The search for the ultimate archaeological multi-tool, especially one that improves data collection, collation and generation, is an ongoing process. Ever since the late 1920s, when Gordon Childe attempted to record the Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae with a prototype Etch a Sketch, the utilisation of technological devices in the field of archaeology has progressed at a rapid rate and in 2010 iPads were first employed by archaeologists at Pompeii. Kris Flemming from our team was introduced to the world of iArchaeology whilst working at an archaeological field school in the Peruvian Andes. Her enthusiasm for the possibilities and potential of these devices was infectious and in 2013, Dr Vincent Clark & Associates began trialling the use of iPads with the aim of digitally capturing all data collected in the field.
Streamlining the in-field data collection process would ultimately minimise the post-field digitisation of data (such as field diaries and excavation notes) whilst increasing the accuracy and consistency of data collected on site. In order to further increase the efficiency of on-site data collection and compilation, templates were created for artefact catalogues, photo logs, survey and excavation recording sheets, and site cards (which would eventually be recorded on the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Register and Information System – ACHRIS). Paperwork of a more administrative nature (i.e. sign in sheets, occupation health and safety checklists etc.) was also always conveniently at hand. The data storage capabilities of the tablet allowed for digital versions of research papers, reports, maps, aerial photographs and site cards to be stored on the device. This has been very useful in on-site meetings, especially when showing maps where works have been undertaken. An added bonus is that paperwork doesn’t get wet or dirty and illegible handwriting is less of an issue and there is no chance of running out of graph paper!
In addition to vastly reducing the amount of equipment and paperwork which would be lugged out into the field, iCloud accommodates back up versions of all information recorded on the iPad and communication between the field team and the office team has been made easier through email and Drop Box.