tDAR digital antiquity


tDAR, Mortality, and YOU

Guest post by Katherine Spielmann, Professor Emeritus, Arizona State University School of Evolution and Social Change 

When I decided to retire I was faced with making seven seasons of Southwestern excavation data and many, many years of analytical data available to our profession. I spent much of Fall 2015 making that happen through uploading multitudes of excel spreadsheets, associated coding keys, and reports to tDAR. I find tDAR’s functionality in being able to link coding keys to multiple datasets across projects, the ability to integrate my faunal datasets together across projects, and the possibility of future dataset integrations particularly helpful. But there are challenges that I, and perhaps many of us who began our careers relying on paper coding keys need to face while we still have memory and some marbles left. My coding keys for artifact types like lithics, ground stone, fauna, and ceramics evolved over the course of my projects and some of that evolution is documented only on the paper coding keys themselves. Was this ideal? No. A good idea? No. is it reality? Yes. Being the one who worked to upload datasets and coding keys made it possible for me to reconcile the evolving coding schemes and create the appropriately updated digital coding keys where needed. I also grappled with reconciling the multiple datasets on individual artifact types that developed from my first project in the mid-1980s at Gran Quivira when I and the profession in general were just getting a handle on database creation and management. Luckily my students and I had undertaken some of that task years before, but in one case, the black-on-white ceramics, there are two databases that cannot be reconciled (both will go into tDAR with accompanying explanation), and a review of the original collections will be required. If the Western Archeological and Conservation Center makes them available, that would be useful to do.

So my point is to start now on making your past and present part of archaeology’s future while you still have the files and resources at hand and given the ready availability of digital archaeological repositories like tDAR. Working in the Rio Grande area of central New Mexico I’ve always regretted the lack of access to all the information that Edgar Hewett and his henchpeople pulled out of PIV Pueblo sites across the region, and what Nels Nelson found in the Galisteo Basin. They were of the early 20th century. In the early 21st century no discipline can thrive if masses of its data effectively disappear with the passing of each generation.

 


Taking a look back at 2016

We had a busy year at the Center for Digital Antiquity in 2016, tDAR continued to grow with significant contributions from the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization , US Air Force, and US Army Corps of Engineers. tDAR had one major software releases, Obsidian which focused on enhancing the collections pages, searching, data integration, and added new APIs for working with data and metadata in tDAR.

We are continuing our work with the Corps of Engineers Veterans Curation Program, putting digital products based on their rehabilitation of physical archaeological collections into tDAR where it can be shared broadly.  We worked with the US Air Force cultural heritage program as program leaders there continued to build digital archaeological archives for their bases and other facilities. We are also still working with the Phoenix Area Office of the Bureau of Reclamation on their rich archives of archaeological material.

Individual researchers and research organizations began or continued to build their archives in tDAR.  A few notable contributions include those from: the Eastern Mimbres Archaeological Project (EMAP) , the ICOM Affiliated Organisation representing archaeological open-air museums, experimental archaeology, ancient technology, and interpretation (EXARC), the PaleoResearch Institute, the Center for Archaeology and Society, SRI Press, and the Dainzú-Macuilxóchitl Archaeological Project. Also notable was an extensive set of tree-ring data uploaded by Tim Kohler and Kyle Bocinsky.

As part of our continuing agreements with Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) and Society for American Archaeology (SAA), we ran workshops highlighting best practices in digital curation at the AIA annual meetings in Orlando and San Francisco respectively. We also continue to provide SAA student members with a number of no cost uploads for contributing their data to tDAR as part of our agreement with SAA.

We continued our existing partnerships with the DataARC and SKOPE NSF awarded projects. We also developed new international partnerships for the use of tDAR by colleagues and organizations in Australia with the Federated Archaeological Information Management System (FAIMS) and in Canada with Sustainable Archaeology at the University of Western Ontario and the Museum of Ontario Archaeology.

Content added to tDAR in 2016

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.

