#279 Wildnote and CRM Archaeology

Here's another re-post from Wildnote - this time from the blog. It's a quick explanation of all the tools currently available for CRM Archaeologists.

CA DPRa Primary form export example.

CA DPRa Primary form export example.

Wildnote Delivers Ready-to-Use Cultural Resources Management Forms and Exports

Calling all Cultural Resources Managers and field staff (aka shovelbums): Wildnote has just released a suite of 48 CRM forms and exports that can ease your evolution into digital recording and reporting. We believe that just because you record the past, doesn’t mean you have to live in it! We are very fortunate to have digital data collection pioneer, Chris Webster, a CRM archaeologist with DIGTECH and the Archaeology Podcast Network on our staff guiding the development of these new CRM tools. He has put countless hours into designing and testing forms and quality assuring the state agency exports. The Photo Sheet and Photo Log alone will save you countless hours, and we even have a FCC 620/621 form.

Read the rest of the article here.

#278 Wildnote

About a year ago I started working for a company called Wildnote as an independent consultant. I saw something in their company's attitude and ethic - and of course in their technology. They were working on some great form building stuff for biology and wetlands and I thought the platform would be great for archaeology as well. 

Now it's 8 months later and I'm on the verge of becoming a full-time employee with this amazing company! Since I don't use this blog much anymore - the Archaeology Podcast Network is my outlet now - I'm not going to say much. What I will do, though, is link to a great case study that was recently published over at Wildnote.

If you have questions about the archaeological and business applications for Wildnote then email me at chris@wildnoteapp.com.

Sign up for your free trial at www.wildnoteapp.com.


Digital Data Collection: CRM Comes of Age

Luke Carretta studies the past and dreams about the future. With 10 years’ experience as a Cultural Resource Management (CRM) archaeologist, Carretta currently serves as crew chief, project management assistant, and laboratory supervisor for Morton Archaeological Research Services in New York State. He believes the real value of archaeology lies in making the historical record available to other archaeologists, the public, and enthusiasts. He hopes others will follow in his footsteps.

Read the rest of the article here.

#277 2016 Apple iPhone 7 Event - September

I just finished watching the Apple iPhone 7 event.  I'll attempt to describe what was in the Keynote speech and how the new software and products will be good for archaeology. Let's get to it!


Apps are being developed for archaeology all the time. Well, not all the time, but, most of the time. I always get asked whether we're going to develop for Android or not. Of course we are, but, we develop for Apple first because there are more downloads in the AppStore compared to competitors and the Apple platforms are simply more durable and powerful. So, Android is on the list, but, we develop for the best, most stable, platforms first.

Games - Mario Brothers

Super Mario Run - a great time waster for you 30-40 something archaeologists. Promotes playing the game one-handed for the first time - play while holding a trowel! Available by Christmas.



Apple's program to get hardware in the hands of students - good opportunity to get archaeology software in front of students as well. And, on a platform that is durable and powerful.


Real-Time collaboration with iWork apps.

Apps on Mac, iPad, and iPhone, including Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, and real-time collaboration can now make Apple more competitive with Google. And, these apps work better than Google and Microsoft apps on Apple devices. The demo showed three people working on a slide deck all at the same time. I like this because I'm a Keynote user. I've never liked PowerPoint or the Google Slides so this could be really powerful. Also, the more we can move away from Microsoft, the better.

Apple Watch

Apple Watch is the number 2 selling watch in the world behind Rolex and the number 1 smart watch in the world. I've had one since they came out a year ago and I love it. This is a powerful device for archaeology if you use it right. Most of the time while I'm working I leave my phone in my pack while receiving notifications. It's great. Now, with the new GPS chip in Series 2 (see below) it just became even more powerful.

Here are some of the features of the new Apple Watch and Watch OS3.

Watch OS3

  • Apps Launch Instantly
  • New Dock for Apps
  • New Faces
  • Writing on the screen for notes
  • Activity sharing
  • Watch reminds you to do a deep breathing exercise every day
  • Contact emergency services within seconds
  • Available September 13th.

Pokemon Go - basically a fitness app now. You can start a walk - track calories, miles, hatch eggs, and find out where Pokemon are.

Apple Watch Series 2

  • Water proof - used for swimming - water resistant to 50 m
  • Dual core processor 50% faster
  • 2x graphics on the new GPU
  • Brightest display every - great for bright sunlight - like when you're surveying.
  • Built-in GPS.
  • New case - ceramic (in addition to aluminum and stainless steel)
  • Available - $369 for Series 2 - Pre-order on September 9th, available the following week.
  • The original watch, Series 1, starts at $269 and has the new dual core chip.

