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Research Open Science Open Research Award

Working group-based testing and application of a free R-tool to investigate past Mediterranean human-animal relationships in case studies

Francesca Slim (GIA)

Open Research objectives/practices

Freely-available R-tool development; open-access primary data; cataloging published primary and secondary data; transparent methodology; consciousness and awareness of ethical obligation to make archaeological discovery open-access available to researchers and the public.


Knowledge of our past belongs to everyone, but the process from archaeological excavation to public, and especially openly available, knowledge of our past is a long and winding road. Especially studies into phenomena that happened over larger areas and time spans are dependent on large quantities of good quality primary data. However, excavation is slow, precise and resource-intensive, and requires navigating a complex web of policy makers, land owners, legislation, and organization of researchers to excavate, study and publish. This reality can make open data sharing in archaeology a complicated effort with diverse stakeholders that can sometimes blur the lines of data ownership. Studies that exemplify how combined datasets and meta-analytical methods help us to explore new, original questions about our past are vital instruments in raising awareness about the benefits of sharing data openly and transparently.
Our contribution to this problem was to take part in a working group with the objective to actively work together to develop, teach, and test the use of the freely available R-tool zooLOG, developed for zooarchaeologists to make biometric analysis of multiple zooarchaeological datasets quicker, methodologically sound, compatible, and foolproof. The second objective of the working group was to apply the tool in original archaeological case studies that bring together huge quantities of new and published data on Iron Age human-animal relationships across the entire Mediterranean.
The case study and data we contributed to this special issue addressed the interregional phenomenon of human-pig interactions with the help of legacy data and cataloged published primary and secondary data, investigated with transparent methodology and the zooLOG tool.


Our study demonstrates the application of the zooLOG tool and its use in processing large quantities of data, catalogs currently available primary and secondary zooarchaeological data, adds freely-accessible new primary data to this existing body. The transparent freely available R-pack, the transparent methodology and datasets used for analysis allow others to reproduce our research, but also enables them to apply the data, methods and tools on their own original research questions.

Lessons learned

Raising awareness on the benefits of sharing data, especially when collaborators come from diverse research backgrounds, starts with setting the right example and acting on it. Sharing invites sharing.
Challenging is, however, that datasets from ongoing archaeological projects are in motion and usually embargoed until results are fully published. As a result, data can end up segmented across publications, and availability of (full) datasets take considerable time.
In our case, our choice to supply large numbers of supplementary data, methods and interactive figures lead to lengthy negotiations with the journal's publication team to convince them to adapt their rigid infrastructure to accommodate the publication of these files.
Working in a workshop-format that followed through the whole process of developing, testing and finally demonstrating the R-tool in publications was a helpful format to reflect on methodologies, user-friendliness of developed tools, defining the base programming-knowledge needed in our field to use open (R-based) tools, and in stimulating well-informed peer-reviews and publication of our research following best practices.

URLs, references and further information

Slim, F.G. & Çakırlar, C. Pigs and polities in Iron Age and Roman Anatolia: An interregional zooarchaeological analysis. Quaternary International, 2022.

J.M. Pozo, A. Trentacoste, A. Nieto-Espinet, S. Guimarães Chiarelli, S. Valenzuela-Lamas. Zoolog R package: Zooarchaeological Analysis with Log-Ratios. Quat. Int. (2022). In revision

Last modified:07 November 2022 1.48 p.m.