In 1960, at its annual meeting, the Society for American Archaeology authorized the establishment of a new publication series making use of Microcards as the medium of publication.   This move toward a condensed, durable, and accessible medium of publishing archaeological data and reports was viewed as a new approach to preservation technology in 1960.  The University of Wisconsin was chosen to publish the series and a total of 29 archaeological reports were published on as the Archives of Archaeology series on Microcards between 1960 and 1967.  Today, the Archives of Archaeology series has been integrated into tDAR (the Digital Archaeological Record) in keeping with the original publications goals for preservation and access.  These 29 archaeological reports, with site locations ranging from Central America to Alaska, are reproduced digitally and in their full form on tDAR.  Now these once relatively obscure reports are available for access at any time to any archaeologist with access to the internet.

These archaeological reports contain data that has never been published before in a widely circulating format.  They include early investigations into the effects of climate change on prehistoric peoples in Iowa, full survey reports from the 1959-1962 Southwest Archaeological Expedition of the Chicago Natural History Museum in eastern Arizona, and a first look at English-translated Japanese archaeological reports that are foundational in current understandings of pre-ceramic Japanese occupations.  Examine some of the archaeological documents here:

Regular updates to the tDAR software comprise an integral part of Digital Antiquity’s commitment to digital archaeological data preservation. The “Harris Matrix” release of tDAR (Summer 2012) includes the following primary components:


  • Search & Advanced Search: The search and advanced search functionality has been completely redesigned from the ground up to help us with better management and use of data. This includes, a simpler interface, the ability to perform boolean searches, and better tools for limiting large search results. Also, better handling of draft material that have been shared with you.
  • A new “Explore” page: this page provides better access to tDAR’s content outside of search — it enables users to browse by keyword, title, or decade, among other fields.
  • A re-ordered resource page with better indications of what resource type you are looking at
  • Citations on every resource page — all resource pages now have a proper citation listed at the bottom
  • You can now search for Collections as well as resources.
  • For browsers that have plugins that use the COINS protocol, all resources also have COINS urls available — useful for citations to look it up in a library near you.
  • tDAR is now indexing the contents of datasets as well as documents and other file formats
  • The homepage will now feature a random or selected Project or Resource

Management & Creation:

  • A redesigned document entry form that better fits with the common flow of transcribing citation information from a document.
  • Inheritance has been enabled for more fields including Notes, Related and Comparative Collections, and Identifiers

Data Integration:

  • Users can now view ontology mappings for columns when browsing
  • The Data Integration screen now has an “auto-select” button for both the Filter Values and Select Columns which auto-selects values or columns shared between all datasets
  • Integration mappings can now be applied directly via coding-sheets, and thus re-used for multiple datasets


  • Improved archival metadata is now stored on the filesystem
  • Improved page-load performance
  • Better management of current system activity

Digital Antiquity solicits proposals to support the archiving of digital archaeological data and documents in tDAR (the Digital Archaeological Record –, a international digital repository. Reports and data shared through tDAR are made accessible on the web and their long-term preservation is ensured.

Public agencies, CRM firms, individuals, universities, colleges, and other organizations are invited to submit brief proposals explaining the value of the information to be contributed. A wide array of projects will be considered, such as individual projects, regional archives, and thematic research. Grants up to $7,000 will be awarded.

Rapid review of proposals will begin 15 May, 2012 and continue until funds are committed.

Complete details at

Digital Antiquity has added three new material types to tDAR’s record entry page. The inclusion of the new material types was done in response to the requests of users and in an attempt to make the metadata more reflective of document contents.  The three new material types are:

Basketry: Artifacts (e.g., food and storage baskets, mats, shields, fans, sandals, other plaited or coiled slats/splints/stems/vines/etc., bundles of slats/splints, knotted ties, etc.) made from rigid or semi-rigid plant materials (e.g., grasses, roots, reeds or rushes, split wood).  An example of this is Perishable: Coiled Basket AMNH 29.0/9502 from the Aztec West Ruin: Perishable Artifacts and Pottery from Excavations by the American Museum of Natural History project.

