Contribution Instructions for Biometrical Database of Near East & East Mediterranean Fauna

As we announced a few weeks ago, we have launched a new project aimed at building a corpus of osteometric data from zooarchaeological assemblages in the Levant region. This post provides more details about how the project will work and options for submitting data.

First, an Update on the Project Name!

Due to the enthusiastic response we’ve received, including from people working in adjacent regions, we are changing the name of the project to the Biometrical Database of Near East and East Mediterranean Fauna. This title more inclusive and allows room for logical growth. However, as planned, we’ll prioritize data from the Levant and adjacent regions and expand from there.

Your Data Publishing Options

Option 1: Contribute your (specimen-level) data to the overarching biometrical database project.
The biometrical database will be a single project (called a “data publication”) in Open Context. It will be called the “Biometrical Database of Near East and East Mediterranean Fauna” project. You can see it as working like an edited volume, where each of you is a contributing author to the volume (like a chapter), and Sarah and Justin are the co-editors. The project will have a project description page in Open Context, and all contributed data will be added to this one project. The “sub-project” page will include important background information about your dataset (see below).
A good example of this is the in-progress Archaeology of Mesoamerican Animals project, which has separate sub-projects for each chapter.

How to contribute data for Option 1: For this option, we request only specimens for which you have taken von den Driesch measurements. For those specimens, we need the following data from you, ideally in a spreadsheet (or CSV “dumps” of tables from a relational database): site name, period, date range (in cal. BCE), context information (area, locus, general context description), analyst name, unique specimen number (“ID #”), taxon, element, proximal fusion, distal fusion, and all von den Driesch measurements (in mm). Here are some sample spreadsheets we created to help guide you.

Open Context has very flexible tools for importing data organized in very different table structures. We mainly encounter difficulties if data are “lumped” together in “comments” fields. For example measurements coded as “Dp: 20.1; Bp: 22.2” in a single cell are too time-consuming and error prone for us to import. If you’re unsure about your formatting, please share your spreadsheet with us and we can work with you on how to format it to easily import to Open Context. We also ask that you send an overview of the site the bones came from, with information about the excavation and any methodological information you’d like to include. We work with you over email to include all the appropriate metadata for the project. See an example of this type of project documentation.
Please note, we also welcome supporting digital images of drawings or photographs and in some cases even 3D models. If you chose to contribute such media, make sure the media resources can be clearly and unambiguously associated with specific bone specimen.

Option 2: Publish your own full dataset as a separate project in Open Context and also link it to the biometrical database.
Some of you may have entire datasets that you want to share via Open Context (including specimens beyond those with von den Driesch measurements). That is, you don’t want to go through your data and pull out only the relevant data we request for the biometrical database in Option 1. You’d rather share your full dataset. In this case, you can contact Sarah about publishing your dataset as a stand-alone “data publication” in Open Context, and then having the relevant metrical data from your data publication linked up with the biometrical database project. This is a good option for people who would like to publish and archive a full project, perhaps related to a conventional publication you’re preparing. The data would still be interoperable with the biometrical database project described in Option 1 above, but would be in its own distinct data publication because the data include more information than requested for the biometrical database.

In this example, Max Price has published his full dataset, but certain specimens (those with measurements) will work with the biometrical database project. Open Context will automatically include citation information for Max Price’s data, along with data contributors, for users of biometrical data.

A few additional notes:

Please Send Specimen Records only, not “Aggregated Data”
We publish records documenting individual bone specimens. Aggregate bone data (lumped by site, phase, context, taxon, or element) is not useful for data integration. That is, rather than ranges of measurements; we work with the specific individual measurements per specimen. Publication of individual specimen records provides much more analytic flexibility and offers more potential to support new research.

Copyright Permissions
In keeping with “best practices” for scientific data publishing and archiving, Open Context publishes content under a Creative Commons Attribution or Public Domain license (as you choose). Open Context claims no ownership and requires no transfer of copyright to publish. Creative Commons licenses gives Open Context permission to publish and archive data. Creative Commons licenses also grant reuse permissions to other individuals and programs, provided those reuses properly attribute data contributors with clear citations.

Citation and Attribution for Contributors
Open Context issues DOIs (library backed identifiers commonly used by journals) for each project (analogous to a journal article or book) and for each sub-project (analogous to a chapter in an edited volume) contribution. You will always be clearly identified as the author of any data you contribute. This pertains to your entire dataset, and also to every single specimen you contribute.

Preservation and Archiving
Open Context issues DOIs (library backed identifiers commonly used by journals) for each project (analogous to a journal article or book) and for each sub-project (analogous to a chapter in an edited volume) contribution. You will always be clearly identified as the author of any data you contribute. This pertains to your entire dataset, and also to each individual specimen you contribute.

Thank you! To get started or to ask questions, please email us:
Justin Lev-Tov and Sarah Whitcher Kansa
(jlevtov AT (sarahkansa AT

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *