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Taking Mobile Computing to the Field

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... The main reasons for excavations "to go digital" often reside in the desire to ensure greater efficiency and consistency in the recording process and increase data quality, as well as reduce the time necessary to perform certain tasks in and out of the field (entering and managing on-site records, drawing of plans and sections, checking and exporting records, and producing excavation reports). This usually entails entering stratigraphic information and other site records directly into a database or application on a tablet in lieu of paper records (Cianciarulo and Guerra 2007;Fee, Pettegrew, and Caraher 2013;Motz 2016;Roosevelt et al. 2015;Uildriks 2016) and the use of digital technologies such as survey equipment, orthophotography, or photogrammetry for plan and section drawings (Berggren et al. 2015;Kimball 2016;Morgan and Wright 2018;Waagen 2019). Practitioners wishing to switch from an analog to a digital record have the choice between either adopting an existing solution or developing and implementing their own DIY solution. ...
... The application was developed using Filemaker Pro. The main reason behind the choice of software was the ability to easily deploy an application for iPad, already a device of choice among archaeologists (Ellis 2016;Fee, Pettegrew, and Caraher 2013) and available in our department. Filemaker operates on both Windows and Mac, and with Filemaker Pro Advanced, it is possible to create standalone versions, which is useful for distribution. ...
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The increasing use of digital technologies can provide significant benefits to the excavation and interpretative process in archaeology. Yet, despite major developments in the last two decades, digital recording can still be seen as part of the realm of tech savvy archaeologists, well-funded projects, or larger commercial units who can develop their own recording systems or deploy a pre-existing application. The latter are often expensive and can be technologically challenging to implement, and few of these focus on both context recording and feature drawing. In response, this paper presents an accessible and flexible low-cost DIY digital workflow developed by the Comparative Kingship Project, Scotland, allowing field practitioners to benefit from some of the key advantages of “going digital” without the associated costs or complexities of some of the other systems.
... However, while a great part of modern mobile collectors (i.e., handheld computers, smartphones, tablets, etc.) are relatively low-priced and user-friendly devices, data repositories and software solutions can be rather expensive or, in the case of free open-source options, complex to manage and integrate, requiring skills in programming that most researchers do not possess. Several solutions have been adopted in this context (Austin 2014): some projects hire programmers to develop custom software (Fee et al. 2013), others simply adopt digital mobile technologies utilizing off-the-shelf applications to convert preexistent databases for use on mobile devices (e.g., Ellis and Wallrodt 2011;Houk 2012), and others make use of open-source platforms to modify prefabricated data forms or design new ones (e.g., Smith and Levy 2012). ...
... The final set of requirements was related to the characteristics of the software and programming tools used for designing our data management workflow. Apple devices have been preferred for archaeological fieldwork (see, e.g., Fee et al. 2013;Motz and Carrier 2013;Reed et al. 2015). Android equipment, on the contrary, has been much less utilized, but does offer some major advantages, the most relevant of which is, in our opinion, price. ...
Article
This paper introduces a new freeware digital system, based on Google/Android platforms, designed to be a fully integrated and customizable solution to record, manage, and share archaeological survey data. The core of the system is two custom smartphone/tablet applications, through which surveyors are able to retrieve geographical coordinates and relevant attribute data from archaeological locations, but also to perform onsite analysis of artifacts, including taking accurate measurements with digital calipers directly connected to the mobile devices. The system saves all data recovered in the devices' internal memory, as well as in a cloud-based spatial database (Google Fusion Tables), where data can be automatically shared and examined using a rather intuitive set of visualization tools to instantly make maps or produce exploratory charts. Using the example of a recent field survey project for Stone Age sites in Mozambique, we provide a detailed discussion of the creation and use of all hardware and software components of our solution that will allow other researchers to reproduce the methodology and customize the system to meet the needs of their own projects.
... incorporating databases such as FAIM, often custom built by programming specialists (e.g., Fee et al. 2013); off-the-shelf commercial data management software with field collection apps, such as the popular FileMaker Pro/FileMakerGo package (e.g., Banning and Hitchings 2015;Gordon, Averett, Counts, Koo et al. 2016;Spigelman et al. 2016); user-friendly subscription-based apps such as Wildnote and Fulcrum, which provide customizable archaeology field templates and premade digital cultural resource management (CRM) forms; and finally, DIY "open archaeology" databases built on free, open-source platforms, which are cheaper but require a higher level of in-house development skills (e.g., Cascalheira et al. 2014;Knodell et al. 2017;Morgan and Eve 2012;Vincent et al. 2014). The reception of these field technologies has been generally, if not uniformly, positive. ...
Article
Recent years have seen the rapid adoption of digital site recording strategies following the proliferation of GPS-enabled mobile devices and data collection apps. Much of the emerging literature on digital—or paperless—archaeology, however, has focused on excavation contexts, with fewer discussions of mobile-GIS solutions on archaeological survey. This article discusses the design and implementation of a site survey workflow based on Esri's ArcGIS Collector mobile app in the context of Project ArAGATS's Kasakh Valley Archaeology Survey in northwestern Armenia. The Collector app provides a simple, map-centric user interface that allows surveyors with little-to-no GIS experience to record site locations, enter attribute data on customized digital forms, and attach photographs. With a network connection, the Collector app instantly uploads site information as GIS data to the project geodatabase and refreshes the data across surveyors’ mobile devices. Although the Collector app lacks certain GIS features and requires an institutional Esri license, we found that the native integration with our project GIS and broad access to visualization and recording tools in the app made in-field decision-making and interpretation more collaborative and inclusive across the survey team.
... Estos resultados ponen de relieve algunos de los retos que presenta el empleo de tecnologías móviles para aplicaciones arqueológicas y destacan las maneras en que las configuraciones específicas del sistema de registro pueden afectar la producción del conocimiento arqueológico. Caraher 2013;Cascalheira et al. 2017;Ellis and Wallrodt 2012;Fee et al. 2013;Jackson et al. 2016;Morgan and Eve 2012;Roosevelt et al. 2015;Ross et al. 2013;Serrano and Martínez 2014;Sobotkova et al. 2016). ...
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In this essay, we examine the potentials and challenges of mobile computing for a core activity of archaeological laboratory research—the typological analysis of ceramics. We discuss the collaborative development, implementation, and evaluation of the PAZC Ceramics module in the FAIMS Mobile platform. Our deployment of the module yielded significant improvements in the efficiency of data collection, as well as reduced numbers of missing fields and higher user satisfaction scores. However, it did not improve data consistency between users and yielded a classificatory system that was somewhat more challenging to update than our previous mode of operation. These results underscore some of the trade-offs that may be entailed in employing mobile technologies for archaeological applications and highlight the ways in which specific media configurations impact the production of archaeological knowledge.
... I have yet to see anyone state that iPads are too easy for non-experts to use. Rather, iPads have been highlighted as one way to "cultivate an environment of accessibility to archaeology" (Thum and Troche, 2016) and change -even upend -workflow in the field (e.g., Fee et al. 2013;Uildriks, 2016). Olympus has a rather iPad-like philosophy with the Vanta: the instrument's power remains largely automated and behind-the-scenes to a user, perhaps leading to the mistaken impression that it is unsophisticated, but as shown here, such innovation allows one to focus on research design and data collection, rather than X-ray tube and detector settings, and still acquire precise, accurate measurements. ...
Article
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A complete obsidian biface was recovered along the Kern River on the Rio Bravo Ranch near Bakersfield, California. X-ray fluorescence (XRF) trace element analysis placed the artifact 130 kilometers from its toolstone source at the West Sugarloaf obsidian subsource at the Coso Volcanic Field. Contemporary, source-specific, temperature-adjusted obsidian hydration analysis dates the biface to the late Newberry Period (ca 500 B.C. to 600 A.D.). The biface was transported from the Coso Volcanic Field over the Sierra Nevada during a period of peak obsidian biface production and intensive trans-Sierran obsidian export and exchange.
... Reilly 1989). Yet only recently have they used mobile tablets as part of an in-eld data collection strategy for excavations (e.g., Tripcevich and Wernke 2010;DeTore and Bria 2012;Ellis and Wallrodt 2011;Houk 2012;Pettegrew 2012;Fee et al. 2013;Vincent et al. 2013;Austin 2014;Sharp and Litschi 2014;Berggren et al. 2015;Roosevelt et al. 2015). Still, although scholars have explored the e ectiveness of using digital archives and 3D simulations in university classrooms (e.g., Agbe-Davies et al. 2014), few have discussed how mobile databases can be used to enhance student learning and research skills in the eld (e.g., Stewart and Johnson 2011). ...
Chapter
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This chapter reviews the benefits and challenges of using a digital data collection protocol to teach archaeological methods to university students. In particular, it reflects on the three seasons during which the Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash (PIARA) taught an archaeological field school in rural Peru using a mobile relational database and tablet system designed to document, manage, and analyze excavated data. This contribution provides a brief introduction to the PIARA research project and field school at the archaeological site of Hualcayán (highland Ancash, Peru; FIG. 1) and reviews the project’s mobile digital database system, emphasizing how it was developed and used during the field school. Through this review we offer evidence suggesting that students who use a digital and relational database can develop analytical skills that enhance the way they perceive the multiple dimensions of the archaeological record. In particular, it is suggested that students who used the database were better able to contextualize their empirical observations and more quickly visualize chronological and spatial relationships between the materials and features at Hualcayán.
... I have yet to see anyone state that iPads are too easy for non-experts to use. Rather, iPads have been highlighted as one way to "cultivate an environment of accessibility to archaeology" (Thum and Troche, 2016) and change -even upend -workflow in the field (e.g., Fee et al. 2013;Uildriks, 2016). Olympus has a rather iPad-like philosophy with the Vanta: the instrument's power remains largely automated and behind-the-scenes to a user, perhaps leading to the mistaken impression that it is unsophisticated, but as shown here, such innovation allows one to focus on research design and data collection, rather than X-ray tube and detector settings, and still acquire precise, accurate measurements. ...
