Accessibility statement

Using Archaeological Data


Module leader: James Taylor


By acknowledging that most archaeologists and heritage practitioners will be exposed to archaeological database management systems and spreadsheets in the course of their work or research, this module seeks to familiarise students with the fundamentals of the technical and theoretical aspects of archaeological data management, whilst making them aware of the types of issues they may face in the process.

Over the four session students will become familiar with the nature and common limitations of archaeological data and database management systems. We will begin by examining the relative advantages (and disadvantages) ‘flat table’ spreadsheets, before moving on to introduce the basic principles of relational database structures (the most common type of database consisting of a set of tables, containing data fitted into predefined data categories in columns) and explore their application to archaeological and historic environment data.

Finally after considering best practice in the design and implementation of relational databases, we will focus upon how to disseminate and visualise archaeological data, and prepare it for long term archival deposition.


By engaging with databases and data management in archaeology, this module aims to allow students to:

  • develop an understanding of best practice in data management and the principles of database design.
  • be exposed to the range of applied of data management technologies in archaeology, and understand the strengths and limitations of choosing, designing and implementing them, enabling them to make strategic decisions about data management at a professional level.
  • acquire a basic grounding in the necessary skills to use and query basic relational database technologies, which will increase their skills as a database user.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module the students will be able to:

  • demonstrate an understanding of good practice in archaeological data collation and some of the common limitations of archaeological datasets.
  • be able to describe and evaluate other (non-relational) approaches to database manipulation.
  • demonstrate an understanding of the principles of a relational database model and awareness of various database technologies available for use in archaeology.
  • apply basic database design, entity relationship modelling techniques and SQL concepts to a database project for archaeological and historic environment applications.
  • write basic SQL queries for defining, selecting and manipulating data.

database design &  implementation