National Archaeological Database (NADB) – Reviewed Spring 1997

Reviewed by Cathy Moore-Jansen, Wichita State University, January 1997

The National Archeological Database (NADB) Online System is
administered by the Departmental Consulting Archeologist/Archeology and
Ethnography Program of the National Park Service (NPS) and is
maintained and operated by the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies
(CAST), University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Available 24 hours a day,
NADB is accessed via modem (501-575-2021) or the Internet through a Web
site (
or direct telnetting ( or; login: nadb).
There is no charge to use the system. The NPS contact is Terry Childs,
Team Leader for Resource Information Management, Archeology and
Ethnography Program, P.O. Box 37127, Washington, DC 20013-7127, (202)
The CAST contact is Robert Harris, NADB-Reports Online System’s
Coordinator, 12 Ozark Hall, University of Arka Ozark Hall, University
of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, (501) 575-3846,


NADB is an archeological information management system intended to
improve the exchange of archeological information among archeologists
and resource managers and to facilitate informed decisions about the
preservation and management of archeological resources. Drawn from
local databases maintained primarily by State Historic Preservation
Officers (SHPO), NADB records are collected through the NADB-Network of
regional and state data providers and linked in a master database. NADB
Regional Coordinators at National Park Service Regional Offices
maintain the regional databases; the Washington office maintains the
master database. NADB is available through cooperative agreements among
NPS, CAST, Southwestern Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
U.S. Department of Defense (Legacy Program), and Bureau of Land
Management. The NADB Online System consists of three modules of
archeological information that can be viewed or downloaded to a
personal computer: NADB-Reports, NADB-NAGPRA, and NADB-MAPS.


NADB-Reports is a bibliographic inventory of about 120,000
archeological reports, journal articles, and monographs related to
United States archeology. Many of the reports have limited distribution
and represent the grey literature of archeology. While report dates
range from 1703 to 199es range from 1703 to 1994, the majority – around
84% – were produced in the 1970s and 1980s. As of January 1997, there
are only 363 reports from 1993, one from 1994, and none from 1995 or
1996. When this module was first made available in the fall of 1992,
the intent was to update it annually. The last update was in spring
1994; the next one is planned for spring 1997 when approximately 50,000
records will be added to the database.

NADB-NAGPRA consists of text files of information related to the
Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (P.L. 101-601).
First made available in 1993, this module provides the full-text of
federal laws, Congressional reports, regulations, and guidance on the
preparation of summaries and inventories. It also contains notices of
intent to repatriate, notices of inventory completion, minutes and
findings of the NAGPRA Review Committee meetings, and a list of NAGPRA
tribal and federal contacts.

Developed in 1994, the NADB-Multiple Attribute Presentation Systems
(MAPS) provides graphical displays of archeological and environmental
resource information. This information originates from census
information, remote sensing studies, and other collected data related
to archeological site distribution, climate, tree-ring, pollen studies,
vegetation, agriculture, and population. Some of the maps currently
available are based on data aggregated by county that depicts
archeological aepicts archeological and historical site counts and
densities. Others are based on census of agriculture maps, population
densities, and vegetation index maps. The latter are derived from
Advanced Very-High-Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) data.

Record Structure and Retrieval Software

NADB-Reports is accessed either through the NADB Web site or by
directly telnetting to the online system. When telnetting, the user
must select a connection method and fill out a User ID Form by entering
a user name, address, and four-digit ID number. The ID number is used
each time the user telnets to NADB. The user address is not entered
each time unless there is a change in the information. At the NADB
Online System Main Menu, the user selects either the NADB-Reports or
the NAGPRA module.

