Cataloguing Procedures


In an attempt to generate a comprehensive and comparative electronic database, this project assembled archaeological collections from 34 Native and European sites in the Potomac River Valley, spanning the period from the Late Woodland up until circa 1730. In cataloguing and creating our database we strove for consistency above all else. In essence, our goal was to ensure that data from each site was collected, standardized, analyzed, and interpreted in such a way that made these artifact collections comparable to one another.

The collections from these 34 sites are maintained by several different collections repositories. Each institution sent either a physical or digital copy of their catalog for their sites. It would be naïve to believe that creating the database was simply a matter of compiling all the records and entering the data into an electronic form, and so considerable time and effort was given to ensure that through the process of standardizing records the integrity of the original information was retained.

The cataloguing process for this project was based on the cataloging procedures outlined in the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory (MAC Lab) catalog manual. As such, the structure of our Access database was designed in part to reflect such a system, which itself was influenced by the database software program, Re:discovery.

Some collections were sent to us uncatalogued, as was the case with the Addison and Brent collections. Over the course of more than a year, the crew at St. Mary's College cataloged these artifacts in accordance with the MAC Lab system. But due to time constraints it was impossible to re-catalog every collection so, for many collections, we had to rely on the original cataloged material. If we had to modify the original catalog to fit into our database specifications, as was the case with the Ferry Farm data, every consideration was taken to ensure that no data was lost in translation.

The artifact and context databases are linked by the context number; a term which denotes the locational information associated with an artifact and oftentimes is used interchangeably with provenience. Both databases were contained as separate tables within the larger single Access database.

The context table contains provenience information: deposit type and subtype, vertical and horizontal locations, screen type, the number of artifacts and records per one specific context, in addition to other fields. While for the most part the context information was not adjusted in the way that the catalogs were, it must be noted that some of the deposit type and subtype data was altered in an attempt at standardization across the database.

About the Project

A multi-year and multi-institution collaboration standardizing and synthesizing archaeological data for important sites in the Potomac River Valley during the period 1500-1720.

Technical Data

How we gathered and organized the data, details about the databases, information for those who want to download and work with the data.

Browse the Sites

Browse the 34 archaeological sites included in the project. These site summaries include links to images, maps, GIS data, and artifact collections.

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