I see the waterproofing, brighter display, built-in GPS, and faster processor as being a real boon to future archaeology applications. Imagine seeing your next shovel tests on the watch and tracking your progress and location without a cell signal. Imagine doing light recording of certain aspects and having that information transmit to your mobile device stored in your pack. It's a brave new world, my friends, and it's time to reinvent archaeology.

iPhone 7 and 7+

The iPhone 7 is out and comes with the new iOS 10. Here are the features:

IOS 10:

  • Lift to wake
  • Siri for apps that aren't Apple.
  • Machine learning intelligence in the keyboard
  • Do more within the Maps app
  • Available: September 13th

iPhone 7:

  • Jet Black finish
  • Taptic Engine similar to Apple Watch - allows for better notifications 
  • New enclosure is water and dust resistant. That's huge for archaeology!
    • IP67 Protection Standard
  • Camera
    • Optical Image Stabilization
    • F1.8 Aperture Lens
    • 6 Element Lens - Sharp edge to edge
    • 12 MP sensor
    • True-Tone flash - 4 LEDs with 50% more light than previous models
      • Flicker sensor compensates for artificial lighting
    • Image Signal Processor
      • Face and Body Detection
      • Sets Exposure
      • Sets Focus
      • White Balances the Color
      • Tone Mapping
      • Noise Reduction
      • Can fuse multiple photos for a perfect image
      • Performs 100 billion operations in 25 milli-seconds every time you take a picture.
    • APIs for Capturing Live Photos
    • Raw camera API
  • iPhone 7+ Camera
    • Wide-Angle and Telephoto Lens on the back of the 7+
    • Wide-Angle and Telephoto allows you to zoom efficiently
    • Hardware Zoom to 2x - Software zoom to 10x.
  • Bonus Feature: Shallow Depth of Field
    • Uses Software to recognize faces and then blurs the background.
    • Available to all iPhone 7+ models as a software update later this year.
  • Retina HD Display
    • 25% Brighter
    • Color Management
    • 3D Touch
  • Speakers
    • Stereo Speakers for widescreen listening.
    • Twice the volume of previous models
  • Lightening Jack
    • Power and Control
    • Audio
    • Lightening Headphones
    • Can get an adapter for regular headphones - comes with the device for free
  • Apple Airpods
    • Wireless earphones
    • Two wireless earphones. No wires between the two.
    • Has the new W1 chip.
    • Tap tough for Siri
    • Knows when they are in your ear.
    • 5 hours of listening.
    • Case has 24 hours of battery life to recharge the Airpods.
    • Auto routing of audio to one headphone if you have just one in.
    • Available: Late October
    • Cost: $159
  • Performance
    • A10 Chip with 3.3 billion transistors
    • 40% faster than 6S and 6S+
    • 50% faster graphics than the A9
    • Graphics takes 2/3s of the power of the A9 Chip giving better battery performance.
  • Battery Life
    • Longest battery life of any iPhone
    • 2 hours more than the 6S, on average
    • 1 hour more than the 6S+, on average
  • Available for pre-order: September 9th
  • Ships: September 16th
  • Cost
    • IPhone 7:
      • Starts at $649 (32GB, 128GB, and 256GB)
    • IPhone 7+
      • Starts at $769 (32GB, 128GB, 256GB)
    • IPhone Upgrade Program
      • Unlocked
      • AppleCare
      • New phone every year
      • Starts at $32 a month

So, there are a lot of things here that will make archaeology easier, more efficient, and just overall better. Recording a special ArchaeoTech Podcast today. Look for it later this week. We'll be talking all about this announcement and what it means for the future.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the field!!

#276 Perspective

From our AirBnB in Dusseldorf, Germany.

From our AirBnB in Dusseldorf, Germany.

I'm sitting on an Air Berlin flight to Germany right now. We have a 23-hour-layover in Dusseldorf where we've got a nice little AirBnB apartment downtown. The following day we fly to Naples, Italy where we'll be for the rest of the month. 

Recently, someone online commented that I've got a pretty exciting life. The tone is what really stuck out in my head and is what's keeping me awake right now.

Let me back up a bit to when I was a field tech in my first year of work.

About eight months after I started in CRM I was working for a company out of Tampa, Florida on a project that took us in different areas north and south of Lake Okeechobee. It was miserable work with crappy pay, practically no per diem, and double occupancy hotel rooms. It's the kind of thing I rail against on the podcast now and a situation that I'd never put my employees in. Aside from the bugs, snakes, alligators, wild boars, and shitty weather, we didn't really find anything in our 50x50cm shovel tests. At least we were digging in sand.