In the telnet version of NADB-Reports, the user may create a new
database query, update an existing database query, or view or download
query results. The user searches the database by entering terms in at
least one of nine fields: State, County, Worktype, Cultural, Keyword,
Material, Date, Title, and Author. Worktype refers to the type of work
on which the report is based, e.g. Archeological Overview and
Assessment, Cultural Resource Management Plan, and Archeological Data
Recovery Study. Cultural refers to the cultural affiliation of the
data, e.g. Caddo, Archaic. Keyword allows searching of site names,
contract number, specific geact number, specific geographic names, and
named artifacts. Material refers to types of archeological material,
e.g. bone, glass, fauna. Multiple fields may be queried in one search.
One searches multiple terms in each text field by placing a comma
between terms. The boolean OR operator is the pipe symbol | placed
between terms, e.g. copper|hematite. Numeric operators are used for
coded information such as Date; e.g. >1965, =1960, 1960:1965. There
are two symbols for both left and right truncation in all fields except
Date — a question mark for a single letter and an asterisk for
multiple letters. Truncation cannot be used with the Boolean OR
operator. One must use truncation to search the case-sensitive author
and title fields.

After the query has been made in the telnet version, the user must
press “x” to return to the previous menu before the query is processed.
When the user selects option 3 — Reports Menu — to either view or
download the results, the system processes the query and displays a
message that indicates the number of references found. Results are
either viewed or downloaded as bibliographic citations. Arranged in
alphabetical order by author, the citations also include the date,
title, publisher, place of publication, series name and number, and
NADB-Reports Document Number. When citations are downloaded, they are
compatible with most word processing software and follow the citation
forllow the citation format of the October 1983 American Antiquity
Style Guide for Authors. This process produces a bibliography that is
suitable for inclusion in a report.

In the Web version of NADB, the user can access a multiple query
form that provides an interface to the Reports database. All nine
fields may be queried using this form. It makes searching easier by
eliminating certain steps, and it is not necessary to fill out a User
ID Form. NADB-NAGPRA may be accessed from the NADB Web site or from the
system’s main menu once the user has telneted to NADB. This module is
the most current of the NADB modules; it is updated within a week of
the publication of a new notice. In the Web version, the user may
review or download documents in four categories: Legal Mandates,
Guidance, Notices, and Review Committee. Documents are browsed in
chronological order or the Alta Vista search engine is used to search
for documents by keyword. In the yword. In the telnet version, the user
selects a document category, browses documents in chronological order,
or searches for a particular document by a title substring.

NADB-MAPS is accessible only in the Web version. A user may select a
category of maps such as Archeology, Census of Agriculture, or
Population. Within each category, the user views or downloads the map
or supporting data for a particular compilation of data, e.g. SHPO
Archeological Site Counts.

User Instruction/Assistance

NADB-Reports has a 1993 user manual in the telnet version which is
viewed online or downloaded as an ASCII, Wordperfect, or PostScript
file. Internet users may transfer the manual via FTP. The manual
provides detailed information on connecting to the system, accessing
and querying the NADB-Reports module, and a tutorial for how to write
query results to the hard disk. Appendixes include a list of NADB
Coordinators, Screen Conventions and Terminal Configuration, Code
Tables, and a NADB-Reports Recording Form. NADB provides access to
various informational and help screens for the general system and each
NADB module.

Document Availability

Some of the reports cited in the NADB-Reports database are cataloged
and may be available through Interlibrary Loan. However, most of the
reports have limited distribution and may be only available through the
appropriate SHPO office or related federal agffice or related federal
agency. A planned enhancement of the database will provide the location
of each report. The documents in NADB-NAGPRA are available as PDF or
general full-text files on the Web.

