In December, the Arizona Archaeological Council (AAC) Board of Directors and two archaeologists who are members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) praised Digital Antiquity and its central project, the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR), noting their importance to the future of archaeology.

After a December meeting, during which Digital Antiquity representatives Keith Kintigh and Francis P. McManamon highlighted tDAR’s user-friendly interface and some of its features, the AAC Board of Directors recommended that “members become familiar with tDAR and Digital Antiquity and make use of the repository to share and preserve the digital results of their archaeological projects.” This recommendation, coupled with a planned workshop on tDAR for the AAC’s broader membership, expresses an important endorsement of the efficient management of digital archaeological data.

Responding to the first issue of the Digital Antiquity eNews, Linda Cordell, distinguished Southwest archaeologist and member of the National Academy of Sciences, called tDAR “…the most important contribution made to archaeology since radiocarbon dating.” Patty Jo Watson, 2010 recipient of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) Lifetime Achievement Award and member of the National Academy of Sciences, shared her thoughts, noting that “the potential of tDAR is truly dazzling!”

These endorsements, by a professional organization and giants in the field of archaeology, speak to the importance of providing better access to digital data and ensuring its long-term preservation.

During the summer of 2010, staff at Digital Antiquity added over two hundred new digital documents to the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR) repository.  These documents, plus others contributed by registered users, has increased the number of documents available in tDAR to over 630.

Included in the repository are archaeological overviews, survey reports, detailed excavation and artifact analysis reports, as well as historical documents and studies related to archaeological resources.  The documents cover research on both ancient and historic period archaeological resources and are international in geographic scope.  Readers are encouraged to explore the tDAR repository using the Search function to see the variety of documents and data sets available to tDAR users.

Among the new entries is a report series of over 100 documents, Publications in Anthropology, published by the National Park Service’s Western Archeological and Conservation Center between 1975 and 2008.  These reports range from 3 to 852 pages, with most reports ranging between 200 and 400 pages.  The repository now contains many interesting and informative studies in this series, among them are:

These reports are only a few among the hundreds of documents about American archaeology that users can find in the tDAR repository.

Principle investigators Keith Kintigh and K. Selçuk Candan recently secured a NSF Information Integration and Informatics small project grant for their proposal, “One Size Does Not Fit All: Empowering the User with User-Driven Integration.” Responding to the inefficiency of current schemes, which sacrifice possible data uses in order to produce early integration, User-Driven Integration (UDI) is an approach that takes advantage of expert opinions from the users of integrated data. Scientists and decision-makers have different needs and expectations from data integration operations, and their input will improve data management in complex systems.

UDI also benefits students: undergraduate Honors capstone projects and graduate computer science courses will be formed to test and improve the approach. tDAR data structure is in line with the UDI approach, which values user feedback over structured data, integrating dynamic and variable data sets which may mesh in a variety of ways.

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

CRM firms, public agencies, 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 will be awarded in two categories:  up to $ 2,000, and up to $ 10,000.  We anticipate making approximately 40 awards.  Rapid review of proposals will begin on 25 February 2011 and continue until until funds are committed.

Specific criteria and instructions will be made available by mid-December at http//digitalantiquity.org/grants.

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Since 2004, a national team of faunal analysts has worked together to use and improve the data integration tools of the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR). The North American Faunal Working Group (FWG), led by Kate Spielmann, met in at the School of  Human Evolution and Social Change, ASU in Tempe this October to discuss their ongoing work. The FWG is divided provisionally into two parts: the Eastern and Southwestern regional groups. Each group currently is involved in separate pilot studies integrating faunal data sets in tDAR.  The Eastern group suggested several improvements to the tDAR integration tool itself, while the Southwestern group raised a range of challenges to be overcome regarding the coding of faunal data and the importance of their archaeological contexts. The workshop members also are drafting a new National Science Foundation funding proposal to move ahead with synthetic research—integrating faunal data sets from the Eastern and Southwestern regions—using tDAR.

See Kate Spielmann’s profile.

In August the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Social and Behavioral Sciences Issued a call for white papers on future research directions as a part of its SBE 2020 Project. Keith Kintigh, Francis P. McManamon and Katherine Spielmann responded to this call with their submission entitled, “Synthesis and Cyberinfrastructure for SBE Research.” Their essay argues for the vital need to invest in social science data digital infrastructure by the NSF. The authors cite vast improvements in synthetic natural science research as the result of massive NSF investment in its infrastructure and synthesis. They note that social sciences have not yet made a similar investment and cannot simply adopt extant natural and physical science infrastructures. Due to the nature of the data, research is needed on appropriate forms of metadata, data integration and synthesis for different types of social, behavioral and economic science data sets.

Get specific! See Kintigh, McManamon and Spielmann’s recommendations here.

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

Archaeology Data Services in the UK and Digtial Antiquity in the US are collaborating to update and broaden the pioneer set of guidelines created by ADS and in use for over a decade.  The guides describe good practices regarding the creation, preservation, and sharing of digital archaeological files.

Drafts of the revised guides are available for review and comment and interested readers are encouraged to do so.  The comment period will end on 15 November, so don’t delay!

Updating Guides to Good Practice

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.