eHRAF Archaeology

eHRAF Archaeology

About eHRAF Archaeology

eHRAF Archaeology is an award-winning online database with information on the prehistory of the world. This database, modeled after eHRAF World Cultures, is unique in that the information is organized into archaeological traditions and the text is subject-indexed to the paragraph-level by HRAF anthropologists according to HRAF’s modified Outline of Cultural Materials (OCM). This comprehensive subject retrieval system extends search capability well beyond keyword searching allowing for precise subject retrieval, even in foreign language texts.

eHRAF Archaeology is organized by regions and archaeological traditions. An archaeological tradition is defined as a group of populations sharing similar subsistence practices, technology, and forms of socio-political organization, which are spatially contiguous over a relatively large area and which endure temporally for a relatively long period. Each tradition consists of a general summary and documents including books, journal articles, dissertations, and manuscripts. In total, we have completed nine sequences, including the Egyptian, Highland Andean, Coastal Andean, Maya, Highland Mesoamerican, Mississippian, Mesopotamian, the U.S. Southwest, and Indus Valley sequences. The Yellow River sequence is currently being processed. Learn more about the traditions covered in the database.

The archaeological database provides researchers and students access to archaeological materials for comparative studies within and across regions. Traditions are selected in two ways: 1) by random sampling from the Outline of Archaeological Traditions compiled by Peter Peregrine with the help of a distinguished Board of Advisors; and 2) to encourage historical and evolutionary analysis, we are including complete tradition sequences from the OAT. It is HRAF’s intention to include all the traditions; we currently have about 40 percent of the traditions included.

The Scope of the Outline of Archaeological Traditions

Although we have now incorporated the Outline of Archaeological Traditions (OAT) into the HRAF’s Outline of World Cultures, understanding the OAT helps to understand the eHRAF Archaeology database. The OAT attempted to catalogue all known archaeological traditions, covering the entire globe and the entire prehistory of humankind. It should be taken as a catalogue in process, which will be continually revised and updated.

The main concern in developing the Outline of Archaeological Traditions was to generate a catalogue of roughly equivalent units. To develop the Outline of Archaeological Traditions, the world was divided into six regions (North America and Mesoamerica [1000s], South America and the Caribbean [2000s], Europe and Western Asia [3000s], Central and Eastern Asia [4000s], Southern Asia and Oceania [5000s], and Africa and the Middle East [6000s]) with an additional division for human ancestors [7000s]. Basic, summary literature on the prehistory of each region was consulted, and a preliminary catalogue of the archaeological traditions was developed. The preliminary catalogue for each region was sent to members of the advisory board for comment and critique, and was then revised. Minor additional revisions were made while working with authors writing entries on the traditions for the Encyclopedia of Prehistory (Kluwer/Plenum 2001-2002).

The Outline of Archaeological Traditions begins its coverage with the origins of our genus, Homo, approximately two million years ago in Africa. Homo spread throughout Eurasia by 500,000 years ago, into Oceania by 40,000 years ago, and into the Americas by 12,000 years ago. Area coverage for those regions begins when humans first enter them. The ending date of the Outline’s coverage also varies by region. In Oceania, the Americas, and Sub-Saharan Africa, coverage ends at approximately 500 BP with European exploration and initial colonization. In Central Asia coverage ends with the rise and spread of nomadic states such as the Hsuing-Nu and Sarmatian ca. 1500 BP. In Europe coverage ends with the expansion of the Roman Empire ca. 2000 BP. In China coverage ends with the Shang dynasty, ca. 3100 BP.  And in Northern Africa and the Middle East, coverage ends with the rise of the New Babylonian and Old Kingdom Egyptian civilizations ca. 3500 BP.

Accessing eHRAF Archaeology

Access to the eHRAF Archaeology database requires membership (or temporary password). A free one-month trial for eHRAF Archaeology is available for interested individuals and a semester-long trial is available for institutions. Members of HRAF can benefit from a variety of free support and services including online info sessions for librarians, teaching support for faculty, online student exercises, and even customized webinars for student classes. Find out more or request a trial.