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Chains are used in the database when you want a field to be attached to another field instead of an item. An example is the interpretation subform which contains a piece of text, a date and an action. The text-type 'interpretation' will be attached to the item and the date and action will be attached to the piece of text.
Chain example.jpg

The tables in this image are a very simplified schematic of how the data will be stored in ARK. You can see that a chain uses a different table rather than an itemkey as the itemkey for a data fragment. This example shows data the could be displayed as

Pottery classification
Assemblage Class Count
1102 Black Gloss Ware 3
1103 Black Gloss Ware 1
1102 Archaic Fine Ware 2