I was so poor on that project that I didn't want to pay for a hotel room on the weekends. We worked Monday through Friday. On a couple of the weekends a coworker let me stay at her house. I was very grateful to have a comfortable place to stay but I always felt weird about it. I just don't like imposing on people. So, for a few of the weekends I camped. In Florida. In July and August. 

On one particular weekend I remember having a campsite at a state park near Jupiter, FL. I'd purchased a small water heater and a small fan; my tent spot had power. The water heater was for my coffee in the morning and the fan was to keep me from dying. It was so hot and sticky from the humidity that the temperature overnight never really got very low and I didn't sleep much. I relied on the weekly hotel rooms to catch up on my sleep. I was miserable, had no friends, and didn't even have a computer.

In my off time I tried to ride my road bike and read a lot. I wasn't reading blogs or listening to podcasts - mostly because they didn't really exist yet. I just worked, went home, had a meal, watched TV, whatever, and did it all over again.

There were a few times while I was driving that I seriously thought about swerving into the relentless traffic. End it all right there. I was 31 years old, divorced, in serious debt, and didn't have a clear picture as to how the rest of my pathetic life was going to go.

This isn't some feel-good story of how I made it. Even though I own a couple companies and play a significant role in a few others, I still don't think I've "made it". I talk to people sometimes, though, that seem to think I've got it all figured out. Well, I don't. In fact, I really can't tell you how I got here. Honestly, I just kept going and kept looking up. I have a personality that makes me want to lead, to be in charge, and to make the decisions. There isn't a real reason for it - it's just how I'm wired. So, I constantly put myself in positions where I could gain some leadership experience or experience that would help me out later on. I realized at some point that most people in the lower levels of CRM don't really know more than they have to. It's just a fact. By learning a little bit about using a Trimble or a total station I made myself more marketable. By volunteering for things and always stepping forward when asked I made myself an asset. Before I knew it I was getting crew chief positions more than field tech ones.

I saw getting a master's degree as the next logical step in the upward process. So, I started looking, but not too seriously, for graduate schools. Just in case, I took the GREs. One year, a former professor of mine told me about a new one-year MS at the University of Georgia. I applied and got in. I wasn't concerned with cost. That would sort itself out. The degree took me 12 months and cost me $33,000. Still paying it off, of course. That's on top of my remaining $50,000 from my undergrad (I was an aviation major for a while - it's expensive).

At some point after graduating I got a project manager spot. It didn't last long because I was laid off. I took that as a sign to start my own thing and the rest is history.

So, have I made it because I get to go to Italy and work on software that will help archaeologists across the planet do their jobs better? No - I worked hard for this and at some point you realize that the work is never done. I'll have made it when I'm suddenly dead and my legacy lives on. I won't care, though, because I'll have been plasticized into a position where I’m digging a unit while recording a podcast.

I don't know what the point of this post is. I think I just get irritated when people look at my situation and make assumptions as to how I got there and where I'm going. Being a CRM Archaeologist is HARD work and you have to make yourself a career that you're happy with. No one is going to do it for you and because of the nature of our work you could easily end up a field tech for the rest of your life with no change in lifestyle or situation. Maybe you're cool with that, I don't know. If you're constantly complaining about money, benefits, and lack of work, though, you have no one to blame but yourself. Get off your ass and make something happen, no matter how ridiculous. That's it - they're serving breakfast soon and I haven't slept yet.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the field.

#275 Day of Archaeology 2016

2015: #260 The Journey Continues

2014: More Companies, More Changes

2013: DayofArch2013 - Continuing Changes

2012: Day of Archaeology 2012

2011: Part 1 and Part 2

Thanks again to the organizers for putting this on year after year!

It seems like I'm always starting new companies and doing different things when the Day of Archaeology comes around. I think it's important to keep things fresh and interesting. Before I talk about my day it's become somewhat of a tradition with my posts to give an update of what I'm doing with my businesses. So, here it goes.


For my 2015 post I mentioned working on a couple of big projects. The one I was on at the time wrapped up in February of this year. I employed nine people over the course of the project, paid out over $250,000 in pay and per diem, surveyed 30,000 acres, recorded 165 sites, and over 2,000 isolated finds. It was quite the project and quite the year. Since then, I've focused on a few other things in this list. On the Day of Archaeology this year, however, I was preparing for four small projects that I'm doing in Elko, Nevada next week. 

