DANS helps build future-proof C-14 database

4 October 2022

Determining the age of archaeological remains in the Dutch soil archive is a crucial part of archaeology. Carbon-14 dating (also known as C-14 dating) is the technique used to determine the age of an organic sample. In recent decades, thousands of C-14 dating studies for archaeological research have been carried out and published in the Netherlands, but these are not publicly available. DANS is helping to change this.

Within the Dutch hub of E-RIHS (European Research Infrastructure Heritage Science), the C-14 database project is running, with the aim of creating a central, sustainable database of  C-14 dates for archaeological research. This project will make available datings made since the 1950s. This includes not only the datings carried out in the Netherlands, but also those carried out on ‘Dutch material’ by foreign laboratories. The dates performed and available are collected and supplemented with a set of relevant metadata to be determined. This makes an important contribution to the international archaeological field.

Future-proof database

Currently, a large number of universities, government institutions, companies, museums and archives are working on the sustainable accessibility of archaeological data and/or information. The Dutch National Agency for Cultural Heritage (RCE) and EARTH Integrated Archaeology are working to set up a future-proof database of published C-14 dating within archaeological research in the Netherlands. To this end, a consortium has been formed of the RCE, EARTH, CIO Groningen, DANS and C-14 Tandem Laboratory Uppsala.

The database will be open source. The aim is to follow the FAIR data principles as much as possible by making agreements on metadata and standardisation of data entry, among other things. The intention is to create a ‘living’, vital database that will continue to be used and supplemented in the future. 

Export role for DANS

Within the consortium, DANS has an expert role in advising on FAIR data and certified archive standards. DANS advises on FAIR data, design of a data model and sustainable storage. With the knowledge gained from international projects and collaborations, DANS also easily connects with projects and partners with similar collections such as ADS and ARIADNEplus. In order to set up a future-proof database, aspects such as licences, trusts and the harmonisation of data will be taken into account. DANS will place the data made available in the Data Station Archaeology as a Trusted Repository. 

 The C-14 database project will run until the end of 2023.

C-14 device in a laboratory in Groningen (Image: M. Lobbes)

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