Resources (most viewed)

Resources (most Downloaded)


From Bibliography to Archive: The EXARC Experimental Archaeology Collection

Geographic Distribution of ExARC CitationsEXARC, the ICOM Affiliated Organisation representing archaeological open-air museums, experimental archaeology, ancient technology, and interpretation,  migrated it’s bibliographic database into the EXARC Experimental Archaeology Data Collection in tDAR this month, with technical support from the Center for Digital Antiquity. Now, in addition to providing an extensive bibliography for those interested in experimental and experiential archaeology, primitive technology and archaeological open-air museums, EXARC will be able to make publications and supplementary data (images, fieldnotes, large datasets) available, where possible; and preserve the files for the long-term. It will also make the bibliographic citations available to a wider audience by including them with other archaeological resources.

The bibliography was originally compiled by EXARC Director, Dr Roeland Paardekooper. The new collection will be managed by Dr Jodi Reeves Eyre.

In the future, EXARC plans to extend the collection and work with with universities and museums to upload their experimental archaeology data, publications and grey literature into the collection. The long term goal is to establish a board of professionals to oversee the collection, evaluate the quality of submissions and promote the preservation of and access to the wealth of data produced. If you or your institution are interested in contributing materials, or you want to learn more about supporting the collection, please contact Reeves Eyre.

 


Come Visit Us at the Plains Conference

We’re excited to be travelling to Lincoln, Nebraska later this week for the 74th Annual Plains Anthropological Conference.  We hope that you will stop by our booth in the exhibit hall to speak with a digital curation expert about your digital archaeological information, to enter our drawing for a chance to win a digital preservation package, or just to grab some tDAR swag and say hi!  You can also see our poster “Curating and Preserving Digital Archaeological Data: A Guide to Good Practice” in Salon B/C between 2-4PM on Thursday, October 13th.  If you are in the Lincoln area and want to learn more about tDAR, but won’t be attending the conference, please send an email to laellison@digitalantiquity.org to set up a time to meet.  See you soon!


Usage Statistics

Did you know that if you have digital resources in tDAR you can find out how many people have viewed or downloaded your files?

Here’s how to see your usage stats:

  1. Log in to tdar
  2. Navigate to a resource of yours that you would like to see stats for (you can view an individual resource as well as a collection or project).
  3. Click on “usage” on the secondary menu bar.usage-tab
  4. For individual resources you will see a line graph displaying views and downloads for the resource’s history. Views and downloads will also be broken down by year.resource-usage
  5. For collections, usage stats show information for views and downloads by year for the entire group of resources as well as for individual resources in the collection.

 

 

collection-usage


Replacing a File in tDAR

Sometimes you might add a file to tDAR and discover later that you need to replace it.  Maybe you found a better scanned version of the document, or maybe you added new data to a data set.  In any case, replacing a file in tDAR is easy, and as long as your new file doesn’t exceed file size range of the previous file there is no charge[1].

First, you will need to log in to tDAR and navigate to your resource.  Select “edit” from the secondary menu bar at the top of the page, and scroll down to the section underneath the heading “attach document files.”    You will see the current filename, and an orange button to the right of it that says “replace.”  You will be prompted to select the file.  Don’t forget to push the blue save button at the bottom or top of the metadata page.  Your new file has replaced your old file!  As a record owner you will also be able to see the history of changes to your file under file information on bottom of the resource metadata page.

 

[1] Remember that tDAR files are sold in 10MB increments, so if your original file is 3.3MB and your new file is 9.2MB there will be no charge.  However, if your original file is 3.3MB and your new file is 11.6MB you’ll need to pay for an additional file.

Back to School!

Even though the weather is still sizzling and it feels like summer will never end, school is back in session here at ASU this week.  It seems like a great time to remind you that tDAR is a fantastic resource for teachers and students alike.  Educators at all levels can search tDAR for photographs and maps to enhance lectures.  We have hundreds of real data sets that can be used in classroom exercises.  There are even some sample assignments (another) in tDAR, and we would love to see more.  Are you an educator who has made use of tDAR in your classroom presentations or assignments?  Please tell us about it in the comments below!

For your enjoyment, see what we turned up when searching tDAR for these back-to-school themed topics: teaching, schoolhouse, pencil, teacher, notebookapple.