Summary of Positive Aspects

The NADB Online System is a unique and highly valuable set of
databases. NADB-Reports allows researchers to locate citations to
archeological reports that are not found anywhere else, online or in
print. Some archeological reports may be located through bibliographic
utilities such as OCLC or RLIN; others are accessed through NTIS.
However, many archeological reports have limited distribution and are
not entered in any other database; NADB-Reports attempts to bring these
reports together in one place. Although these reports are not always
physically easy to locate, at least NADB identifies the citations.
Still in development, the NAGPRA-MAPS module shows potential for
graphically displaying archeological and environmental data. While much
of the information related to NAGPA is available in other formats (e.g.
Federal Register, “NAGPRA News” in Common Ground, formerly Federal
Archeology), NADB-NAGPRA brings all related information together in one

Recommendations for Improvement in NADB-Reports

Lack of currency in NADB-Reports is a concern. Since the database
went online in 1992 with a massive loading of records, there have been
problems keeping the datproblems keeping the database current. Adding
reports to the database is a cooperative effort involving several state
and federal agencies with the primary responsibility falling to the
SHPO offices. However, the degree of cooperation varies tremendously
from state to state. Some SHPO offices require that archeologists
complete an NADB reporting form while others do not. A look at the NADB
Archeological Citation Map in the NADB-MAPS module shows just how
spotty the reporting coverage is. For example, as of January 1997,
there are only 97 reports cited from Ohio in the entire database while
Utah has over 7000 reports cited from the 1980s alone. To realize the
full potential of this database, there needs to be consistent
participation by researchers and agencies to ensure that reports are
systematically added to the system. Proposed federal regulations would
require completion of an NADB reporting form for each federally funded
project report. NADB-Reports also has problems with inaccurate,
incomplete, and duplicate records caused by entering data from
databases using different software. However, data entry and access
currently have higher priority than data clean-up.

The NADB-Reports manual and online documentation should be updated.
There are some minor inconsistencies in field labels, e.g.
Group/Cultural, Date/Year. The manual describes numeric operators that
can be used with coded information, such as State and State
and County. However, the only field with codes in the documentation is
Worktype, and those codes do not work when entered in the database.
Definitions of terms in some of the fields, especially Worktype, are
not available and would be useful. According to the manual and online
help screens, there are additional output options besides viewing and
downloading; however, these are not yet available. One online message
indicates that a currently, unavailable module called NADB-Permits
would be available by the summer of 1994.

If the telnet version of NADB-Reports is maintained, it is
recommended that some aspects of the search engine be improved. Once
the user has entered search terms, it takes several steps to actually
begin the query; it would be more efficient if the query could be
processed immediately after terms are entered. This version also needs
a mechanism for stopping a search without leaving the system entirely.
While the Web form offers a number of enhancements and makes it easier
to enter and process a search, the form also needs improvement. It is
possible to search more than one state in the telnet version, but only
one state at a time can be entered on the Web form. The number of
records found as a result of each search is not specified in the Web
version. Ranges of dates can be searched in the telnet version, but not
on the Web form. In both versions, citations are listed alphabetically
by authlphabetically by author only, although future enhancements of
the Web form will allow for output sorted by other fields.

In preparing a search query, care is required when entering terms in
fields that are case sensitive and best used with truncation. For
example, when searching a term in Worktype, the user must truncate a
term on both the left and right for a successful search if that term is
part of a longer Worktype phrase, e.g. *overview* in Archeological
Overview and Assessment. An online help screen erroneously indicates
that the term, overview, may be entered without truncation. An author
search is only successful when combining truncation and capitalization,
e.g. Adair*. A successful title search requires proper capitalization
and left and right truncation regardless of where the words fall in the
title, e.g. *The Sims Site* or *Prehistoric Agriculture*. The online
help screen only “highly recommends” truncation in the author and title
fields. It is recommended that the online help screens be reviewed for
accuracy and truncation and capitalization requirements made clearer.
It would be even better if the search engine was modified to make those
requirements less demanding. While there is room for improvement in
NADB-Reports, this module has tremendous potential as an important
resource for archeological research. The attempts to increase
cooperation among reporting agencies is a positive step. Contipositive
step. Continued efforts to update the database and enhance the search
engine (e.g. controlled vocabulary searching and full data dump
capabilities) are welcome.

1 Response to National Archaeological Database (NADB) – Reviewed Spring 1997

  1. Jim Gibb says:

    Where might one find instructions for completing a basic NADB form?

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