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!

Congratulations to our colleague, Dr. Paul Green, Cultural Resources Specialist for the East Region Support Team (RST), part of the U.S. Air Force Civil Engineer Center.  The Secretary of Defense has recognized Paul’s excellent professional work with the 2015 Department of Defense Cultural Resources Management award.

At Digital Antiquity we are particularly happy to learn of this award and that one of the many major accomplishments for which his service is recognized involved a program that we have had a hand in.  Paul had a key role in establishing

“…the first DoD digital cultural resources data archives for permanent curation. Maintained by the non-profit Digital Antiquity, the solution outsources the complex effort of keeping with technological changes in media storage while ensuring DoD cultural data is permanently maintained and easily accessible to authorized users and, as appropriate, the public. (from the announcement of Dr. Green’s award, Cultural Resource Update, the Department of Defense Cultural Resource Program Newsletter [Vol. 11, No. 1, Spring/Summer 2015; p. 5]).

Together with Dr. Jim Wilde, Archaeologist and Cultural Resource Management Subject Matter Expert at the US Air Force Environmental Center, Paul is overseeing the continuing growth of important documents, data, images, and other digital data in tDAR (the Digital Archaeological Record).

More information about the US Air Force digital archive in tDAR is available at:; and

About the Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards program (from the Cultural Resource Update Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 4-5): Since 1962, the Department of Defense Environmental awards have honored individuals, teams, and installations for their outstanding achievements and innovative work protecting the environment while sustaining mission readiness.  A diverse panel of judges with relevant expertise representing federal and state agencies, academia, and the private sector evaluated all nominees to select one winner for each of the nine categories that cover six subject areas: natural resources conservation; environmental quality; sustainability; environmental restoration; cultural resources management; and environmental excellence in weapon system acquisition.

The Cultural Resources Management award recognizes individuals and teams making significant and lasting contributions to DoD CRM. This award acknowledges efforts to promote cultural resources stewardship in DoD by highlighting outstanding management activities and showcasing DoD’s extensive cultural resources, including archaeological sites, the historic built environment, and cultural landscapes. Desired initiatives include partnering with external stakeholders such as Native Americans, SHPOs, and local communities, and working with internal stakeholders in the areas of master planning, public works, and range management.  More information on the Awards can be found at:


Archaeologists are up-to-their-ears in digital data and, just like physical artifact collections and paper records, these digital data must be curated properly so that the information they contain is not lost.  But, what does this mean?  What is good digital curation?  Well, it is more than storing digital data in iCloud or a Dropbox account, neither of which provide for long-term preservation, data-sharing, or future use of the data.  And, it isn’t simply putting your data on a website and hoping that colleagues who might be interested will find it and use it.

The level of understanding of what comprises digital curation and why it is important within the contemporary archaeology community is reminiscent of the situation a generation ago regarding the curation of physical collections and records from archaeological investigations.  Then, many archaeologists did not consider how the physical collections of artifacts, samples, and records they created in each field investigation would be curated.  These concerns were left to be dealt with by museum curators or not at all.  Now, planning for archaeological investigations must take account of how and where physical collections and records will be curated.  Archaeologists are required to consider this aspect of their archaeological projects.  Similarly, planning and appropriate treatment of digital data as a normal part of archaeological investigations is essential to ensure that these results of studies are discoverable, accessible, and preserved for future use. An important challenge for the archaeological community and individual archaeologists is how to bring digital curation into archaeological practice without waiting for another generation to pass.  We need to shorten the period within which proper digital curation and preservation of archaeological data becomes a regular part every archaeological project.

The Digital Curation Centre, a national authority on the subject in the United Kingdom, describes digital curation as “maintaining, preserving, and adding value to digital research data.”  To flesh out these terms a bit, one can describe good digital curation as:

  • organizing a project’s digital files logically for efficient administration, management, and research;
  • creating detailed and “rich” metadata describing the file contents and linking this metadata directly with the files;
  • uploading files to a repository (we would recommend tDAR for archaeological data) where they can be discovered and appropriately accessed; and,
  • managing files in the repository to ensure their long-term availability for future uses. 

Detailed guidance about digital curation is available, for example, the Center for Digital Antiquity and the Archaeology Data Service provide quite body of methodological, practical, and technical information about organizing and treating digital data on their webpages, Guide to Good Practice.  Last year these organizations published a handbook with basic guidance about good digital curation methods and techniques, Caring for Digital Data in Archaeology, available from Oxbow Books.

