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.

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!


From ASU News, 7/16/2013

Mimbres pottery is one of the most treasured prehistoric ceramic traditions of North America. Named for the valley in southwestern New Mexico where its creators flourished around a thousand years ago, the striking black-on-white vessels are highly prized on the art market.

The bowls, which usually bear human or animal figures, are spread over the world in various museums and private collections, making it impossible for researchers – or simply interested individuals – to easily access the bulk of this work.

Until now.

Earlier this year, the Mimbres Pottery Images Digital Database (MimPIDD) debuted as part of the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR).


David Plaza was awarded a 2012 Center for Digital Antiquity grant for his project entitled The Anasazi Origins Project Digital Archives Initiative (AOPDAI), designed to digitize and ingest into tDAR the associated records stored at Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU). The AOPDAI’s mission is to aggregate and digitize all data associated with the Anasazi Origins Project (AOP), and archive the data on platforms that are capable of easily sharing the results among researchers, professionals, and the interested public.

The AOP was led by Cynthia Irwin-Williams to investigate the antecedents of the Ancestral Puebloans (Oshara Tradition) in the Arroyo Cuervo Region of northwestern New Mexico. Irwin-Williams’ project was fundamental to illuminating the poorly understood Archaic period in the northern Southwest, and resulted in an enormous collection of artifacts, ecofacts, and contextual documents from its field campaigns.

tDAR aids in improving and disseminating this important collection by providing additional long term preservation services to aid in ensuring access to the AOP records in perpetuity.  Furthermore, tDAR’s data integration tools allow information from various components of ENMU’s AOP data sets to be easily synthesized for new analyses.

The AOPDAI uploads to tDAR is an effort to collect and migrate digitized data of the AOP from various parts of the country into a central location. At present, the AOPDAI on tDAR draws from several components of the AOP collection held at ENMU: publications, field maps, photographs, artifact spreadsheets, site records, and inventory sheets for notes. In addition, there is a data set of the site records from the AOP field campaigns organized using the laboratory site record format that can be used in spreadsheets or a Microsoft Access database. Plaza will continuously update this data set for the next two years as more lab work is completed and as additional records and artifacts are located and digitized. Additional planned uploads will include artifact catalogues describing the AOP collections housed at Eastern New Mexico University. Near future endeavors will consist of virtually reunifying components of this collection that exist at the National Anthropological Archives with those at ENMU and tDAR.

Scholars or curators with resources relevant to the Anasazi Origins Project and interested in contributing these resources to The Anasazi Origins Project Digital Archive Initiative should contact David Plaza at

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has expanded their archiving efforts in tDAR to include a new set of georeferenced versions of maps of central Tikal (originally published in Tikal Report 11: Map of the Ruins of Tikal, El Peten, Guatemala by Robert F. Carr and James E. Hazard in 1961). The print maps were georeferenced and checked for accuracy by a University of Cincinnati project at Tikal, and have not been widely circulated until now.  The electronic versions of these maps will be especially useful resources for archaeologists, biologists, tourists and to the managers of Tikal National Park, and are intended for use with GIS software.

Please visit to view the georeferenced Tikal maps!

This project, created by the Center for Digital Antiquity under contract with the United States Air Force covers documents and other digital resources from archaeological research conducted at or for Dyess Air Force Base (Dyess AFB). Dyess AFB, established in 1942 as Abilene Army Air Base (AAB), is a B1-Bomber base on 6,409-acre located in the southwest corner of Abilene, TX in Taylor County. The archaeology of the Taylor County area dates the human occupation of the area from about 12,500 B.C. into the present. Dyess AFB has at least seven recorded archaeological sites and 300 Cold War era facilities. A number of archaeological investigations of varying intensity and detail have been conducted since the 1920’s on or around Dyess AFB. The Dyess AFB cultural resource staff and US Air Force archaeologists collaborated with Digital Antiquity curators to create a digital repository of these archaeological documents and other materials.

