Digital archaeological repository earns American Anthropological Association's endorsement

October 24, 2012

Tucked away on the fourth floor of Hayden Library, the Center for Digital Antiquity is a bit of a hidden gem to Arizona State University audiences. But its out-of-the-way location belies its expanding status in the international archaeological community.

Mounting awareness of the center is due in large part to its digital archive and repository, the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR), which recently received a major endorsement from the American Anthropological Association. Download Full Image

The center’s executive director, Francis P. McManamon, explains that tDAR was created for a dual purpose and is rising to the task. “A critical challenge that the disciplines of anthropology and archaeology have at present is how to ensure that existing data from studies of humans and human cultures – both contemporary culture and those of past times – can be made accessible and used for education and research,” he says. “Another part of this challenge is ensuring that this information can be preserved so that it is available for use by future generations, as well. TDAR exists to meet this challenge.”

In its September 2012 issue of Anthropology News, the American Anthropological Association endorsed tDAR and encouraged archaeologists to use the digital repository for archiving archaeological data and related publications. The association is the largest organization in the world for people involved in anthropology, of which archaeology is a branch. McManamon calls the recommendation “terrific acknowledgement of the value of tDAR.”

Billed as “part international repository, part research tool and part public access tool,” tDAR has electronic holdings that number in the thousands and include everything from 3-D scans of artifacts to GIS files to detailed reports from archaeological investigations from the U.S. and abroad.

The team of archaeologists, information management experts and computer scientists behind tDAR designed the system to easily allow researchers, scholars and students to place data and documents into the repository. Easy retrieval was another goal.

Individuals can log in and search the contents of tDAR electronically, locating data, documents, images and other sources of information helpful to their investigations. The system also includes computing tools that allow users to compare and integrate the contents of data sets to conduct new research and create new interpretations and knowledge. 

Center staff members are dedicated to protecting the information stored in tDAR. They check the electronic files regularly and systematically to safeguard against deterioration or corruption. They maintain extra copies of the database at different locations to ensure that information is secure and can be replaced in the event of the loss of a copy. Procedures are also in place to guarantee that tDAR’s electronic files will be readable and useable by new versions of computer software that evolve over time.

McManamon points out that, while the Center for Digital Antiquity is a new type of organization, and the Digital Archaeological Record is a new kind of archaeological archive, their goals are part of a larger push by many disciplines: to preserve the results of past efforts and make them available for use by others now and in the future, allowing the knowledge base to be built upon with successive generations.

The Center for Digital Antiquity is associated with the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Global Institute of Sustainability and the University Libraries.

Rebecca Howe

Communications Specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change


Event shines light on mysteries of American Southwest

October 24, 2012

ASU professor Eduardo Pagán hosts behind-the-scenes look at PBS ‘History Detectives’

Does a centuries-old inscription on a rock wall in South Mountain Park prove Marcos de Niza was the first European in Phoenix? Did a Navajo artist violate tribal taboos and risk mystical retribution by weaving powerful sacred symbols into a unique rug? These are two of the mysteries probed by ASU professor and public TV “History Detective” Eduardo Pagán to be revealed from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Nov. 14, at the ASU Kerr Cultural Center. Pagán will present the results of these investigations and others he has explored for the hit PBS series. Eduardo Pagán Download Full Image

The event is a presentation of Presidential Engagement Programs (PEP), a community engagement program of the ASU Foundation for A New American University. Registration is $25 per person.

Fans of the program will be doubly interested, as Pagán promises a behind-the-cameras look inside “History Detectives,” including film clips and production stories documenting the challenges of creating an investigative history series.

“I always enjoy the chance to share these stories and the behind-the-scenes aspects of ‘History Detectives,’” says Pagán. “And the chance to bring ASU and the subject of history to the community in this type of discussion is especially enjoyable.

“History has allowed me to study broadly questions about human experiences. Folklore, sacred narratives – they provide a window into the mind of those who came before us. One of my true joys is coming across ancient sites and exploring them without disturbing anything. It is fascinating to think that people lived where we now travel.”

“History Detectives” explores the complexities of historical mysteries, searching out facts and myths connecting local folklore, family legends and interesting objects. Traditional investigative techniques, modern technology and plenty of legwork are the tools the history detectives use to give new – sometimes shocking – insights into our national history.

One of those detectives is Pagán, the ASU Bob Stump Endowed Professor of History, and an associate professor at the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences on ASU’s West campus. In 2009 PBS recruited Pagán for the “History Detectives” team as an expert in mysteries of the American Southwest.

Pagán is ideally suited for the role. A Phoenix native, he graduated from ASU and went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Arizona and a master's and doctorate in U.S. history from Princeton University. His book “Murder at the Sleepy Lagoon: Zoot Suits, Race and Riot in Wartime L.A.” was the basis for an episode of another PBS series, “American Experience,” for which he was lead historical consultant. Pagán is currently working on two book-length projects: an exploration of racial constructions and violence in territorial Arizona, and a history of Latino terrorism in the U.S. In addition to his numerous scholarly publications, Pagán authored “Remembering Phoenix,” and “Historic Photos of Phoenix,” an Arizona Book Publishing Association award winner. Pagán’s New College course offerings include "Constitutional History of the U.S.," "The Hispanic Southwest," "American Indians," and "Historical Methods."

Two episodes of the show, which airs on Eight, Arizona PBS, remain for this season. To find out when they will air visit and sign up for “Eight Insider” e-newsletter. Viewers also can watch past History Detectives episodes online at

Erik Ketcherside,
communications manager, Editorial Services
ASU Foundation for A New American University