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Background: The Original Environmental Archaeology Unit Database

The York System is based on a relational database used at the EAU, following the EAU's animal bone recording protocol (Dobney et al. 1999). It was designed using Corel's Paradox 7 database management system. This Paradox database was based upon an early version implemented using a Mac HyperCard stack and powered by an Oracle database, which could handle some features, such as a graphical representation of diagnostic zones, much better than the later Paradox version. Earlier EAU databases that have contributed to the recording system now in use include Hardy (1982), which featured an early Apple micro-computer system and a pair of directly wired analogue callipers, and a simple but effective fish recording system (Wheeler and Jones 1989, 135).

Basic tables in the Paradox database included principal data, butchery, measurements (one table per major element), pathologies, preservation, teeth, weight and 'unidentified' specimens, as well as several lookup tables used to reference full data relating to species, element, pathology, butchery, preservation, etc. Most tables contained redundant data, and the database had not been normalised (the streamlining process in which redundant and duplicated data is removed and the database is made more efficient). The interface was simple but functional (see Figure 2 below, in contrast to Figure 1, the current recording interface). However, data could not be viewed in the database without inadvertently creating new records, and graphical interfaces were not used for variables such as element portion (see diagnostic zones) and tooth wear. There were further 'glitches' in the database. It occasionally reset its auto numbering system, used for specimen identification numbers, causing records to be over-written. Moreover, fish, reptiles and amphibians were not fully integrated into the recording system and, overall, it entailed numerous complexities inherent in its origin as an organic product developed over many years.

In 2000, we therefore decided to redesign the system from scratch using Microsoft Access as a platform. The original EAU recording protocol was retained (with minor modifications) for mammals and birds (Dobney et al. 1999). James Barrett's (2000) unpublished recording system, Fish 1.1, was adopted for fish (see Barrett 1995; Barrett and Oltmann 1997 for early versions). The recording system for reptiles and amphibians was constructed following these two models with assistance from Phil Piper (Piper forthcoming).

Screenshot of the recording system
Figure 1: The current recording interface - go to demo

Screenshot of the EAU system
Figure 2: The original EAU Paradox database recording form

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