and demographically larger and politically more complex entities?
  6. How can systematic investigations of prehistoric and historic urban landscapes shed new light on the social and demographic processes that drive urbanism and its consequences?
  7. What is the role of conflict—both internal factional violence and external warfare—in the evolution of complex cultural formations?

Resilience, persistence, transformation, and collapse

  1. What factors have allowed for differential persistence of societies?
  2. What are the roles of social and environmental diversity and complexity in creating resilience and how do their impacts vary by social scale?
  3. Can we characterize social collapse or decline in a way that is applicable across cultures, and are there any warning signals that collapse or severe decline is near?
  4. How does ideology structure economic, political, and ritual systems?

Movement, mobility, and migration

  1. What processes led to, and resulted from, the global dispersal of modern humans?
  2. What are the relationships among environment, population dynamics, settlement structure, and human mobility?
  3. How do humans occupy extreme environments, and what cultural and biological adaptations emerged as a result?
  4. Why does migration occur and why do migrant groups maintain identities in some circumstances and adopt new ones in others?

Cognition, behavior, and identity

  1. What are the biophysical, sociocultural, and environmental interactions out of which modern human behavior emerged?
  2. How do people form identities, and what are the aggregate long-term and large-scale effects of these processes?
  3. How do spatial and material reconfigurations of landscapes and experiential fields affect societal development?

Human–environment interactions

  1. How have human activities shaped Earth’s biological and physical systems, and when did humans become dominant drivers of these systems?
  2. What factors drive or constrain population growth in prehistory and history?
  3. What factors drive health and well-being in prehistory and history?
  4. Why do foragers engage in plant and animal management, and under what circumstances does management of a plant or animal lead to its domestication?
  5. Why do agricultural economies emerge, spread, and intensify, and what are the relationships among productive capacity, population, and innovation?
  6. How do humans respond to abrupt environmental change?
  7. How do humans perceive and react to changes in climate and the natural environment over short- and long-terms?


Kintigh, Keith W., Jeffrey Altschul, Mary Beaudry, Robert Drennan, Ann Kinzig, Timothy Kohler, W. Frederick Limp, Herbert Maschner, William Michener, Timothy Pauketat, Peter Peregrine, Jeremy Sabloff, Tony Wilkinson, Henry Wright and Melinda Zeder 

(2014)  Grand Challenges for Archaeology. American Antiquity 79(1):5-24.

Kintigh, Keith W., Jeffrey H. Altschul, Mary C. Beaudry, Robert D. Drennan, Ann P. Kinzig, Timothy A. Kohler, W. Frederick Limp, Herbert D. G. Maschner, William K. Michener, Timothy R. Pauketat, Peter Peregrine, Jeremy A. Sabloff, Tony J. Wilkinson, Henry T. Wright and Melinda A. Zeder 

(2014)  Grand Challenges for Archaeology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 122:879-880.

tDAR in the News

A January 16th blog post on AWOL – The Ancient World Online – has highlighted the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology collection in tDAR.  This collection includes supplementary information associated with a number of their print publications.  The geographic and cultural range covered is quite vast—from the South Pacific to Mongolia to Eastern Crete!  Datasets, images, and documents from these projects and many more are available to download in tDAR now. 

The National Park Service December 2013 Archeology E-Gram directs interested readers to tDAR to view resources related to the Antiquities Act.  tDAR has over 40 publicly available resources related to this important preservation law. 

Angela Huster used her tDAR credits earned as part of her SAA student member benefit to publish data associated with her recent article entitled Assessing Systematic Bias in Museum Collections: A Case Study of Spindle Whorls in Advances in Archaeological Practice: A Journal of the Society for American Archaeology.  If you have data in tDAR associated with a published article let us know!


SAA Student Members—Take Advantage of Your Member Benefit with tDAR today!

Student members of the Society for American Archaeology are eligible to upload three files (up to 30MB) to tDAR annually as part of their membership benefits.  If you were a student member in 2013, email to receive your voucher today, then visit tDAR to upload your files and create metadata. New and renewing student members will be eligible for new vouchers in 2014, but your 2013 vouchers must be redeemed in tDAR by January 31, 2014.  Archive conference papers, raw data used in the analysis of your master’s thesis, dissertation, an article or class paper, important images related to your research, field notes, final reports, or lesson plans—check out our website for even more ideas.  tDAR is a flexible platform for your archiving needs!  Need suggestions or help completing your upload?  Email us at



Taking a look back at tDAR in 2013

2014 looks like it’s going to be a great year, we’re already hard at work preparing tDAR for new software features, and working with clients to upload documents, data sets and images into tDAR.  tDAR grew quite a bit in 2013, we had two major software updates (in situ, and jar) including: a new face for tDAR, we added the ability to upload geospatial data into tDAR, and added new features such as enhancing the creator pages in tDAR to include related keywords and collaborators among many others.

Almost 10,000 new items were added to tDAR in 2013 including GIS data from Tikal, a large collection of images of Mimbres Ceramics, and reports from the Permian Basin, the Anasazi Origins Project, Colonial MobileDyess Air Force Base, and CRM Reports from Brockington & AssociatesHartgen Archaeological Associates, and PaleoResearch Institute



The repository now archives almost 600 GB  of content, nearly triple the size of the archive in 2012.

