National Guide to Anthropological Records

The Council for the Preservation of Anthropological Records (CoPAR) was incorporated in February 1995 to identify, encourage the preservation, and foster the use of the records of anthropological research. Anthropology is concerned with the study, documentation, and understanding of human biological, cultural and linguistic diversity. Anthropological records contain primary data about, and provide the basis for, continuing research on human diversity, as well as the history of the discipline. Anthropological records thus present a unique and irreplaceable segment of human knowledge. CoPAR has as its objective the initiation of programs to: foster awareness and the importance of records preservation; provide information on records location and access; help provide support for existing repositories; provide consulting and technical services; and conduct special projects as needed. This objective is outlined in the following statement of principles:

Anthropological records contain irreplaceable information about human and cultural diversity and commonalties. Those records are at risk.
Producers, collectors, and holders of those records are stewards of them and the information they contain.

Stewardship implies certain responsibilities; among them:
To assure that the records are properly preserved and passed on to future generations;
To be aware that information contained in the records has complex meanings for the subjects, producers, collectors, holders, and managers of them;
To be aware that there are often conflicting ethical and legal issues relating to those records and the uses that may be made of them;
To collaborate with subjects, producers, collectors, holders and managers of records to insure the proper preservation of, and access to, those records. and access to, those records.
CoPAR is sponsored by the major anthropological organizations in the United States in cooperation with other relevant professional organizations, such as the Society for American Archivists and the American Library Association, and government agencies, such as the National Park Service.

This page will be periodically updated with information on the progress of the National Guide to Anthropological Records database and finding guide. This project was initiated by CoPAR as a first step toward preserving the anthropological record by documenting the location, content and preservation status of existing collections. The database will be made available through CoPAR to anthropologists, archivists, students, and other interested persons. It will provide a search tool for scholars to become aware of and learn the locations of collections of anthropological data that are of relevance to their work and interests. This project does not attempt to publish the actual information contained in the collections it documents; rather, users are simply directed to the appropriate contacts to arrange access to the information itself. As database access over Internet becomes more prevalent, it is expected that a seamless transfer will be possible through the use of Uniform Resource Locators (URL) as pointers to electronically available collection information. Development of the National Guide to Anthropological Records is designed to accommodate future directions in connectivity among archives, museums and repositories..

Work on the project is scheduled to begin in Fall 1995, pending funding. Institutions collaborating on this project include: Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University; The Center for Advanced Spatial Technology, University of Arkansas; Department of Anthropology, University of Nevada, Reno; Arizona State Museum; The National Park Service

Structure of the Database
The following is a general outline of the planned structure for the database.

Database Design
Each record will describe a single collection and will contain descriptive information about its content, provenance, access, and preservation needs. The information content is based on a standard for anthropological metadata that was outlined at the 3 rd CoPAR workshop in 1987 and recently formalized at the Wenner-Grenn conference in Taos, New Mexico. Several subtables containing searchable keyword lists are provided. The structure of this database will follow MARC compatible format and will be housed on a WindowsNT-based system in a relational database. The database was modelled using ER/Studio; the Entity/Relationship diagram and a data dictionary may be viewed online.

Database Server
In a Client/server architecture the server software that parses query requests and actually retrieves the data from the database is separated from the client software with which the user interacts. Microsoft SQL Server is currently used to store the database and provide the search capabilities. SQL Server is scalable beyond the needs of this database, can be replicated, and can export data via standard SQL statements to any other platform.

Client Interface
This is a set of computer screens through which users will actually type in their query requests and receive the results. Two protocols will be used. World Wide Web (WWW) is a hypertext protocol accessed with Mosaic, Netscape, etc. Telnet is character-based (like CARL) and can be used from non-graphic “dumb” terminals. Both protocols are implemented in NADB.
In the WWW interface, the user will fill out an on-line Structured Query Language (SQL) request form. A sample query form is shown here. The contents of the form will be processed by software running on the web server which in turn invokes the SQL Server search engine to retrieve the data. Microsoft Active Server Pages, a VisualBasic scripting application is used to develop the parsing software for this project. The results of the query will be formatted as an HTML document which can then be then viewed by the user through his/her WWW browser, or upon request be returned as a downloadable ASCII file. If any of the queried collections are accessible via an Internet service using standard protocols (Gopher, Telnet, WWW), the output will include an electronic pointer that will transfer the user directly to that server. The graphic capabilities of the hypertext protocol will also permit adoption of existing WWW-based search tools such as Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center’s Map Viewer allow users to interactively point to geographic areas of interest as part of the query process. Touch sensitive maps to handle user queries are currently in use in the USGS Data archive, the Global Land Information System (X-windows only), and the National Archaeological Data Base.
Text-based access will be via a client that can be run via Telnet. The interface for this would look and feel similar to that of the CARL library database system. Although limited in flexibility, it will run on virtually any computer terminal, thus maximizing access.

Data Entry system
The amount of data per record entry will vary, but is expected to be around 2000 characters on average. A database of 50,000 records would thus require 100-150 megabytes of storage space, allowing for indexes and headers. Additional disk space will be required as temporary storage to hold queries generated by users for a limited period of time. Several options will by available for entering data into the system depending on the amount of data and the capabilities of the providing institution:
Uploading from existing computerized databases via MARC compatible exchange files. File formats and transfers will be coordinated by CoPAR and repository personnel for substantial collections that are already in suitable computer inventories. This will be the case for most of the first set of collections archives incorporated into CoPAR. Data will be transferred by removable media or, preferably, Internet transfer.
On-line entry over Internet via a WWW based data entry form. Certain institutions maintain permanent data management staff that can be trained to use CoPAR’s on-line data entry system. A sample entry screen may be found here. These data will be entered into a temporary database which is then proofed by CoPAR staff and appended to the main database.
Manual entry of paper data forms by CoPAR assistant. This is expected to be necessary to include collection data from smaller institutions and private collections with little or no data management staff.

