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 cataloguing 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
catalogued and analyzed these artifacts in accordance to the MAC Lab system. But due to
time constraints it was impossible to re-catalogue every collection, so for many
collections we had to rely on the original catalogued material. If we had to modify
the original catalogue 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 catalogues were, it must be noted that some of
the deposit type and subtype data was altered in an attempt at standardization across