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Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA)

Publication and integration of North American archaeological site file records

Project Abstract

With National Science Foundation support, our team of university, public, and private sector researchers will develop protocols to integrate archaeological information from large areas of North America into a unified database, and make these capabilities available to a wide variety of scholarly, resource management, and public audiences. The primary team consists of Dr. David G. Anderson and Mr. Stephen Yerka of the University of Tennessee, Dr. Eric Kansa of Open Context & the UC Berkeley School of Information, Dr. Sarah Whitcher Kansa of the Alexandria Archive Institute, and Dr. Joshua Wells of Indiana University South Bend. Researchers and land managers at a number of state and federal agencies, public and private universities, and private companies will assist in this effort, both by providing information and evaluating how it may be best used for research and management purposes.

Efforts to collect and compile archaeological data have a long history, and information about archaeological sites and collections is maintained by every state and territory. Only rarely, however, have these data been compiled and examined at large geographic scales, especially those crosscutting state lines, and never to the extent and for the research and management purposes proposed in this project. Data from some 15 to 20 states (>half a million sites) east of the Mississippi will be integrated using an informatics framework that promotes extensions and reuse by government personnel in state and federal agencies, and domestic and international researchers. Linkage of site file and other datasets will facilitate studies of past human adaptation spanning large areas, and lead to greater collaboration between archaeologists and scientists in other disciplines. As examples, the linkage of archaeological data at broad new scales will permit, for the first time, the exploration of exciting new research topics, such as how the human populations in North America responded to climate change, population growth, and/or anthropogenic environmental issues over the past 13,000 years.

The availability of output online in the form of maps and data tables (at significantly reduced spatial resolution, to protect sensitive locations) will enhance public awareness, education, and appreciation for scientific research in general and archaeology in particular. The demonstration that primary archaeological data can be integrated and used to address fundamental questions at such scales will stimulate similar efforts worldwide. Finally, by creating translating routines rather than dictating procedures, this project will foster archaeological cooperation through cyberinfrastructure with a high ratio of benefits to costs.

The project will help to achieve NSF goals for research and education. It will foster novel networking and data integration among multiple partners, as well as research and educational activities across multiple disciplines and geopolitical boundaries. The project will fund graduate and undergraduate students, and will assist their training in critical information management skills for the 21st century. The project addresses head-on a major challenge facing research communities worldwide: how to link disconnected and incompatible data systems in such a way that the combined data are useful for important scientific research.

Suggested Citation

David G. Anderson, Joshua Wells, Stephen Yerka, Kelsey Noack Myers, Robert Carl DeMuth, Thaddeus Geoffrey Bissett. (2015) "Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA)". Sarah Whitcher Kansa, Eric C. Kansa (Ed). Released: 2015-10-21. Open Context. <> DOI:

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While this content is in the public domain, please appropriately cite the contributors and Open Context