Hide: Artifacts (e.g., blankets or other coverings, clothing, bags, shoes) made from animal skins or pelts. An example of this is Perishable: Hide Piece AZRU8-2927 from the Aztec West Ruin: Perishable Artifacts and Pottery from Excavations by the American Museum of Natural History project.

Textiles: Artifacts (e.g., clothing, bags, woven cloth, cordage, etc.) comprised of fibers and/or cord that are made from plant or animal material (e.g., animal hair, cotton, flax, hemp, other vegetal fibers.  An example of this is Perishable: Cotton Textile AZRU8-2733 from the Aztec West Ruin: Perishable Artifacts and Pottery from Excavations by the American Museum of Natural History project.

As always, Digital Antiquity and tDAR remain committed to the preservation and management of digital data.  We appreciate all input that will assist in making tDAR more accessible and relevant.

Regular updates to the tDAR software comprise an integral part of Digital Antiquity's commitment to digital archaeological data preservation. The Grid  release of tDAR (Winter 2012) includes the following primary components:


  • Registered users can download the first 1000 records of any search result into an excel spreadsheet.
  • Improved accuracy on searches performed with the google maps interface.

User Profiles:

  • Users can now edit/modify their profiles to add descriptions or update information.
  • Improvements to the map and the geocoding of the map data.

Document Support:

  • Users can now upload RTF documents along with PDF and Word Documents.
  • PDF documents now include a cover page with a complete citation.

Data Set Support:

  • Users are now able to preview datasets once they've been uploaded to tDAR.  This includes:
    • an interface to page through the dataset's contents.
    • the ability to view the archival metadata describing each column of the dataset.
    • improved validation and parsing support of the metadata describing each column.
  • Support for TAB separated files.

Library and Technology Related Features:

  • DOIs are now assigned for all tDAR resources with files attached.
  • tDAR is now an Open Archives (OAI-PMH) compliant provider. Basic metadata for tDAR records can now be downloaded via the OpenArchives protocol (OAI-PMH).
  • A published Schema for tDAR records is now available at
  • Support for per-instance themes.
  • Support for LDAP Authentication and Authorization.
  • Tools for Authority Management.

Digital Antiquity representatives will be on hand at the 77th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) in Memphis, Tennessee from April 18-22, 2012.


Participate in a tDAR Workshop:

On Wednesday, April 18 and Saturday, April 21 from 1 – 4 PM, Digital Antiquity will present an intensive workshop entitled “Using tDAR (the Digital Archaeological Record) to Improve Your Professional Productivity.” The workshop will use tDAR as a lens to focus on issues of data sharing, maintaining confidentiality, citation and fair use, public engagement, and digital preservation. Digital Antiquity instructors will demonstrate the basic use of tDAR to participants, who are encouraged to bring their own sample images and data to upload during the session. Attendance is free of additional charge, but is limited to 30 persons per session (one Wednesday and one Saturday) and requires pre-registration online or via mail or fax using the advance registration form. Don’t forget to register by March 17 to receive discounts on the normal meeting fee as well as some workshops and outings!


Visit the Booth:

Don’t forget to visit us at the tDAR booth (#615) in the Exhibit Hall open from 9-5 April 19-21!

Attend one of the forums:

Digital Antiquity will also be hosting a Forum on Sunday, April 22 from 8 AM – 12 PM called “Using the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR) for Management, Research and Education.” Discussants include researchers from a variety of backgrounds who have used tDAR for their academic research, through Digital Antiquity grants, and for their doctoral dissertation research. This forum requires no additional registration—we hope to see you there!

