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Archaeology Data Service ::: Open WIKI

Archaeology Data Service

The Archaeology Data Service is an open access digital archive for archaeological research outputs. It is located in The King's Manor, at the University of York. Originally intended to curate digital outputs from archaeological researchers based in the UK's Higher Education sector, the ADS also holds archive material created under the auspices of national and local government as well as in the commercial archaeology sector. The ADS carries out research, most of which focuses on resource discovery, cross-searching and interoperability with other relevant archives in the UK, Europe and the United States of America.
The Archaeology Data Service is listed in the Registry of Research Data Repositories re3data.org.


In the late 1990s a consensus developed in the field of archaeology that archaeological data in digital form was highly fragile due to both an inadequate understanding of technical threats to its sustainability and the lack of an infrastructure to preserve it in the long term. In April 1996 a consortium comprising eight Departments of Archaeology from UK Universities joined forces with the Council for British Archaeology to put a proposal to the Arts and Humanities Data Service Executive to establish an Archaeology Data Service. This service was to host a digital archive for archaeologists and to provide advice and guidance to the archaeological community on how to create and manage their digital datasets. As a result, the ADS was established at the University of York Department of Archaeology in September 1996 with two full-time members of staff and under the directorship of Professor Julian D. Richards. From 1996 until 2008 the ADS hosted AHDS Archaeology, a subject centre devoted to archaeology funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council via the AHDS. The AHDS closed in March 2008 as a result of a controversial decision by the AHRC to withdraw funding. The ADS now receives funding directly from AHRC, rather than through the AHDS, it is also funded by other Higher Education and cultural heritage sector organisations including the European Union.
The original consortium members were the archaeology departments of the following Universities:
The University of Southampton and University College London were also involved in early discussions about the formation of a digital archive for archaeological material, and joined the consortium at an early stage.


The ADS is run on a day-to-day basis by a director and a deputy director, however it is managed by a committee meeting bi-annually consisting of representatives of funding bodies, representatives of user communities and the ADS internal Management Group, comprising the Director, Deputy Director, European Project Manager, Communications and Access Manager, and the Systems Manager. The current Chair of the management committee is Professor Sam Turner from the University of Newcastle.

The Archive


The ADS holds the digital outputs of numerous archaeological excavations or other research activities including some very well known sites such as Stonehenge and Sutton Hoo. Much of the archive material can be grouped together under 'programme' headings such as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link which involved over 100 different archaeological interventions. The ADS acts as the mandated digital archive for archaeological research, of any kind, funded by the AHRC, and also for English Heritage administered funds such as the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund. The online journal Internet Archaeology's content is archived by the ADS and a number of journal series from learned societies such as the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, have older digital versions of their journals made freely available from the ADS site. The ADS is the largest single source of archived grey literature, with over 20,000 examples available in its Library of Unpublished Fieldwork. Access to grey literature in the archaeological context has become a significant concern, especially in academia, in recent years.


The ADS offer advice to data creators on procedures and formats, including advice on the writing of Technical Appendices for AHRC applications. The website hosts a series of Guides to Good Practice on the following archaeological topics:
All these G2GP were revised in 2012 funded in part by English Heritage and the US based Digital Antiquity project.


The ADS archive is intended to follow the Open Archival Information System reference model, which is an ISO for data archive systems. There are no constraints on access although users must click a web form to accept the ADS Terms and Conditions, in essence these state that the all copyright is retained by the original data depositor, but they permit its reuse for teaching, learning and research purposes, but not commercial purposes. Off site back-up storage for the ADS archive is held both at the University of York's computer services and at the UK Data Archive in Essex.


Beyond acting as a simple repository for datasets, the ADS has a number of interactive interfaces into complex archives including database search interfaces, WebGIS and interactive image galleries. The main search mechanism for the ADS catalogue, ArchSearch, contains aggregated resource discovery metadata for the national monument inventories of England, Scotland and Wales as well as numerous Historic Environment Records HERs. The ADS hosts a number of datasets, such as the Excavation Index, that are made available externally as web services and consumed by English Heritage's Heritage Gateway search engine.


UK based projects

Significant projects undertaken by the ADS in the UK include:
Significant EU funded projects include: