Sunday, February 2, 2014

Open Archaeobotanical Data

Open archaeobotanical data is data about plant remains from archaeological sites that is saved in a format that makes it available in formats that will be long-lived, and is open (and therefore available for reuse).

As an archaeobotanist who has worked in commercial archaeology for more than a decade, I have a back catalogue of data from Irish archaeological sites, some of which has been published, much of which has not. This blog is both an attempt to make that data more available, and a means of documenting the process of converting the data to open formats, archiving it and putting it online.

Digital preservation requires not only the secure storage of digital materials but also policies and workflows that ensure that such materials will be accessible and usable in the future...... Born-digital data are in most danger of being lost to future generations. (O'Carroll and Webb 2012, 8).

This blog, and my attempts at creating an open archaeobotanical dataset, has been prompted by a growing awareness of the fragility of the digital archives of my research.

Tables of archaeobotanical results tend to be prepared in a spreadsheet. In order to preserve these, and to make them available in a format that can be incorporated into different software in the future. To facilitate this, the archaeobotanical dataset from my work is being converted into .csv formats. This format, Comma Separated Values, is readable by machines and humans, and is a very simple means of structuring data, and has the added value of being supported by many different types of software. For more details on .csv formats, see here.

In order to make the details more available, these datasets are then uploaded to a repository, where they are given a permanent URI (such as DOI or a handle). This is a persistent identifier (for more information click here).

I am using open repositories such as Figshare and Zenodo.


O’Carroll, A., & Webb, S. (2012). Digital archiving in Ireland: national survey of the humanities and social sciences. National University of Ireland Maynooth. Retrieved from