Article
Full-text available
A few of the major portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) manufacturers have released new models in the past year or two. The technologies in these latest instruments have advanced so much that any performance appraisals more than a few years old are essentially obsolete. The X-ray detectors and associated electronics inside a new pXRF analyzer are more sensitive than those in many benchtop models just five or ten years ago. This report summarizes initial tests of the newest pXRF series – Vanta – from Olympus Scientific Solutions. The tests included sourcing 40 artifacts from two Early Bronze Age settlements in Armenia and analyzing a collection of geological specimens that had been measured using other techniques, including neutron activation analysis and energy- dispersive XRF at the University of Missouri Research Reactor as well as electron probe X-ray microanalysis at the University of Minnesota. This report is intended as documentation of the Vanta’s high potential for non-destructive obsidian artifact sourcing that is fast, precise, and accurate.
Book
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Mobilizing the Past is a collection of 20 articles that explore the use and impact of mobile digital technology in archaeological field practice. The detailed case studies present in this volume range from drones in the Andes to iPads at Pompeii, digital workflows in the American Southwest, and examples of how bespoke, DIY, and commercial software provide solutions and craft novel challenges for field archaeologists. The range of projects and contexts ensures that Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future is far more than a state-of-the-field manual or technical handbook. Instead, the contributors embrace the growing spirit of critique present in digital archaeology. This critical edge, backed by real projects, systems, and experiences, gives the book lasting value as both a glimpse into present practices as well as the anxieties and enthusiasm associated with the most recent generation of mobile digital tools. MtP_Cover_3dirt.pngThis book emerged from a workshop funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities held in 2015 at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. The workshop brought together over 20 leading practitioners of digital archaeology in the U.S. for a weekend of conversation. The papers in this volume reflect the discussions at this workshop with significant additional content. Starting with an expansive introduction and concluding with a series of reflective papers, this volume illustrates how tablets, connectivity, sophisticated software, and powerful computers have transformed field practices and offer potential for a radically transformed discipline.
Chapter
In the past two decades, rapid advances have been made in the application of digital technology to archaeology, which have led to the creation of the field of cyber-archaeology. Much of the work in this field, however, has focused on the technical aspects of applying specific technologies to archaeological field and laboratory work. As cyber-archaeology matures, however, it is necessary to consider how these novel methods can contribute to the development of archaeological theory. The chapters in this volume do this by examining potential contributions of cyber-archaeology to “grand narratives” of human history.
Chapter
This paper discusses the results of the use of PlanGrid as a test case for its adaptation as an archaeological data collection tool for the Tel Burna archaeological project. PlanGrid was designed as an iPad app for construction workers to have cloud-based access to blueprint drawings that multiple users could simultaneously access and heavily annotate during the construction process. Over the course of the last two seasons, the Tel Burna archaeological project has implemented and modified PlanGrid for use during field excavation. The goal of this implementation was to use PlanGrid as a replacement for traditional archaeological paper registration forms, such as hand-drawn top plans, journals, and basket and locus cards. Our experiences with PlanGrid indicate that the program has a high degree of adaptability that allows an archaeologist to concisely and accurately collect many types of data in an organized and intuitive manner. In this paper, we will show several different examples of how we implemented PlanGrid at Tel Burna, as well as provide instructional guidelines for interested users.
Discovering Ancient Pompeii with iPad
  • Apple
Apple. 2010. Discovering Ancient Pompeii with iPad. http://classics. uc.edu/pompeii/images/stories/ipad/Apple%20-%20Discover-ing%20ancient%20Pompeii%20with%20iPad.pdf.
Some Quick Thoughts on Paperless Archaeology Th e New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World (blog)
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Caraher, W. 2011. Some Quick Thoughts on Paperless Archaeology. Th e New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World (blog), January 12, 2011. http://mediterraneanworld.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/two- quick-thoughts-on-paperless-archaeology.
Forthcoming. Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project: Recent Work at the Site of Pyla-Vigla
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Caraher, W., R. S. Moore, and D. K. Pettegrew. Forthcoming. Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project: Recent Work at the Site of Pyla-Vigla. Report of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus 2011.
Podcast: iPads Break Digital Ground in Pompeii Archaeological Research
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Guin, J. 2011. Podcast: iPads Break Digital Ground in Pompeii Archaeological Research. http://www.voicesofthepast.org/2011/09/11/ ipads-break-digital-ground-in-pompeii-archaeological-research.
iPad at Pompeii: Does Tech Really Revolutionize How We Seek the Past?
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Hopkins, C. 2010. iPad at Pompeii: Does Tech Really Revolutionize How We Seek the Past? [Update]. http://readwrite.com/2010/10/11/ ipad_at_pompeii_does_tech_really_revolutionize_how.
Apps for Archaeologists #1—Fieldwork Tools Archaeograph (blog)
  • N H Tan
Tan, N.H. 2012. Apps for Archaeologists #1—Fieldwork Tools. Archaeograph (blog), February 21, 2012. http://web.archive.org/ web/20120511191044/http://www.archaeograph.com/apps-for- archaeologists-1-fieldwork-tools/#more-194.