Now, word is spreading wider.  The recently published Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology, by Springer, includes an article: “Digital Archaeological Data: Ensuring Access, Use, and Preservation.”  A preprint version of this article is available in tDAR, where it can be viewed and/or downloaded by registered tDAR users.

There are positive developments based on broader national and international efforts.  For example, the US government recent policies requiring improved access to research data and information generated by government agencies.  Another positive development is the greater emphasis on requiring good digital data management by granting agencies like NSF and NEH.  Academic and scientific publishers, including the Society for American Archaeology and Elsevier, are emphasizing making data used in published articles available in digital formats. All of these general developments are moving in the right direction for improving the inclusion of good digital curation as part of contemporary archaeological practice.  With all this positive background, there is no reason for individual archaeologists or agencies responsible for archaeological information to delay the incorporation of good digital curation into their own work.  Let’s not wait for 20, or 25, or 30 years for digital curation to become part of archaeological good practice.  We will have lost much too much data and information if we delay.

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.

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.

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.

The current issue of Archaeology magazine (September/October 2013), includes two articles related to collections of archaeological data and other information in tDAR. 

One of the articles, “An Extreme Life” by Victoria Schlesinger, describes a long-term archaeological project by Ben Fitzhugh of the University of Washington to study the adaptation and 7,000 year history of human populations that once lived on the Kuril Islands, an 800-mile-long chain extending north from the island of Hokkaido in Japan to the Kamchataka Peninsula in Russia.

More detailed information about Fitzhugh’s project can be found in tDAR, where it is mainly accessable and available to other tDAR users.  The Kuril Biocomplexity Project Archive (NSF 0508109) and Kuril Biocomplexity Research Collection contain a rich record of the archaeological research and sites on the Kuril Islands, including over 130 reports, sets of photos, and maps.

Fitzhugh’s Kuril project is part of a larger network of research projects, the Global Human Ecodynamics Alliance (GHEA), which is using tDAR as a means of sharing research data and other results among the cooperating projects and with the wider world.  GHEA is an organization of social scientists, natural scientists, historians, educators, students, policy makers, and others interested in promoting cutting-edge research, education, and application of the socioecological dynamics of coupled human and natural systems across scales of space and time.  The research coordination is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs Science.   

Andrew Lawler’s article, “The Everlasting City” reviews past and current interpretations early urbanism in what is now southern Iraq.  Lawler mentions current research by Jennifer Pournelle of the University of South Carolina aimed at understanding how climate change and shifting river systems impacted early Sumerian civilization.  Pournelle also has set up and is building in tDAR a collection of documents and other information titled, “Ancient Civilizations: Mesopotamia."  The collection, which is growing, is designed to include resources for exploring the foundation, growth, and persistence of the long history of "Mesopotamia" (literally, "between the rivers") – the lands watered by the Tigris and Euphrates.

We are delighted that tDAR provides these research projects with a digital repository where their data can be managed, made accessible (as appropriate), and preserved for future use.  To get started using tDAR to manage your own digital archaeological information, please visit today!

On February 22-23, 2011, Digital Antiquity and the SRI Foundation sponsored a workshop on archaeological information management.  Participants included representatives of many U. S. agencies and departments, including the Department of Defense, the Bureau of Land Management, the Corps of Engineers, the Department of the Interior, the U. S.  Air Force, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Highway Administration, and the U. S. Army.  Also participating were current and past officials of the State Historic Preservation Offices of Georgia, Maryland, and Texas and two representatives of national CRM firms.

Participants reviewed the current status of archaeological information management, in particular how digital data and documents can be accessed and how they are preserved for future use.    Attendees agreed on the importance of preservation and curation facilities for digital archaeological data and the challenges of access, preservation, and management.  Participants considered how Digital Antiquity and tDAR could be useful to help their organizations meet data access and preservation needs.  Participants also drafted an action plan to improve the current state of digital archaeological data preservation and management.  Digital Antiquity will work directly with various organizations on implementation of the work plan.

The Center for the Study of Architecture (CSA) has published the article, “Digital Antiquity and the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR):  Broadening Access and Ensuring Long-Term Preservation for Digital Archaeological Data,” by Francis P McManamon, Keith W. Kintigh, and Adam Brin.

Read the article in the CSA Newsletter, Fall 2010

The Archaeology Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) has identified the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR) as one of two data repositories for researchers to consider in order to fulfil the requirement that proposals include a plan for providing wide access and long-term preservation of data and documents created as part of NSF research grants.

See the NSF’s required Data Management Plan here.