Integrated Archaeological Database

The Integrated Archaeological Database system, or IADB for short, is designed to address the data management requirements throughout the lifespan of archaeological excavation projects, from initial excavation recording, through post-excavation analysis and research to eventual dissemination and archiving.

History |  What's New |  Users |  Demonstration |  Requirements |  Costs |  Installation

Key Features
Web Interface
The IADB is a web application using modern AJAX programming techniques. It is accessed through a web browser such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome from any Internet-connected computer. No IADB software is installed on the user's computer.
Project Resources
Put simply, an IADB project database consists of data resources and the links, or connections between them. There are a number of different types of resources as shown below (click on a resource name to see an example):
Finds are sub-divided into Small Finds, Bulk Finds, Samples, Skeletons, Architectural Fragments and Structural Timbers. Find References take the form FSF12345.
The standard stratigraphic excavation unit. A basic Context record consists of keywords and other metadata, an optional image (or facsimile) of the original context recording sheet, stratigraphic links to other contexts and a "single context plan" of the context.
Sets consist of one or more Contexts, for example, the cut of a pit and its several fills, and can belong to a single Group
Groups consist of one or more Sets, for example, several associated pit Sets, and can belong to a single Phase
Phases consist of one or more Groups
Objects consist of any combination of Finds, Contexts, Sets, Groups, Phases and other Objects. They are defined either as a list of members (static) or as the result of a database query (dynamic).
Images include photographs and other digital raster images such as scanned X-rays. Each image can be linked to any number of Finds, Contexts, etc and can be inserted into internal IADB documents.
These include any type of digital vector illustration which can be converted into SVG or DXF format
Structure Diagrams
A Structure Diagram can be a simple stratigraphic matrix diagram showing stratigraphic units (Contexts, Sets, etc) and the relationships between them, or other database resources (images, plans, documents, other Structure Diagrams, etc) can be added to create more general purpose visualisations. A Structure Diagram can be thought of as a visual representation of, and an index into, a particularly aspect of the project database.
Documents can be internal HTML documents created and edited within the IADB, externally created documents (such as PDF files) uploaded and stored within the IADB, links to external (non-IADB) web resources, or references to paper documents.
Bibliography References
Each IADB server maintains a global Bibliography, from which selected items are tagged for inclusion within individual Projects.
Built-in Editors
The IADB includes online editors for creating and manipulating Structure Diagrams, creating and editing internal documents, and for digitizing single Context plans (from scanned images or using a graphics tablet). No third party software is required.
Tag Cloud
Any number of user-defined tags (analogous to Labels in Google Mail, for example) may be applied to any resources within a project database.
Unique URIs
Each IADB project, each Tagged list, each individual resource record (Find, Context, Image, Structure Diagram, etc), and each SQL Query in an IADB project database has a unique URI which allows links to individual IADB resources to be included in web publications, external databases, etc.
A Brief History of the IADB

The Integrated Archaeological Database (IADB) has developed over many years. In the late eighties, Steve Stead and Pete Clark, then both at the Scottish Urban Archaeological Trust (SUAT) in Perth, Scotland (archaeological services in Perth are now provided by Alder Archaeology) started developing the concept of a computerised integrated database to record and help with the analysis of several large excavation projects on which SUAT was working at the time. When Mike Rains took over from Steve Stead at SUAT in 1989, he realised that some of the software development projects on which he had been working, initially at Durham University and then at the Scottish Development Department (later to become Historic Scotland), could together form the basis for starting to implement the IADB concept. These included a simple stratigraphic analysis program, a basic Context and Find cataloging application and an early attempt at a single context plan digitising solution.

The original concept of the IADB was to make available digital versions of the various excavation records as an easily accessible integrated resource for use in post-excavation analysis and to provide a framework within which that analysis would be undertaken. Initially, the IADB only dealt with simple artefact records and stratigraphic unit or context records. Over time, the scope of the IADB has widened to include other digital resources including single context plans, photographs, stratigraphy diagrams, etc. Initially the IADB was described as a "digital workbench" or a "computerised desktop", today we would probably call it a virtual research environment.

