NSF Award to Upgrade cyberSW

Aug. 11, 2021

Archaeology Southwest has just announced that a research team led by Preservation Archaeologist Jeffery J. Clark has received a generous $802,714 grant award from the Human Networks and Data Science program of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Clark’s co-Principal Investigators are SoA Regents’ Professor Barbara J. Mills, Matthew Peeples (Arizona State University), and Scott G. Ortman (University of Colorado at Boulder). The funding (award no. 2121925) will enable the team and collaborators to expand the scope of cyberSW, a massive online repository of archaeological data from the American Southwest and northwest Mexico that facilitates “big-data” investigations of big-picture questions about peoples’ lives, communities, cultures, and interactions in the past. This is the fourth NSF award cyberSW and its predecessor databases have received over the course of development.

Specifically, cyberSW 2.0 will include data on individual households from within some ancient villages across the region. At present, the database—which is built on a Neo4j graph database platform and has a public-facing web portal (cybersw.org)—contains site-level information about 25,000 ancestral Indigenous settlements. (Site locations are masked to prevent looting and desecration.) These data include room counts, pottery types, chemically sourced obsidian artifacts, and the presence of public buildings, among other categories. Community-scientist volunteers will play a key role in data ingestion, as they did for cyberSW 1.0.

Once the structure is expanded and household-level information is added—midden deposits, features inside rooms, artifact types and counts, for example—cyberSW 2.0 will be akin to an archaeological version of the US Census. Historians, sociologists, demographers, geographers, and economists will be able to join anthropologists in examining measures of household “wealth,” household size, cultural background, and connections among households and settlements, all in long-term perspective. Additionally, cyberSW 2.0 will include expanded analysis and data-visualization tools. “Our vision for cyberSW 2.0 is that it serves as an open-access science gateway and revolutionizes the way research is conducted in North American archaeology,” said Clark.

The participation of Tribal consultants will be critical for developing cross-cultural vocabularies and concepts. The four-member Tribal Work Group will be led by Shane Anton, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Its goal will be to ensure that cyberSW 2.0 helps define and support Tribal interests and concerns. “Too often, there is little or no consideration of the perspectives and interests of the Tribes whose Ancestors and lifeways are studied by archaeologists,” said Anton. “I welcome the opportunity to explore concepts and terminology and to expand the perspectives incorporated into cyberSW 2.0.”

Anthro News Digest date: 08/11/2021