The Comparative Archaeology Database of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Comparative Archaeology publishes primary archaeological data to complement more traditional means of publication, such as journals, collections of articles, and monographs (including those published by the Center itself). The Database thus works toward the preservation and dissemination of primary data recovered in fieldwork, a fundamental ethical responsibility in archaeology. Data-heavy "site reports" have traditionally presented and preserved such information, but it is a lament of long standing that most projects never produce such reports (see Shanks 1994). Brighter prospects are offered by constantly evolving information technology, which provides ways to disseminate and preserve archaeological data that are faster, easier, cheaper, and more useful than publication on paper.
Beyond serving as a data repository, the Comparative Archaeology Database collaborates with researchers in pursuit of two particular objectives: 1) accessible presentation of comprehensive metadata without which data are uninterpretable and thus useless (see Roche et al. 2015); and 2) exploration of the potential of digital information technology for presenting the multi-faceted data of archaeology in ever more useful ways that are at the same time resistant to software and hardware obsolescence. Both objectives contribute to permanent preservation of irreplaceable primary archaeological data and facilitate the solidly empirical comparative analysis that the Center for Comparative Archaeology seeks to encourage.
Support for the Comparative Archaeology Database from the Howard Heinz Endowment, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Henry Luce Foundation is gratefully acknowledged.