Early versions of the IADB ran under MS-DOS and were written in Clipper and C using the dBase database format. Vector graphics used the GEM graphics library, a precursor to Windows. With the launch of Visual Basic, the IADB was moved to Windows using an MS Access database. In 1997, Mike Rains moved from SUAT to York Archaeological Trust and shortly afterwards the IADB programs were re-written in Delphi, still using an Access database. In 1999 work was begun on converting the IADB to a web application using MySQL and PHP.

In recent years, development has continued in collaboration with Amanda Clarke and Mike Fulford of the Silchester Town Life Project at Reading University. Grants from the AHRC have funded the development of the IADB as a web publication tool, and grants from the UK JISC have funded the OGHAM and VERA projects for the development of the IADB as a Virtual Research Environment for archaeology using the Silchester project as a test-bed.

In September 2005, an edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme The Material World featured an interview with Mike Fulford and Mike Rains in which they discussed the role of the IADB in the Silchester project with particular reference to the development of the IADB as a virtual research environment. As of May 2011, this programme remains available online at

The IADB was Highly Commended in the Best Archaeological Innovation category at the 2010
British Archaeological Awards ceremony held at the British Museum on 19th July 2010.
Latest Developments

Development of the IADB is an on-going process. Recent development work has concentrated on the following:
Facsimile Context Record
An innovative approach to Context recording has been developed which uses a scanned image of the original Context Recording Sheet (CRS) and some associated metadata as an alternative to the traditional IADB context record which was essentially a full transcription of the CRS. An example of a facsimile Context record may be seen here. A discussion of the background to the Facsimile Context Record may be downloaded from here (PDF 290kb).
Work is continuing on the development of a Section record within the IADB. The aim is to produce a fully interactive system of digitised section drawings linked to the Contexts, Finds and Samples represented on them. In many ways, this will be similar to the existing system for digitising and storing single context plans within the IADB.
Mobile IADB
The IADB can now be accessed from a range of mobile devices. The IADB Mobile webapp is now available for the Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, and for the Amazon Kindle. IADB Mobile provides core IADB functionality including:
  • Browse records or locate specific records using a Search/Goto field similar to the desktop IADB.
  • View, edit and create Find, Context, Set, Group, Phase and Object records.
  • View Tagged Collections, Images, Matrix diagrams, Sections and Documents.
  • Open multiple records at the same time and quickly switch between them.
  • Single context plan drawing and simple editing of Matrix diagrams on the iPad.
  • Direct "finger writing" of facsimile CRS cards on the iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone.
  • Direct uploading of images from the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Who is Using the IADB

Current users of the IADB include:

In addition, the IADB is used as a teaching tool within the Department of Archaeology at the University of Reading and, most recently, in the RADII (Recording Archaeological Data in Iran and Iraq) project, a British Academy funded joint project between University College, London and the University of Reading.
IADB Demonstration

The link below provides access to a trial version of the IADB containing a small demonstration project. You can explore this in read-only mode by clicking on the link below and logging in using the user name GUEST and the password GUEST (leave the VRD field empty). However, the IADB is designed very much as an active working environment rather than as a passive resource, and so read-only access does not really allow you to explore the full potential of the system. If you would like unrestricted access to the demonstration IADB, please contact Mike Rains to request a username and password. Please mention the nature of your interest in the IADB.
Please note: The IADB is designed to be used with the Mozilla Firefox web browser. Most parts will also work in other browsers including Google Chrome, Safari and Opera, but you may experience some problems using these. Internet Explorer is not recommended for use with the IADB. Firefox is available free of charge for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux from The IADB uses cookies, JavaScript and pop-up windows, so all of these need to be enabled within your browser.