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

Antiquities Act Anniversary and tDAR

One hundred seven years ago this week, on 8 December 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt designated two archaeological sites as National Monuments.  Montezuma Castle in Arizona and El Morro in New Mexico were among the first properties set aside for special preservation by Roosevelt using the authority given to the president by Section 2 of the then-new Antiquities Act.  During his second term as president, Roosevelt would designate 18 National Monuments, encompassing over 1.5 million acres.  Among the other properties he proclaimed as Monuments are the Grand Canyon (Arizona), Muir Woods (California), Olympic (Washington), Lassen Peak (California), Tonto (Arizona), Natural Bridges (Utah), and Tumacacori (Arizona).

Interested individuals can learn more about the Antiquities Act, how this important national law has been used by Roosevelt and subsequent US presidents to preserve important cultural and natural resources and its importance to the historical development of archaeology from information available in a tDAR collection on these topics.

Get Credit for Your Data: Publishing Peer-reviewed Data Papers with tDAR

What are data papers?  Data papers are a new type of publication that combine a narrative short paper and a data set (such as lithic artifact attributes, chemical/physical components of a set of pottery sherds, or a faunal data).  Like more standard journal publications, data papers can be peer reviewed.  The short text describes the data set, its contents, and methods for collection as well as guidelines its use and potential for re-use. 

Publishing data sets is a new way to publicize and share your work that is still novel in the sciences. Now there are two archaeological journals leading the way: Internet Archaeology and the Journal of Open Archaeology Data (JOAD). Both journals are peer-reviewed and publish data papers so that they are openly accessible online.  Importantly, both journals list tDAR as a trusted repositories where authors can submit their data sets to ensure their long-term accessibility and preservation.

The move towards publishing data sets is an important for archaeological development. Archaeological projects typically do not move digital data into repositories where they are accessible and securely stored. Additionally, few institutions provide proper digital curation, such as archaeology specific metadata, which assures long term preservation for future uses. tDAR couples domain specific knowledge with solid digital preservation practice to provide a place for archaeologists to store and share their research, including datasets.

For more information on submitting a data paper to Internet Archaeology, visit their information page. For an example of a data paper in Internet Archaeology, have a look at Wynee-Jones and Fleisher’s paper Ceramics and Society: Early Tana Tradition and the Swahili Coast.

For more information on submitting a data paper to JOAD, visit their submission page.  (The page also includes a great graphic representation of the publishing process). For an example of the data papers published in JOAD, you may want to have a look at Andrew Pearson’s Dataset to accompany the excavation report for a ‘liberated African’ graveyard in Rupert’s Valley, St Helena, South Atlantic.

Bolstering Individual and Organization Legacies

At the beginning of October, I attended the American Cultural Resources Association (ACRA) annual conference in Washington, DC on behalf of the Center for Digital Antiquity.  Digital Antiquity is an associate member of ACRA and was one of the vendors at the conference.  Despite the federal government shutdown, the conference was informative, well-organized, and useful.  There were discussions about coordinating actions to meet the demands for effective cultural resource management (CRM) involvement in energy development undertakings, dealing with copyright and intellectual property issues, and a variety of other matters.

One recurring topic in discussions with representatives of several CRM firms was the challenge they face to ensure long-term access to and preservation of the many reports, papers, data sets, and other professional products they and their firms have created over the years.  Of course, I was responsive to their common dilemma and pointed out that meeting this challenge is something that tDAR is designed to do.  tDAR provides an economical solution for archiving and managing access to digital archaeological documents and data that are these firms’ legacies.

This is not a new topic at ACRA meetings and it is likely to continue to be of interest.  The task of preserving and making decades worth of archaeological research results accessible is one faced by many CRM firms.  At present, it may be felt most acutely in those independently owned firms whose leadership (in many cases the founders of the firms) will retire soon.

This situation also affects professional archaeologists whose careers have been in public agencies that fund archaeological investigations or manage archaeological resources.  Many of the senior archaeologists in public agencies also are coming up on retirement time.  Managers in these agencies have legal obligations to ensure the accessibility and preservation of data and information about the archaeological resources they manage or that their actions have affected. However, these obligations sometimes are not met effectively or fully by the agencies.  When an agency does not provide for long-term preservation and access, the individual professionals may feel compelled to find other means of doing so.  Here too, tDAR can provide the solution.

Access and preservation of archaeological reports, data sets, images, and many other kinds of information are the primary goals of the Center for Digital Antiquity.  Using  tDAR enables individuals and organizations  to preserve for future access and use the archaeological legacy of a generation of archaeologists and organizations who have built CRM as an essential part of the discipline.

Some of these legacies have already been contributed to tDAR.  In most cases, these legacies are now available easily and broadly.  For example, readers might want to check the following tDAR collections and projects:

At Digital Antiquity we encourage more CRM firms and public agency offices to build CRM legacy collections in tDAR and are glad to work with those that may be interested in doing so. If you are interested in building CRM legacy collections with tDAR please visit for more information.