One purpose of this project is to make available to the largest audience
possible archaeological information recovered from colonial period sites
in the Potomac River valley. The downloadable databases found on this web site
contain evidence about artifacts recovered from a variety of contexts. Much of this
evidence was recovered under differing circumstances.
In some cases, projects had to be completed within several months, while
others represent longer-term programs. Once excavated, the assemblages
included here were processed and catalogued at a variety of highly respected
institutions, each with its own rules and procedures for organizing
archaeological data. For the most part, we have accepted these original
catalogs and performed no additional checking of the artifacts themselves.
Such an approach is not without problems. For example, we found
that the level of detail captured in the electronic catalogs varied
among institutions. Terminology also varies. Some electronic databases
contained obvious—and therefore correctable—errors. Errors less evident,
such as typographical ones (keying “0” when “9” was intended, for example),
may not have been caught in the process of assembling these databases.
The structure of the electronic databases also differed from institution
to institution. We made some effort to standardize structure in order
to enhance comparability, but users of the data are cautioned that the
individual site databases are not fully equivalent. To have made them
so—by forcing them into a uniform template—would have risked the loss
of potentially valuable information from certain collections. Users
are strongly encouraged to peruse downloaded individual databases before
subjecting them to additional analyses.
The Comprehensive Database
Because the databases from the individual sites were often very different,
we realized that comparative analysis would benefit from a single, comprehensive
database even if it necessarily altered some of the data and data structure
significantly. Thus, we created a “comprehensive” artifact
database in Microsoft Access, by carefully
combining the individual site databases and matching, as much as possible,
similar fields to one another. The original databases from which this
combined database was assembled are still available for download in
their original form.
Some final cross-checking was done in the comprehensive database, and
a small number of coding errors were fixed. Nonetheless, users are encouraged
to download the comprehensive database and alter it (including combining
similar terms if desired) to serve these own purposes.
Finally, while every effort was made to insure the accuracy of the final
databases and the analytic charts and maps presented here—including
the use of at least two proofreaders for every database—we strongly
urge users to contact collections managers at the individual repositories
when questions arise, and to recognize that errors are probably present.
We have provided contact information in the site summary section of
the web page for this purpose.
Users are encouraged to report errors to us for correction. Please contact
Julia A. King at firstname.lastname@example.org (410.586.8551)
Further Technical Details