Help (sort of) with archaeological material: Zenon-DAI (Part I)

Since I’m still locked out of the TLG, I figured I’d start tackling another doozy: the immense bibliographical database of the Deutsches Archaeologisches Institut. It’s all of their library catalogues on one powerful search engine. What that means: if you want to know about a topic in material culture, it is probably here. And since they’ve given their site a snazzy new upgrade, it seemed like a good time to test it out.

The good news, for those of you who’ve used it before: most of the searches are the same. The bad news? I actually find this version harder to use (or at least I had a lot more trouble finding hits for what I thought were reasonable search terms). So I’ve split this post into two parts: this first part is exploring the basics, and a part II will come along once I’ve figured out how to better manipulate the searches.

DAI main page

The main page is pretty self-explanatory. They correctly set my default language as English (but there are many other options if you’re not a native speaker: German (of course), French, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Portuguese, Turkish, Hebrew, Russian, Dutch, and more). For a simple search, you can use the main bar in the middle of the page. As I learned, it will auto-fill with relevant terms, which seem to fall into a few categories: places, people, and titles.

DAI search

I think this is where I started to make mistakes. I picked one of the pre-filled links, not realizing that this was in some ways a dead end:

DAI results

A few important things to note here: the DAI will give you multiple of the same results if they are catalogued separately (so don’t necessarily trust the numbers to give you a sense of how big the field is). For example, the first two results here are the same article.  Sometimes, with a broader search than this, the entries will separated by pages of other hits. Be forewarned.

You can sort the results in the right sidebar. So if you had been looking for this article, and got 500 results, you could sort the results by author to get just Holloway. Also, if you happen to be using this in one of the DAI libraries, you can see if your library has the volume.

Also, the DAI will try to maximize the relevance of your search results (sort of like Google). So if you put in a question, like I have here, it will give you the article with the closest title first. You can get around this with some savvy search tools, and I’m putting a list of them at the end of this post.

So this search turned out to be less exciting than I’d thought. But I think that it’s important to learn from missteps, too. So I decided to try again.

DAI search

Mary knows why I am looking this up…

This time, though, I thought I’d try something a little fancier. Instead of just looking up the Augustan Forum, I would look for what I actually wanted: the excavation report that shows it had four, not two, exedrae.

DAI failed search

Foiled again? This time I thought the problem was that I hadn’t included a wildcard at the end (I vaguely recall that you didn’t used to, but…). So it was worth another try. Still nothing. I had some success with “Augustus AND exedr*”, though:

Screenshot 2015-04-26 at 9.17.03 PM

Now that we have a few more results, you can see more of the features of the DAI research engine. All entries are tagged (more on that later) and hyperlinked to title and author. So if you find out that 90% of your search results were written by Filippo Coarelli, you can click on his name and see every entry for him in the DAI. Similarly, you can use the tags to navigate to similar content. This is easier to see in an entry, rather than on the results page.

Screenshot 2015-04-26 at 9.17.59 PM

All of the gray tags give you a subject area. So if you click on “Exedren”, it will take you to all of the database entries that are tagged as dealing with an exedra. In the right sidebar, the DAI tells you about similarly-tagged documents that may also be of interest. Depending on your academic interests, these can be hit-or-miss (they seem to be better for archaeological themes than historical themes, for reasons that are completely natural).

The “Included in” link will take you to the table of contents of the journal, book, etc. that the work was first published in – but you can also get this under “context”, as I’ve shown in the screenshot. “Holdings” are only useful if you’re in the DAI. “Description” tells you how many pages the item has, and as far as I can tell, nothing yet has any “comments”.

Probably the most important links are at the very top: “cite this” will give you your document in APA, MLA, and Chicago styles. They are NOT downloadable — you need to copy-and-paste them into your bibliographic tool of choice or “export” them. If you’re like me and use Zotero, you’re out of luck; “Export” only works for EndNote, RefWorks, and BibTeX. You can also email the citation to yourself, either singly or as a group — but I’ll post more on emailing citations once I’ve done a better job at figuring out how to find what I want!

Important tools for DAI:

DAI searches can be made quite complex. They have a lot of different search options (more than I offer here); I’ve just put down the ones that I find the most useful. There is a full list in their help file (now at the bottom of every page).

For Boolean searches (AND, NOT, OR): the Booleans must be in capitals! “not” is NOT a Boolean. Default is set to “and”, so “basilica Rom” should get you Basilicas in Rome.

IF you’re more interested in basilicas than Rome, you can “prioritize” the basilica by searching for it with a carat: basilica^ Rom.

If you’re not sure how something is spelled: DAI uses two wildcards. ? is one character only. * is 2+ or zero. So to search effectively for “Athens”, you’ll be best off using “Athen*” (–> Athen, Athenae, Athens, etc.). To effectively search for Lycia, one is probably enough (Ly?ia –> Lycia, Lykia). You can also put a ~ at the end of a word to indicate that you are interested in alternative spellings (Rostovsteff comes to mind…)

If you want to find two words close to each other: You can use the ~ sign plus a number to say that the two words must be at least # words close. So, “prytaneion ~5 Athens” will get you “prytaneion in Athens” … but also “prytaneion. And in Athens”

In practice, you’re looking at bibliographic references, so the biggest problem here is a book where one title ends with one of your search terms and the next begins with another. It’s more common than you’d think.

So that is a whirlwind tour of the DAI. More coming later when I’ve gotten a chance to explore.


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Help (sort of) with archaeological material: Zenon-DAI (Part I) by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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