Digital Antiquity will be co-hosting a Forum with the Archaeology Data Service in the UK on Thursday, April 19th in the evening called “Digital Data Standards and ‘Best Practices’ Needed for Access to and Preservation of Archaeological Information.” This forum will focus on the recently updated Guides to Good Practice, and improving preservation and access of archaeological information.

Digital Antiquity Staff will also be contributing to the following SAA Events:

  • The Impact of Special Purpose Institutions on the Future of Archaeology
  • Digital Data Standards and “Best Practices” Needed for Access to and Preservation of Archaeological Information
  • The Future of Archaeological Publishing
  • Virtual Archaeology: The Creation, Dissemination, and Use of Virtualized Artifacts, Sites, Assemblages, and Archives
  • Mortuary Practices in the American Southwest: Patterns and Inference from Regional Databases
  • Capacity-Building for Archaeology in the 21st Century: How will People Manage the Information Explosion

Remember, even if you are not able to make it out to Memphis this year, you can still explore and use tDAR by registering, browsing and searching today.

Preserving archaeological information, facilitating access to a wide range of digital documents and data, and enhancing archaeological research are vital services that Arizona State University’s Center for Digital Antiquity provides for researchers, students and the public.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded a grant of $1.2 million beginning in March 2012 that will support the center’s operations and development. The grant enables the center to greatly expand the content of its digital repository, to enlarge the community of users and to continue development and enhancement of software to improve the repository user’s experience.

The Center for Digital Antiquity develops, maintains and oversees the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR), the country’s largest digital repository of world-wide archaeological data and information. The Center was established in 2009 with support from an earlier grant from the Mellon Foundation.

Technology has changed the way that people create and store information – moving from books and paper to digital files stored on tape, floppy disks, CD-ROMs and other media. A problem associated with this shift is that digital files are far more susceptible to loss due to degradation of storage media, software obsolescence and inadequate documentation.

When this happens with archaeological data, it is especially tragic. It entails a loss of irreplaceable information about our national and global heritage and represents a waste of time, effort and public money that has been expended to collect, analyze and report the data.

“In laboratory-based science, experiments can be repeated; however, you can’t dig a site twice,” said Keith Kintigh, ASU professor and sustainability scientist, who was the principal investigator for the first Mellon grant and is a co-principal investigator on the new grant. “The archaeological record provides our only access to most of human history. For example, human societies both contribute to and respond to gradual environmental change. Archaeological evidence allows us to better understand the conditions under which societies are resilient to long-term change, and the configurations that lead to collapse.”

Francis P. McManamon, Center for Digital Antiquity executive director and principal investigator for the new Mellon grant, notes that “approximately 40,000 archaeological investigations take place every year in the United States, yet only a handful thoroughly publish their findings and the supporting data in traditional, general distribution books. Most projects do produce limited distribution paper reports that end up in just a few of the thousands of state and federal agency offices and university libraries.” Compounding this problem, there is no reliable way to discover the existence of reports relevant to a particular research topic and the reports are frequently difficult to use and expensive to obtain.

The situation with the supporting data is far worse. Even in the unusual case that the supporting data (notes, drawings, photos etc.) exists in a public repository, they are even harder to find and are rarely adequately documented or maintained. Adam Brin, Center for Digital Antiquity director of technology and a co-principal investigator on the new grant, adds: “we want to make sure that these unpublished reports and the almost-never published supporting data and analyses are easily discoverable and widely accessible now and in 100 years. We have designed and built tDAR to ensure this.”

tDAR has been in full operation for about a year and is growing rapidly with thousands of documents, data sets and images, including 3-D scans of artifacts.

“By providing Web-based discovery and access of reports, images and well-documented data sets, tDAR enables archaeological syntheses that could never have been done before. tDAR’s cutting-edge data integration tools allow researchers to analyze data across projects that span large areas and long time intervals yielding new knowledge about the past,” Kintigh said.

