The Archaeologist as Storyteller - Society for American Archaeology

The Archaeologist as Storyteller - Society for American Archaeology


We conceived of this descriptive (or database) portion

of the electronic report as flowing directly from field

documentation and lab analysis records. There is a

relatively long history of databasing artifact analysis

information, so these data converted smoothly into

our new system. In contrast, most archaeologists did

not learn to dig in a database-driven environment, so

our field documentation required some redesigning.

We adjusted our field forms to match the data entry

screens and updated our field manual accordingly

(Crow Canyon Archaeological Center 2001). Our field

forms are now more structured and contain many

additional prompts; this ensures that field personnel

record all of the needed types of data, that field information

is recorded consistently at a given site and

from one site to another, and that data entry proceeds

as quickly, efficiently, and error-free as possible.

From the outset, we were uncertain as to the level of

interpretation to provide in our online reports. We

finally decided to input inferences from the level of

the individual feature (e.g., hearth, posthole, doorway)

through the study unit (e.g., structure, extramural surface,

midden) into the database. Inferences above the

level of the individual study unit (e.g., architectural

block, intrasite, intersite) were considered too textintensive

to work well in a database format. This type

of inference would be included in prose “chapters”

that would accompany the database online. These

prose documents are much like those found in the

synthetic sections of traditional site reports, except

that they contain links to appropriate maps, photos,

references, and other files within the database. Unlike

the database portion of the report, the interpretive

component consists of static pages, including a table

of contents.

In 2000, information on Castle Rock Pueblo went online. This information consists of dynamic database

information presented in a user-friendly format (Crow Canyon Archaeological Center 2000), as well

as static chapters of interpretive text (Kuckelman 2000). Recently, interpretive text for Woods Canyon

Pueblo (Churchill 2002) was published online; the database for this site will be available in the near

future. Publications on Yellow Jacket and Sand Canyon pueblos are scheduled to go online in August

2003. In addition, there are many non-electronic publications that contain interpretations about these

sites (refer to the bibliography available at Due to go online soon is the

third and final component of our electronic site reports: our multisite database. This will facilitate

access to, and manipulation of, data from either one specific site or from a combination of the numerous

sites we have investigated. This database will contain data additional to those in the site-specific

databases. Researchers will be able to query for specific information and download the resulting data to

conduct their own research. It is important to note that the site database and interpretive text for each

site are copyrighted and cited separately from each other; the multisite database is also cited separately.

Pros and Cons of Publishing Online

We have found several important advantages to publishing online. One of the most significant is that

14 The SAA Archaeological Record • January 2003

Figure 1: The introductory web page for The Castle Rock Pueblo Database, illustrating

the kinds of data that can be presented in online publications.

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