System Requirements

If you are interested in using the IADB, then there are two routes open to you:
  • Your IADB database can be hosted on the main IADB server maintained by YAT and leased from Rackspace Limited, one of the leading providers of managed web hosting facilities, who provide excellent reliability and undertake daily data backups. Your IADB database remains totally separate from the YAT database and other hosted databases, and you have complete control over, for example, the creation and management of Users and Projects within your database. As well as the automated daily backups by Rackspace, you will also have the option of taking your own local backup of either your entire database, or of individual projects, at any time. Because the IADB program code is managed centrally, all upgrades and bug fixes are available immediately to you and all your users.
  • Alternatively, you can install, operate and maintain your own IADB server. This option is not for the feint-hearted but it has the advantage of giving you complete control over your server. The downsides include higher initial costs and the need for in-house technical skills to set up and maintain the server. For example, data backup will be entirely your responsibility. YAT is unable to provide general server maintenance and support and will only be able to provide IADB support and upgrades if external HTTP and FTP access to your server can be arranged.


The IADB is open source software which means, amongst other things, that there is no charge for the actual software, whether used centrally via the hosting option or installed on your own server.
Under the hosting option, YAT will make a small charge for data storage. This is currently GBP 50 plus VAT per calendar month, payable quarterly in advance. This charge remains the same regardless of how many Users or Projects you create within your database, but a higher charge may need to be negotiated if your database grows very large!
If you opt for your own server, then YAT will charge a daily (or pro-rata) rate plus expenses for all work undertaken to help you set up or maintain your IADB server.
YAT can provide user training at various levels for the IADB. Experience has shown that two to three days training (possibly spread over a period of time) will normally be required to cover all aspects of the IADB.
YAT's current rate (May 2011) for all training and work undertaken is GBP 275 plus VAT per day, plus expenses. Charges will be reviewed in April each year and YAT reserves the right to increase them in line with inflation.
YAT currently makes no charge for basic telephone and email support for the IADB provided that all support requests are channelled through a single contact individual within each organisation using the IADB and, in the case of independent IADB servers, YAT has remote access to the server via both HTTP and FTP. Support is only provided during normal business hours, is offered on a "best effort" basis, and is not guaranteed in any way. As the number of IADB users increases, YAT may need to reconsider its support policy, in which case all users will be consulted.

Setting Up Your Own IADB Server

This section outlines the key steps in setting up a new IADB server. It is designed only for those with detailed knowledge of how to setup and configure web servers including Apache, MySQL and PHP, all of which are required by the IADB.
The latest version of the IADB program files (including the IADBBARE.sql file mentioned below) can be obtained from the email address shown below.
  1. Ensure that Apache, MySQL and PHP are installed and working on your server.
  2. Apache requires no specific configuration for the IADB
  3. Create a MySQL account with full access rights for use by the IADB (individual MySQL accounts for each IADB user are not required).
  4. PHP configuration: The GD, FreeType and Zip libraries are required and Register Globals should be OFF.
  5. Unpack the IADB archive into a suitable folder (eg: /iadb) within your Apache document tree.
  6. Create a MySQL database (eg: IADB) and then use the IADBBARE.sql file to populate it with the IADB data tables, either from the MySQL command line or using a MySQL administration tool such as phpMyAdmin. If you name the database anything other than IADB, you will need to edit the index.htm file and replace DB=IADB on line 6 with your database name.
  7. Use a text editor to edit the mysql_connect.php file. Insert the username and password for the MySQL account created in step 3 above.
  8. Restart everything and you should now be able to login to the IADB at http://yourserver/iadb/index.htm. Login with the username ADMIN and the password SYSMAN.
  9. Go to Admin -> Server Configuration -> General Settings and edit the fields to suit your setup:
    • Server Root - the file system path to the Apache document root.
    • Server URL - the base URL of your server.
    • Server Folder - the relative path from the Server Root to the folder containing the IADB program files.
    • Photos Path - the absolute file system path to a folder in which all IADB photos will be stored. This folder must exist and have full access rights (eg: chmod 0777). This folder does not need to be within the Apache document tree.
    • Document Path - as with Photos Path but this is where uploaded documents are stored.
  10. The initial IADB database contains a single empty project called TEST and a single ADMIN user. To create other projects, go to Admin -> Manage Projects. To create more users, go to Admin -> Manage Users. Note that only Super Users can create and manage users, so you should not remove the Super User status from user ADMIN.

Further Information

If after reading these notes and possibly looking at the demo you would like any further information about the IADB or would like to arrange a 'test run' for your organisation, please contact Mike Rains.

Last Updated: 20th May 2011