Organizations that currently use tDAR as a digital repository include the Phoenix Area office of the Bureau of Reclamation, the Midwest Archeological Center of the National Park Service, the Mimbres Foundation and the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization.

“We have archaeological information from across the United States, from the Arctic to the Southwest, and from the West coast to New England. Documents, data sets and images from places like Cape Cod, coastal Georgia, the California desert, the Great Lakes region and New York City, as well as from right here in Phoenix and Tucson, can be found in tDAR,” McManamon said.

“We believe that digital copies of reports, along with the photographs, data sets and the other digital data from each project should be deposited in a trusted digital repository, such as tDAR, as part of every project’s normal workflow.  This will ensure that these digital records are preserved and can be easily discovered, accessed and used by current and future scholars,” he added.

The repository is ideal for public agencies, research organizations and individual scholars who want to preserve and protect their archaeological research project records, while making them readily available for use in research, leading to new discoveries and better understanding of the past. Agencies and scholars also will find tDAR an effective and efficient means of providing appropriate access to their research results to the general public.

“We now have in tDAR the archaeological reports from many large projects that were completed decades ago,” McManamon said. “For example, the repository includes a large number of reports and detailed records from archaeological investigations in the Phoenix area that were completed in advance of the construction of the Papago Freeway, the Hohokam Expressway and the Central Arizona Project.”

Securing a grant to ensure the future of The Center for Digital Antiquity represents an important professional milestone for McManamon, who spent 32 years at the National Park Service where he served as chief archeologist and recognized the need for an archaeological information repository like tDAR.

“We have a terrific tool,” he said. “The repository has been a crucial need for many years. We are very grateful to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its essential and steady support that is advancing scholarship and preserving irreplaceable records of human history. We’re committed to rapidly expanding our collection of information and to building tDAR’s user community while ensuring long-term digital access to the archaeological record.”

The Center is associated with ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Global Institute of Sustainability, and the University Libraries.

Regular updates to the tDAR software comprise an integral part of Digital Antiquity’s commitment to digital archaeological data preservation. The Fluvial release of tDAR (Fall 2011) includes the following primary components:


  • A new way to organize and display resources. Collections can be stacked or nested to allow you to organize resources. You can add a name, description, and sort-order to your collections.
  • Share, collections also simplify the way that you can share resources with other users. It enables you to assign a user or set of users permissions and then assign a set of users to that collection. This should simplify managing rights for resources.
Data Integration:
  • Data integration UI has been entirely reworked to simplify the process.
  • Results are now summarized to allow you to more easily assess whether the results are correct
New Creator pages:
  • tDAR now display a “creator” page for people and lists all of your resources organized by resource type, by title.
Batch Upload:
  • updated template with improved labels, examples, and help text in excel comments
  • improved error messages
  • improved map and graph
User Dashboard:
  • reworked to provide faster access to all of your resources, improved graphs
  • access to collections
Record display & editing:
  • improved, more concise record display
  • image display works better with multiple images
  • translated datasets now displaying
  • added print stylesheet to make printing cleaner
  • Date Created now a required field for records
Search Results:
  • results display enhanced with additional limits on the right, you can now limit by file access information (whether the item is shared or marked as confidential
  • improved sorting options
  • search relevancy has been significantly improved for people, places, and title matching
Datasets, Coding Sheets, & Ontologies:
  • updated category variables

Digital Antiquity maintains its commitment to digital archaeological data preservation in part through continuous attention to the tDAR software. The Debitage release of tDAR (Spring 2011) focuses on advanced search and browsing capabilities, as well as significant changes to storage infrastructure. The update includes the following primary components:

  • The finalized version of the Transatlantic Archaeological Gateway to enable searching of Projects across ADS (UK) and tDAR content
  • A completely redesigned infrastructure for processing and storing datasets including improved support for MS Access databases
  • Significantly improved advanced search tools
  • RSS/ATOM feeds for tDAR search results
  • An improved uploading interface
  • Numerous bug fixes