I'm not saying I won't do any more projects this year, but, I'm not trying very hard.

Archaeology Podcast Network

The APN has had AN AMAZING YEAR since last year's Day of Archaeology. We’ve added new shows and over 11,000 new monthly subscribers! That brings us to 21,000 monthly subscribers as of July! All that means more work for the few of us that are running it, though. If I wasn’t so passionate about public archaeology I’d consider taking a break for a bit. EVERY SINGLE DAY there is APN stuff to do. I love it, though, so I’ll keep going. A little funding wouldn’t hurt, though!

Professional Certifications for Scientists

This new venture started at about the time of last year’s Day of Archaeology. I brought the idea to four of my employees at the time because I thought I’d finally found a group of people that could really help this take off. I was right!

We officially launched www.pcscourses.com in April and we’ve got a number of videos and resources up on the website. We also have a job posting site that isn’t getting much use yet, but, it will. Just need to spend more time promoting it.

Pivot Environmental

Also this year, I became a 1/3 owner in a new joint venture called Pivot Environmental. It’s intended to be a full-service environmental firm like the big ones out there. However, it’s owned by specialists - a biologist, an environmental planner, and me, the archaeologist. Between the three of us we figure we can get more projects than by ourselves. Still laying the ground work, but, it’s promising.

Non - Archaeological Stuff

Civil Air Patrol

To add to my stress load, I accepted the position of Squadron Commander for the Reno Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol. We have about 36 adult members and over 40 cadets that range in age from 12 to 21. The CAP has three missions - Cadet Programs, Aerospace Education, and Emergency Services. I particularly enjoy the last one. Getting the call and mobilizing an aircrew and base staff for a live search and rescue makes me feel like I’m doing something that is bigger than me and give back to my community. I recommend it for everyone!

Reno Freethinkers

Finally, for the past three years I’ve been on the executive board of the Reno Freethinkers. We’re a secular organization that attempts to bring science and rational thought to Northern Nevada. I haven’t been able to do much this year, but, we have some interesting things planned for the coming months. Always busy.

Codifi - The Big One

Codifi is my primary focus right now. It’s a company centered around project management software for environmental projects. We’re focusing on archaeology early on, but, the architecture can be adjusted for any environmental project. We believe that archaeologists shouldn’t do office work and that fieldwork can be more efficient. Codifi can reduce office work and help you record archaeological sites in a way that was not possible until now. Check out the website and check back often for some amazing updates coming in the next couple months. I traveling to Italy for the month of August to continue development with my partner that is there now. We’re going to crush it!

My ACTUAL Day of Archaeology

A couple weeks ago we had a DJI Inspire Pro drone shipped for some work we want to do. I’ve been testing it in a variety of conditions. On today’s DOA I went to the house of some friends of mine. They are an archaeological couple that has worked in Nevada for over 40 years! They have some amazing stories!

Well, on that day I helped them get some images of their property. They have been making some landscaping improvements and have tried to reduce fire fuel in critical areas. I used the Autopilot App to create transects across their property and let the drone fly the flight pattern. It automatically took pictures on an interval that gave the shots enough overlap to stitch together. Also took some amazing video.

That’s pretty much it. If anyone wants to donate time or money to the APN or PCS PLEASE DO! They are both organization that I think are important for the field and help make us all better scientists and citizens.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!!

#274 Yelp for Archaeology

DIGTECH is on Yelp! Link below.

DIGTECH is on Yelp! Link below.

A few years ago - actually almost 10 years ago - I had a pretty bad experience with a company. Had I known anything about the way the Principle Investigator operated and how he ran that company then I would have thought twice about taking a permanent position there. When I finally left that place I was pretty upset. In response, and before I had a blog or even knew what one was, I created a group on LiveJournal (remember that?) for rating and talking about people and companies. I was angry and it didn't come off well. The moderator of the room I was in, or whatever they called it, shut me down - and rightly so.

My biggest mistake was in angrily writing about my experiences. I should have let it sit a while and then just documented what happened and let others judge for themselves. It wasn't a bad I idea - just poorly executed.

Uber-Like Ratings

Sometime in the near future I'm going to help create an agency that employs archaeologists and contracts them out to other companies. People will be employed by this company full time but work across the country like they do now. The advantage to the tech will be a permanent job with consistent pay, benefits, and retirement. The advantage to the company will be in not having to find a group of techs for each project, getting a crew of highly-qualified scientists with a simple phone call or request, and in writing one check for fieldwork, not many.