¿Why Archaeology is so important?

Archaeology is, quite simply, the study of past human cultures. The study of human cultures in general is anthropology, which means that archaeologists are, first and foremost, anthropologists. Where archaeologists differ from anthropologists is in their method of study. While the anthropologist enters the field to study among extant human groups, directly observing activities, recording interviews with informants, and interacting with members of the society, the archaeologist studies past human activities and behaviors primarily through observation of materials, features, and structures left behind by the past society. Archaeologists seek to explain the same cultural phenomena that anthropologists study among modern peoples; the two fields are, therefore, inseparable. In fact, archaeologists rely heavily on studies and conclusions regarding modern cultural porno characteristics and patterns in making inferences about those of past peoples. It is important to understand that archaeologists do not simply excavate, describe, and analyze artifacts and ecofacts. Although these activities are certainly practiced by archaeologists, they are not the “be all, end-all” of archaeological research.

The ultimate goal of archaeology is to make sound interpretations about past human behavior, and to look for patterns that might help us to understand cultural change. Archaeologists are able to make interpretations based on careful study of archaeological sites and the materials recovered from archaeological contexts at the site. An archaeological site is an area that was used by human groups in the past, and evidence of its occupation comes in the form of archaeological materials: artifacts, ecofacts, and features. Careful examination and analysis of artifacts (man-made tools or other objects), ecofacts (natural materials included in an archaeological site), features (man-made structures that cannot be removed from a site), and human burials allow archaeologists to piece together a scenario regarding past human lifeways, including interpretations about technologies and subsistence strategies, social complexity, group mobility, intergroup trade, health patterns, and diet.

Unearthing Cultural Treasures

Let us turn, once again, to the problem of preserving cultural monuments, specifically the protection of archaeological monuments during construction. It’s an issue that’s particularly pressing in cities, towns and villages with centuries, if not millennia, of history under their belts, such as Novgorod, Pskov, and Staraya Ladoga. As the prosperity of Russians rises, the pace of housing and commercial construction picks up dramatically, and the foundation ditches and trenches for engineering communications almost inevitably cut straight through this rich archaeological layer of history and culture.

In order that these monuments be preserved, building works must be preceded by archaeological digs. A federal law on the protection of monuments, adopted in 2002, obliges developers preparing plots of land for construction to finance these digs. That pushes up the time periods for the construction works, and pushes up their eventual cost. The developer’s desire to minimize these expenses is understandable — keep the costs low, and get the archaeological digs over with in the shortest possible time frame.

That brings the developer into conflict with the archaeologists, who want to carry out the digs as carefully as possible and, as a result, want as much time as they can get. In practice, the conflicts are resolved in a number of different ways, each dependent on the specific plot of land being developed. Nevertheless, whichever way it goes, one of the two parties is always left feeling hard done by.

In order to regulate these relations between developers, archaeologists and the local authorities, there should be a system drawn up detailing the demands made on developers. With that system in place, it would be easier to find resources to carry out the digs, and to train up personnel capable of carrying out those digs and preserving whatever is found of cultural significance.

Various proposals on such a system have already been put forward. The idea from Sergei Troyanovsky, deputy chairman of the Novgorod Oblast Culture, Film and Tourism Committee and head of the State Department for the Control, Preservation and Use of Historical and Cultural Monuments, seems to make a lot of sense. Troyanovsky suggests that, before putting a plot of land up for tender, the mayor of Novgorod could commission archaeological digs. The expenses incurred could then be covered when the plot goes up for sale. That should also make the tender process a lot smoother, meaning that such a plot could be sold at a good price — it’s no secret that investors like plots of land where the archaeological digs have already been carried out.

An “archaeological development” of this kind could be carried out on a planned, systematic basis, and that means that the corresponding expenditures in the local budget could also be planned in advance. Various credit mechanisms could be put in place for projects of this kind, with their guaranteed profitability, and that means that the local budget wouldn’t be hit too hard, if at all.

In effect, this mechanism would create a new market — commercial archaeological services, with a volume of work known in advance, a demand for qualified personnel and financing at the ready. The growing demand for new real estate sites on the historic territories of the North-West region makes for excellent prospects for this new market. As the demand can be fairly accurately predicted, any personnel issues can be cleared up (the higher education institutions of the North-West can open new archaeological faculties or expand those they already have), and that will allow digs to begin when and where developers need them.

Sergei Troyanovsky’s proposal, which, incidentally, received the support of one of Russia’s most authoritative archaeologists, the head of the Novgorod archaeological expedition, Valentin Yanin, is also attractive because, on the one hand, it takes into account the interests of all the parties concerned (including the authorities and the general public), and on the other forces all those parties to make certain sacrifices. Thankfully, those sacrifices are made for all the right reasons — to preserve these historic and cultural treasures.

Both the federal and the oblast authorities, however, appear to be in no hurry to take up Troyanovsky’s idea. And they don’t appear to be in any hurry to adopt any other proposals either. Life goes on, however, and builders are working at an ever faster pace. If nothing is done, the interests of business, as the most powerful and effective in the sector, will no doubt win out, and in view of the current weakness of the state, it is our historic heritage that will be hardest hit.

Vladimir Gryaznevich is a political analyst with Expert Severo-Zapad magazine. His comment was first broadcast on Ekho Moskvy in St. Petersburg on Friday.