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<< Return to SBL Forum Archive Update on the ETANA (Electronic Texts and Ancient Near Eastern Archives) Digital Library Project

ETANA-DL will be a digital library for ancient Near Eastern studies with two archaeological components: DigBase (DB) — a repository and an archive for archaeological data from the Near East and beyond, and DigKit (DK) — a compatible field tool for collecting and recording archaeological data during archaeological surveys and excavations. DB is a model-based, extensible, archaeological componentized DL that will manage complex archaeological information sources based on the client-server paradigm of the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). DK is a compatible field tool for collecting, recording and exposing archaeological data in an OAI compliant manner during archaeological surveys and excavations.

At the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Washington, DC this past November, the ETANA planning group met with top archaeologists to continue developing DigBase. Building on the work of Linda Cantara, the group determined the following organizational categories:

  • Space: Regions, Countries, Sites/Excavations/Projects, Stratigraphy, Survey
  • Time: Cultural Periods, Chronology
  • Type (Material/Ecofacts/Artifacts): Architecture, Burials, Ceramics, Texts, Fauna, Flora, Glass, Jewelry, Lithics, Metals, Coins, Sculpture
  • Tools (Methodology, Processes)

These conceptual ontologies will eventually form the basis for ETANA-DB's search portal. Linda Cantara will continue to develop these ontologies under the present funding for a few more months.

The following upgrades are planned for ETANA-DB in the near future:

  • cleaning up of lists to make the categories consistent
  • the successful loading of the complete pottery database from Tell el-Umayri in a format that is more user-friendly and archaeology appropriate for comparative analysis than previously accomplished
  • the introduction of Uniform Multiple Coordinated Views software, which allows browsing across categories of time, space, and object on one webpage
  • the capacity, in part at least, to produce reports in Excel
  • progress toward developing software that would allow dig directors to upload their own databases online

The ETANA group is pursuing funding to support the further development of DigBase and DigKit. Future funding/development options include a major grant proposal, directed by Paul Gherman at Vanderbilt, in collaboration with several others, to IMLS,, which serves libraries and museums. IMLS has joined NEH in a new initiative which might actually provide a better fit than IMLS alone. The objectives as currently framed recommend support for the following: Software Code Enhancement; Further enhancement of the DigBase software; DigKit, a software system based on DigBase, to collect data from excavations in a consistent fashion; Ontology Development; Data Curation and Preservation; Continued archaeological participation; Archaeological Meetings and Legacy Data Conversion

Since November, ETANA has moved from Virginia Tech to Vanderbilt. Ed Fox' staff at Virginia Tech worked with George Anglin at Vanderbilt to assure a smooth transition. The Vanderbilt group, especially Paul Gherman, Bill Hook, Marshall Breeding, Doug Knight, and George Anglin are to be thanked for their efforts. May ETANA realize a long and successful career as a premiere destination venue for digital archiving of archaeological data.

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Citation: , " Update on the ETANA (Electronic Texts and Ancient Near Eastern Archives) Digital Library Project," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited Feb 2007]. Online:


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