Compiling the Database
Our goal in this project was to create a consistent and searchable database of archaeological collections curated at
the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.
What Sites are Included in the Database?
We made the decision at the beginning of this process to limit ourselves to archaeological sites that had been investigated at
the Phase II and/or Phase III levels, feeling that these sites would have collections that would lend themselves more
readily to answering research questions. As of the launching of this web site in early 2017, the database contains
entries from 268 sites. The database will be updated on an annual basis to incorporate new collections arriving
at the lab. Currently, only archaeological collections owned by the State of Maryland are included in this database; we
are working to find funding to incorporate Federally-owned collections from approximately 146 sites into the database.
How Was the Database Created?
We used a variety of sources to create the database. Unpublished archaeological reports were the primary source
used. In cases where reports had not been prepared, we used field records (notes, maps and photographs) to
create site entries. Published articles or conference papers were also sometimes used as sources.
The database was envisioned primarily as a way to understand what features or midden contexts existed on these
sites, and we made the decision not to include results from plowzone excavation. Where we could, we tried to
group features into larger entities we called “macrofeatures.” For example, if eight postholes and a brick
chimney base made up an earthfast structure, those postholes and chimney base would receive a macrofeature
designation, to make it easier for researchers to understand that they were related.
In a few cases, we discovered that feature numbers were duplicated on sites; in those instances we included
distinguishing information, such as a unit number or title as presented in site reports or other
documents. Feature designations vary from site to site depending on the verbiage employed by the investigators.
We used paper coding sheets to ease error-checking or adding data, and then entered the code
sheets into a Microsoft Access database.