Open Context Project Spotlight
by Hannah Lau
The Virtual Valdivia Project is directed by Sarah M. Rowe as part of the NEH-funded Institute of Digital Archaeology Methods and Practice at Michigan State University (#MSUDAI). The goal of the project is to produce an online database of ceramics from the Valdivia culture from coastal Ecuador (4400 – 1450 BCE), which is one of the earliest ceramic traditions in the Americas.
Dr. Rowe, a professor at the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley, developed the Virtual Valdivia data to become a central repository for ceramic forms from this cultural tradition. At present it contains over 400 records of ceramics from the site of Buen Sucesco from phases VI and VII. Each record within the database contains a wealth of information about the context and different attributes of the sherd. An example of these records can be seen here.
As Dr. Rowe notes, ceramic comparanda are often difficult to access due to barriers of language, publication distribution, or gray literature. This digital database addresses these issues, containing bilingual English-Spanish project descriptions, images, and a wide range of data on individual ceramic sherds. The goal of the project to become a repository for data from many Valdivia sites will help address regional questions of ceramic tradition, variation and social practice.
In completing this demonstration project, Rowe gained familiarity with key technologies and best-practices and will be able to incorporate this knowledge into her own teaching. Her project highlights how digital technologies are not only useful tools to solve specific research queries, but can impact future research design and engagement with archaeological data.