Exporting your Search Results in tDAR

A search in tDAR is likely to reveal a large number of resources that you plan to explore as part of your research.  Did you know you can download your search results as an Excel file?  It is easy!  After you have performed your search, simply click on the “Download these results -> to Excel” link on the left-hand column of the page[1].  Your search results will begin to download immediately.  Use this to create a bibliography or update your bibliographic software (e.g. Endnote).  If you use Zotero to manage your research sources you can easily use the browser-integrated save to select citations from your search results to save in your Zotero library.

Import via Zotero

[1] You must be logged in to tDAR to download your search results


My Summer in the Digital Archaeology World

This post was written by guest author: Sarah Neusius, Department of Anthropology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP)

My main project this summer is working with other zooarchaeologists who are part of the Eastern Archaic Faunal Working Group (EAFWG). With funding from the National Science Foundation (BCS1430754), we are preserving and integrating more than 50 Archaic Period (ca. 10,000 – 3,000 BP) faunal datasets and associated documents in tDAR (the Digital Archaeological Record).

Once the EAFWG has completed the uploading of the dataset files and created the metadata for them, these datasets will be publicly accessible for students and other researchers in the EAFWG collection within tDAR. These datasets were generated over the last sixty or more years by archaeologists working on sites located in the interior parts of Eastern North America. Because of a strong interest among archaeologists in human-environment interactions during the Archaic period the recovery and analysis of animal bones and other remains is a standard excavation procedure. This tradition of emphasizing zooarchaeological analysis continues today among Midwestern and Southeastern archaeologists interested in all of the PreColumbian periods. Good preservation has meant that large amounts of animal bone as well as mussel and snail shell often are recovered and significant faunal datasets have been generated for this region. Some of the better known of these sites are emblematic of the Eastern Archaic including Modoc Rock Shelter and the Koster site in Illinois, the Green River shell middens, such as Carlston Annis in Kentucky, and Dust Cave in Northern Alabama, but there are many other Archaic sites as well. Some of these datasets were recorded exclusively on paper, and some of the earliest digital faunal datasets were also created as a result of these excavations. Moreover archaeologists in this region continue to generate significant faunal data today. Unfortunately, these data have remained dispersed across a wide variety of institutions and are inaccessible to the larger archaeological community because they were recorded in a variety of formats and curated by individual researchers, some of whom are now deceased or no longer actively involved in Archaic period scholarship.

The EAFWG includes zooarchaeologists from IUP, the Illinois State Museum, the University of Kentucky, Florida State University, the Illinois Archaeological Survey, State University of New York at Oneonta and the University of Michigan at Flint.  Besides meeting at professional conferences and staying in touch through email and conference calls, we have held formal workshops related to the project.

Our goal is to use tDAR to make accessible, as well as to preserve, significant Archaic period faunal datasets. Specifically, we want to spur comparative studies between and among the datasets from different sites in order to enhance and expand research into the Archaic period in Eastern North America. Traditional explanations for Archaic period variability and change have regarded environment and demography as causal.  Unsurprisingly, such explanations are questioned by contemporary researchers, who argue that cultural identities, sociopolitical interactions, and ritual practices also explain some Archaic phenomena. In essence today’s archaeologists seek to understand Archaic period hunter-gatherers as more than participants in the ecosystem, and this raises new questions about the way Archaic data has been interpreted over the last half century or more. We think zooarchaeological data has much to contribute to these debates. Ultimately we have some macrolevel questions about the variable use of aquatic resources by people who lived in this area during the Archaic period, which we believe will contribute meaningfully to better understanding of the Archaic period. Work on these topics by members of the EAFWG continues.

Over the past year and through this summer I have been involved with myriad details, most of which would be far too boring for a blog such as this. However, I hope you can see why there are many steps in the EAFWG project. These have been accomplished with the help of several IUP undergraduate students and graduate students, and have included: (1) creating digital databases from paper records in the first place; (2) finding and removing errors from digital datasets; (3) uploading digital datasets to tDAR;  (4) providing metadata about what is in each dataset and what variables it contains; and, (5) creating the means of comparing datasets using  tDAR ontologies.

We are exploring how comparable our Archaic datasets are in terms of taphonomy and contexts sampled, and working on measuring environmental and demographic variation during the Archaic period. By the end of the summer, we hope to begin to consider our research questions concerning the use of aquatic animals more directly.

For me personally, this summer project has provided few chances to be outside as much as I would prefer or to develop the muscles and fieldwork tan that I often do. Regardless, the Archaic period was my first love in North American Archaeology. This project is an opportunity to revisit my dissertation research on the Koster site, which is pretty enjoyable and exciting for me. Both collaboration with other zooarchaeologists, and looking at data I know well with new perspectives is a lot of fun. So if you encounter me this summer and find me slightly glassy eyed from staring at the computer screen, rest assured that I’m still absorbed in archaeology!


tDAR Software Update (Obsidian)

Welcome to Obsidian: The Center for Digital Antiquity’s 15th major release of tDAR.  In this overview of Obsidian you will find information detailing both the major and minor improvements made to the tDAR system.  The pertinent modifications of Obsidian include improvements to Collection and Keyword Pages, Maps, Data Integration, and a new export feature.

Improved Collection Pages:

We have enhanced collection pages (example) to include more summary information about the collections’ contents. This includes a map showing where the resources in the collection are located geographically (aggregated from the bounding boxes) and clusters of common keywords related to the resources in each collection.  Additionally, when viewed in the “map view”, collections now dynamically load all of the items in the collection onto the map.

collection

Coding Sheet Mapping & Dataset Changes:

Coding sheets now have an error report displaying values that may be missing from them, but are present in the datasets they’re mapped to.  They also include “special” mappings for values that are unknown, or missing.

codingerror

 

Data Table Descriptions:

One of the missing features for data tables was a user’s inability to add a description to a dataset; we have corrected this issue.

Simplifying Associating Images with Datasets

With datasets like the Mimbres collection, we’ve added a new column type “filename” that simplifies the mapping between a row in a dataset and an image file.

Searching within maps:

With tDAR’s coverage being worldwide, one challenge is allowing a user to identify a specific area on the map to either search or draw their bounding box.  We’ve added a search box in the top right of most maps to allow users to specify a town, city, state, or country to navigate on the map to the approximate location.

Improved World Map

We’ve expanded the world map on the homepage to allow users to filter down to specific states within the US. Users can now see how many resources are associated with each US State as well as country. This has also been implemented in an extensible form that will allow us to implement similar maps on collection pages.

Faster searching:

We’ve removed some of the debugging associated with the initial SOLR implementation as well as improved how we display and manage information in SOLR to significantly impact the search performance (In some cases, up-to 10x faster). Of note here, we were extremely conservative in our initial implementation of SOLR, and this release, along with the next few will start to make more aggressive changes that take advantage of all of SOLR’s features as well as improvements.

Data Export:

It’s important for users to feel confident about contributing their data to tDAR. Part of fulfilling our promise of being an archive is allowing users retrieve their materials again. We’ve added the ability to export all of the files associated with a billing account or collection. Users can make a request and the system will create a ZIP file with all of the files they uploaded, any archival versions, and copies of the XML metadata records, providing a description of all records.

Linked Open Data:

We’ve added the ability to associate keywords with external vocabularies such as Open Context, Pelagios, and other authorities. Those keywords and relationships are exposed as JSON-LD and embedded in each tDAR page.

keyword

Improved API Documentation:

We’ve updated tDAR’s API documentation to include more info on what APIs are available, and how to access and/or use them.  We’d love your feedback  on their functionality  and are more than happy to assist with any questions you have.  We are always open to suggestions on what you think would assist in the continuous improvement of tDAR. 

GeoJSON search endpoint:

Along with our existing search endpoints (HTML, and RSS / GeoRSS), we’ve added a GeoJSON endpoint for tDAR allowing easier display of tDAR results on ESRI, Google, and Leaflet maps.

 

We hope you enjoy the new features and improvements available in our Obsidian release.  As always, we encourage you to be in touch with questions or feedback.  If you would like to learn more about tDAR for your personal or professional research and data management needs contact us.

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