We're already used to writing reviews for hosts and drivers on AirBnB and on Uber. Likewise, the AirBnB hosts and Uber Drivers rate us. It's a two-way street. You wouldn't stay in an AirBnB that had low ratings and bad reviews and the host won't rent to you if you always trash the houses you stay in. It's the same with Uber.

Well, we don't have a rating system for archaeology companies yet - or do we? Take a look at Yelp. There are a surprising number of larger firms already on Yelp. Most don't have any reviews. If the firm you want to review isn't on there, you can add it. Now, this only works if we get an average of good and bad reviews over time. So, even if you had a good experience you should document it. After a season, we should be able to get a good sense of what a company is like to work for based on their 1-5 star review average. Personally, I wouldn't work for a company that had at least a 5-star rating based on a dozen or so reviews. There will always be that tech that rates them at 1-star for silly reasons, but, the good ratings should take hold if there are enough of them.

Please, don't abuse this. It only works if we're honest and provide both negative and positive reviews. Below, I've added a few companies that I found on Yelp. Feel free to add a review if you've worked for them.

One more cautionary note...many large firms have multiple offices. Be sure to rate that office and not the company as a whole. We have to be fair, after all.

DIGTECH LLChttps://www.yelp.com/biz/digtech-llc-sparks (be fair, Jesse!)

Far Western Anthropological Research Group, Davis: http://www.yelp.com/biz/far-western-anthropological-research-group-davis-2

ASM Affiliates, Reno: http://www.yelp.com/biz/asm-affiliates-reno

Kautz Environmental Consultants: http://www.yelp.com/biz/kautz-environmental-consultants-reno

S&ME, Columbia, SC: http://www.yelp.com/biz/s-and-me-inc-columbia-columbia

Add Your Business

Here is the link to add your business if it's not already on there:


Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the field!!

#273 Interpreting the Past - Manhattanhenge

Twice a year the axial tilt of the Earth and the Earth's position around the sun create a situation where the buildings of New York City line up exactly with the rising and setting sun. New York City is probably the most famous city on the planet which is why this actually makes the news every year. I'm willing to bet most cities on a roughly east-west alignment will experience their own solar henge phenomenon. But, they're not NYC.

Interpreting History

How will future researchers, possibly alien, interpret this astronomical alignment? Across the plant archaeologists ascribe spiritual and ritualistic explanation to structural features that appear to be aligned to astronomical phenomenon. From sunrise and sunset at the solstice to petroglyphs and pictographs that depict astronomical events, there are cultures all over the planet that notice and honor these events. What does it mean? Why do they do it?

Most of the time, archaeologists figure that ancient cultures we're honoring the longest and shortest days of the year in order to keep a calendar, mark the passage of time, and/or know when to harvest. How can we say what value they actually gave to these alignments.

But, here's a question - how do we know this isn't just a coincidence in some cases? How many massive archaeological monuments are NOT aligned to astronomical events? How many petroglyphs and pictographs have nothing to do with astronomy? The answer is likely in the millions.

This brings up Manhattanhenge again.  The famous astrophysicist tells us that Manhattanhenge takes place twice a year - once on Memorial Day and once near the Baseball Allstar game. He concludes that future researchers would find this layout and determine that the ancient people that called themselves "Americans" worshipped War and Baseball. Is that accurate? Perhaps. However, New York City has been around since long before Memorial Day and Baseball. Regardless, we know the orientation of the city is based on the orientation of the island of Manhattan, not the sun rising and setting in a certain location on a certain day. If we go far enough into the future, though, the outlines of Manhattan Island might be indistinguishable from the surrounding landscape. Perhaps an earthquake will reshape the land. Perhaps the ocean will recede and land will come back with formation-changing vegetation and erosion. Who knows?

Think before you write

I guess what I'm getting at is that we have to be cautious regarding our interpretations of sites. I've seen so many tin can scatters that I can't keep them straight anymore. We look at these artifacts and say with confidence that it was a short lunch by a couple of ranchers - or it was an oil change on the side of a long-forgotten two-track road - or it was simply a dump that was collected from somewhere else and deposited in the desert without ceremony or reason.

There are any number of reasons why a collection of artifacts are present in a given situation. I'm not saying don't take a guess. I'm just saying to call it an interpretation based on evidence but leave the door open for other interpretations. Try not to bias your site records and reports with your ideas. Don't plant a seed in a future researcher's head that may lead down an incorrect path. Just present your evidence, present your ideas, and leave it at that.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the field!!