Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Going Digital for Field Recording in Archaeology

The use of information and communications technology (ICT) has revolutionized archaeological mapping, image recording, and analysis through tools such as GPS, GIS, and digital cameras (Evans and Daly 2006). Gidding et al. (2011) note that archaeologists have been slow to adopt integrated digital recording techniques, relying to an inordinate degree on paper-based recording systems to collect data on archaeological phenomena. Where archaeologists have utilized digital data, the resultant databases often can answer only very specific research questions (Gidding et al. 2011).

Hand-written, paper-based systems for inventory, site condition and artifact analysis are de rigueur in archaeology. Archaeologists then must digitize these data, adding significantly to the cost of projects, increasing transcription errors, and limiting the amount of digital data. These traditional techniques generate hard copies that cannot be easily backed up. Digital data using ICT are sustainable, more easily saved into multiple copies and stored in multiple locations, and are consistent with resource waste minimization (see Wells and Coghlin [2012]). Digital forms are easier to read in the future as they remove handwriting issues and are quicker to convert for other data needs, such as cataloging. This promotes efficiency between disciplines since it also cuts down on time in museums for curators to access and manage data.
Traditional paper error-checking  in 2011 archaeological field laboratory. 

That the challenges of using ICT field collection are becoming less of an issue is evidenced by the recent session at the 2012 Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology conference titled “Using tablet PCs to support field documentation.” The blog http://paperlessarchaeology.com/ documents the use of iPads for field data collection at Pompeii (cf. Poehler and Ellis [2011]). Real-time archaeological field recording has been tested using GIS in southern Jordan (Smith and Levy 2012). In the North America, the E’se’get Archaeology Project in Nova Scotia has implemented the use of iPads and Adobe acrobat forms that mimic traditional paper forms (http://coastalarchaeology.wordpress.com/). That much professional discourse on the use of these mobile information technologies in archaeological research is presented in blog format reflects their very recent deployment. 

This year's field school will utilize tablet computers, adapting existing archaeological paper forms used in excavation, gravestone recording, and laboratory processing of artifacts, and test the use of these forms in digital format during the field school. Researchers will track results, and provide the forms and their user experience in this blog. The goal is to develop, troubleshoot, train, and implement digital recording on a multifaceted archaeology project.

Evans, Thomas L. and Patrick Daly, Editors
 2006 Digital Archaeology: Bridging Method and Theory. Routledge, NY.

Gidding, Aaron, Yuma Matsui, Thomas E. Levy, Tom DeFanti, and Falko Kuester
 2011 e-Science and the Archaeological Frontier. Proceedings of the 2011 Seventh IEEE International Conference on eScience pp. 166-172.

Poehler, Eric E., and Steven J.R. Ellis
  2011 The 2011 Season of the Pompeii Quadriporticus Project: the Southern and Northern Sides. The Journal of FastiOnline < http://eprints.bice.rm.cnr.it/4033/1/FOLDER-it-2012-249.pdf >

Wells, Christian E.; and Melanie N. Coughlin
 2012 Zero Waste Archaeology. The SAA Archaeological Record 12(4):19-21.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Public Archaeology at Fort Vancouver: a partnership in education

The Public Archaeology Field School at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is a long-running partnership between the National Park Service, Portland State University, and Washington State University Vancouver. For eleven years, the program has introduced the methods and theories of historical archaeology fieldwork to university students while assisting the National Park Service in the management of its cultural resources (Marks 2011). Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is an unparalleled archaeological laboratory, comprising the remains of fur trade Fort Vancouver (ca.1825-1860) and Vancouver Barracks, the first (ca. 1849-2011) permanent U.S. Army post in the Pacific Northwest (Wilson 2008; Wilson and Langford 2011).

View of the Reconstructed Village Houses 1 and 2 
The 2013 Public Archaeology Field School will continue a long-term exploration of the multicultural Village (“Kanaka Village”), the largest colonial period settlement in the Pacific Northwest ca. 1829-1845. Residents included Native Hawaiians, the M├ętis, and people of many different American Indian tribes (Wilson 2008, 2012). Later, the village was the site of the Quartermaster’s Depot, part of a World War I Spruce Mill, which cut aviation-grade spruce for America’s war effort, and a barracks and training compound for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The 2013 field school will explore these sites and continue to collect data on the Old City Cemetery (45CL887), one of the oldest cemeteries in the City of Vancouver, Washington. The cemetery has suffered from repeated vandalism and the project will collect baseline information on headstone condition, and their styles, decorations, and inscriptions to help in its future preservation.

This year's field school provides a research context to deploy a test of mobile information technology in a variety of field situations, while providing a means to expand use of mobile devices in future heritage preservation. 

Marks, Jeffrey

Wilson, Douglas C.
 2008 Fort Vancouver and Vancouver Barracks. In Archaeology in America: An Encyclopedia, pp. 209-212, Francis P. McManamon, editor. Greenwood Press, Westport, CT.
 2011 Hawaiian Identity, Economy, and Landscape at the Multicultural Fort Vancouver Village. Paper prepared for the Symposium “Kanaka”: Native Hawaiians on the American Frontier, Chair and Organizer Chelsea E. Rose, Society for Historical Archeology’s Conference on Historical and Underwater Archeology, Austin, Texas, January 5-9, 2011. (Published at Projects in Parks, Archaeology Program, National Park Service, Fall 2012 http://www.nps.gov/archeology/sites/npSites/index.htm ).
  2012 The Decline and Fall of the Hudson’s Bay Company Village at Fort Vancouver. Association of Oregon Archaeologists Occasional Paper Series 10. (in press).

Wilson, Douglas C. and Theresa E. Langford, Editors
  2011 ExploringFort Vancouver. University of Washington Press, Seattle.