Comparative research in archaeology must draw upon datasets from all parts of the world that are the basic products of fieldwork of a variety of kinds. These datasets document the material evidence of the human past and comprise the primary sources for archaeological research.
The preservation and dissemination of this primary information has long been included among the archaeologist's ethical responsibilities, especially so since some kinds of archaeological research inevitably destroy parts of the archaeological record in order to document it. Data-heavy "site reports" have been the traditional means of presenting and preserving such information, but it is a lament of long standing that most projects never produce such reports. Constantly evolving information technology in any event opens prospects for faster, easier, more effective, and more economical means of preserving and disseminating primary archaeological data.
The Comparative Archaeology Database, produced by the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Comparative Archaeology, joins other online efforts to explore the application of this technology to the needs of archaeological research with particular emphasis on the needs of a comparative approach with its roots firmly planted in the primary datasets produced by field projects. It is global in scope and incorporates the datasets from the Latin American Archaeology Database at the University of Pittsburgh. The presentation of datasets here is intended to complement more traditional means of publication, such as journals, monographs, and collections of articles.
Inquiries are welcome from archaeologists interested in making datasets available through the Comparative Archaeology Database: firstname.lastname@example.org
Support for the Comparative Archaeology Database from the Howard Heinz Endowment, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Henry Luce Foundation is gratefully acknowledged.