In the tDAR archive these reports and other digital data are now readily accessible for necessary management reviews and decision-making, research and educational uses, and to ensure their long-term preservation. Air Force cultural resource staff will be able to use tDAR to access information about the archaeological resources at Dyess readily whether they are at the base, where they might be able to find a paper copy, or not.  The goal of this digital archiving effort is to identify archaeological documents, data sets, images, and other materials relevant to the area within and near Dyess; obtain or create digital copies of reports, data sets, images, and other appropriate materials; check the text and illustrations of each report and redact information that should be kept “confidential;” and deposit the materials into tDAR, where they can be accessed (as appropriate) and preserved for future use.

The overall digital archiving project for the Air Force is continuing with similar efforts underway for Shaw AFB (South Carolina) and Avon Park AFB (Florida). Regarding the Dyess materials, which have never before been widely available, only a few of the documents are regarded as having confidential information, so most of the items are generally available to registered tDAR users.  This tDAR collection of documents will be particularly useful for CRM contractors, teachers, and researchers who are interested in the archaeology in the area. Of special note for anyone interested in a good overview of the archaeology of the area is Nancy Kenmotsu’s 2011 report, Archaeological Needs Assessment for Dyess Air Force Base, Taylor County, Texas.  



This year we begin the transition that will take Digital Antiquity and tDAR from a grant-supported financial model to user-supported, not for profit entity.  Beginning this week all uploads to tDAR carry a modest, one-time fee to ensure the long-term preservation of records archived in the repository. 



Item Cost per File
1-9 Files $50
10-49 Files $40
50-99 Files $30
100-499 Files $25
500-999 Files $20
1,000-4,999 Files $15
5,000-9,999 Files $5

* All files come with 10 MB of space


Our price structure is based on a sliding scale starting at $50 for 1 file of up to 10 MB.  Storage space is not allocated per file, but “pooled” among all your files.  Additional space can be purchased as needed for large files (like large data sets, images, or 3D scans) by contacting our office. We accept MasterCard, Visa, and American Express via our secure online forms. For purchase orders please contact our office to set up an online billing account.  Detailed information on pricing, along with examples and a simple calculator can be found on our website at

If you have already contributed files to tDAR, know that all of the records you have created and files you have uploaded will remain in tDAR as before.  You may continue to access the records, download files, and edit the metadata.   Browsing, searching, and downloading content from the wealth of archaeological information archived in tDAR will remain a free service. 

We thank you for your support of tDAR and look forward to continuing to serve you in preserving and providing access to archaeological information long into the future. 

If you have any questions, we’re happy to talk with you about the changes.  Call or email (480) 965-1369;


Digital Antiquity is pleased to announce the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (PennMuseum) collection in tDAR. Digital curators created metadata and uploaded all of the digital supplementary material from 18 books published by the Penn Museum.

These incredible materials include rich data sets, images, and reports, all available for download by registered tDAR users. tDAR’s content is indexed by major search engines, and exposes the Penn Museum’s  published digital content to searchers who may otherwise be unaware of these books and their associated digital media.    

The books themselves are available for purchase at the University of Pennsylvania Press (Penn Press) website at The books focus on scholarship from around the world including:


Asia & the Pacific


Middle East/Eurasia





You’ve probably been warned by popular media that tomorrow brings the “Maya Apocalypse,” a prophesied end-of-days. Indeed, the 21st of December, 2012, marks the end of an important cycle in the Maya Long Count Calendar—but there is no evidence suggesting pre-Hispanic Maya predicted any doom-and-gloom to befall us on this day.  In fact, there is only one known text that makes mention of this date!  We know the Maya world was ordered by their many intricate calendar systems, of which the long count calendar was just one.  tDAR holds a large number of interesting documents and projects providing in-depth coverage on numerous aspects of Maya life.



Do you have archaeological information you’d like to contribute to tDAR?  Now is a great time as we will continue to offer free uploads to tDAR through the end of the year.  Once in tDAR your files are preserved for the long term so users today and well into the future can access and make use of them.  At Digital Antiquity we regularly and systematically check the files in the tDAR repository to ensure that no deterioration has occurred.  If file deterioration is detected, take steps to remedy it.  We periodically migrate and/or refresh the digital files to provide for their long-term accessibility and preservation.  Your files are maintained in open and preferable formats, and associated with rich descriptive metadata that make them meaningful.  What are you waiting for?