4.6 Metadata: data categories

Archive: An archaeological database of higher-order settlements on the Italian peninsula (350 BCE to 300 CE)

Based on the completed design, the database contains the following geographical and archaeological information for each settlement (where available or applicable):

Information derived from ancient textual sources and published interpretations thereof.

Data relevant to each of these categories were documented when encountered in publications and entered into the database. The database should not, however, be considered as a completely comprehensive record of information in relation to these categories for each site. For example, published statements that a settlement had unbuilt areas within its perimeter were documented in relation to 44 sites, but this does not necessarily mean that the other 539 were fully built up. The fragmentary nature of the archaeological and ancient textual record should always be borne in mind when analysing the patterns produced by the database: none of the sites it contains have been completely excavated.

Usually only small areas of archaeological sites are excavated in relation to their overall size, but the data they provide are still generally employed by authors to interpret the history of the entire settlement. As a result, some of the database's categories are more robust than others. Those that record the physical presence of archaeological features are likely to be the most robust, especially as the database documents particularly monumental, and thus more easily recognisable, elements such as fortifications and public buildings. Chronological information is more interpretative (see below). Doubt is often expressed by authors in relation to periods of occupation that produce little archaeological material: does this reflect lower intensity of activity (e.g. decreased population or lower production and consumption of material goods) or abandonment? If such uncertainty is expressed by an author, the database records continued occupation as a default. Only in cases when authors specifically state that a site was abandoned is this entered into the database as such (for the widespread downturn in occupation levels of settlements in many areas of the peninsula during the later 5th and early 4th centuries BCE, see Sewell forthcoming).