Archaeological Excavations: Digital Field Recording

Digital Archaeology

Digital Archaeology

Like traditional excavation recording (Hawkes 1954; Renfrew and Bahn 2004), digital data collec-tion for excavation work breaks down into three primary components: surveying, artifact and context recording, and photography.

The advantage of on-site digital archaeology is that it embraces the notion that the control of time and the control of archaeological context are the archaeologist’s most precious commodities for modeling and explaining the past at the highest degree of accuracy.

It also enables the processing and publication of archaeological data in a much more efficient and timely manner. Spatial data are recorded in two formats to facilitate using the data in GIS: points and polygons. A point is a single x,y,z coordinate that is recorded for a specific special artifact find or elevation recording.

A polygon is a closed plane figure with at least three vertices or more (e.g. triangle, rectangle, octagon). Polygons are used to draw, digitally, archaeo-logical contexts (or loci) in the field. A polygon is recorded using a Total Station or EDM (Electronic Distance Measurer) by collecting multiple coordinates of the different vertices of the desired locus. Using the hand-held Recon data collector and SoloField TDS Software, the vertices collected from the Total Station are automatically connected to create the desired polygon dimensions.


Recording Archaeological Finds and Contexts

Recording is the means by which all data (excavation area, date, square, locus, basket, special find descriptions, etc.) are stored in GIS formatted file systems and linked to the spatial information collected with the Total Station.

The primary recording tool is a TDS Recon, using SoloField TDS software. The TDS Recon is a ruggidized, waterproof, dustproof, glare resistant, droppable PDA. It runs SoloField TDS software, which collects user entered data on a specific point (special find) or set of points (a polygon shape representing a locus) and triggers the Total Station to record the coordinates for the point or polygon data.

At the end of the excavation day, these data are exported as an ArcGIS shapefile on a GIS designated high-end PC Laptop in the project ‘Clean Lab’.5 The shapefile contains both the spatial information for every point and polygon as well as a spreadsheet database with the data entered for each recorded artifact or locus.


One response to “Archaeological Excavations: Digital Field Recording

  1. Pingback: An Evaluation Tool for Archaeology | ancientarchaeologydig·

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