cyberSW: A Data Synthesis and Knowledge Discovery System

The cyberSW project is focused on developing an online platform and analytical infrastructure for conducting regional scale archaeological research in the U.S. Southwest and Mexican Northwest. The project involves a compilation and standardization of more than 100 years of published and unpublished archaeological data resulting in a online database containing information on tens of millions of objects from tens of thousands of sites across the region.

  Project Details

The cyberSW project, funded by the NSF Resource Implementation for Data Intensive Research (RIDIR) program, is focused on developing an analytical infrastructure for comparative social science research using archaeological data. We envision cyberSW as an integrated knowledge discovery system that will significantly enhance interdisciplinary research on long-term social change at decadal to centennial scales.

The project will result in the data integration of millions of objects from tens of thousands of Prehispanic settlements across the U.S. Southwest, making it one of the largest digital archaeological repositories in the world.

A major challenge in using archaeological data is that most relevant information is not digitally curated or synthesized beyond individual projects. A number of recent synthesis projects in the U.S. Southwest show the great potential of these data for addressing big questions in the social sciences such as: What promotes the success or failure of some societies? How does migration transform social identities and create new social structures? And, what are the relationships between environmental challenges and social changes? We will build on these prior projects to produce an integrated system that will allow users at different levels of expertise to readily view, analyze and export data on past societies in the Southwest to address these and many other questions relevant to contemporary society.

This project involves the compilation of a massive amount of data into a graph database (using Neo4j) and the creation of a number of user-friendly open source tools for analyzing and visualizing these data. Ultimately, the data and tools will be delivered via a web interface with modules for archaeologists and other environmental/social scientists as well as the general public. ASU's role in the project include gathering and synthesizing data from the central US Southwest and the creation of tools for chronology building, data visualization and network analysis.

Partners: University of Arizona, School of Anthropology | University of Arizona, Management Information Systems | University of Colorado, Boulder, Department of Anthropology | Archaeology Southwest

  Research Team

  • Matthew Peeples, ASU
  • Barbara J. Mills, University of Arizona
  • Sudha Ram, University of Arizona
  • Jeffery J. Clark, Archaeology Southwest
  • Scott Ortman, University of Colorado, Boulder


National Science Foundation, Resource Implementation for Data Intensive Research (RIDIR) program - cyberSW: A Data Synthesis and Knowledge Discovery System for Long-term Interdisciplinary Research on Southwest Social Change.