The Strategic Environmental Archaeology Database (SEAD) is a national research infrastructure for environmental archaeology data developed and managed at the Environmental Archaeology Lab (MAL) in collaboration with Humlab at Umeå University, Sweden. SEAD is part of an international network of research infrastructures for environmental archaeology and Quaternary paleoecology, enabling collaboration and data sharing among researchers worldwide. Its mission is to provide online tools to support research in environmental archaeology and to promote online access of relevant datasets. The system grants the online storage, extraction, analysis, and visualization of data on past climates, environments, and human impacts (Fig. 1).
SEAD is a relational database, where data are stored in a complex but user-friendly web of database tables that allows for efficient data retrieval and querying (Fig. 2).
The SEAD database structure is adapted to follow standard archaeological workflow processes, with a specific focus on environmental archaeology. Datasets stored in SEAD are structured hierarchically, with the site at the top level, and the samples (and results from analyses) at the lower level (Fig. 3). The initial geographical scope of SEAD focused primarily on Sweden and Scandinavia, but coverage continuously improves now to include other European datasets, as well as beyond. There are currently 1655 sites in SEAD, with 15,000 linked datasets.
SEAD provides online access to raw data and basic analytical tools to assist interpretation (Fig. 4). Datasets in SEAD are primarily biological and chemical/physical proxy data, i.e., fossil frequencies and measured variables derived from soil samples taken from archaeological and natural deposits. The database also includes geoarchaeological data from the analysis of ceramic thin sections and dendrochronological results. Dates, such as radiocarbon or calendar dates, are linked to samples where available, as are bibliographic information and extensive metadata. These allow for a large degree of linking with other databases. Further datasets, although few, include the results from modern biological sampling (insects, pollen, plants). Modern ecological reference data are included for most insect species, allowing for extensive and detailed paleoenvironmental reconstructions.
Several mechanisms ensure that only reliable data are available through SEAD. All submitted data are subject to evaluation in a peer review process where any inconsistencies or problems with the data are corrected in communication with the data provider. This model is integral to the project structure and essential for ensuring transparency in scientific research. The database also includes opportunities to indicate data quality, authorship, origin, method descriptions, and other hard-wired quality indicators and tracers.