#261 What Apple’s Sept Event Means for Archaeology

On September 9, 2015, Apple held their annual Fall product announcement event. They have so many product lines now that they didn’t spend the first 30 minutes talking about how awesome they are and how much money they’re making. Tim Cook, Apple CEO, just went right into new stuff. 

I’m not going to cover everything in this post - just the stuff I think is beneficial to archaeologists and archaeology. Honestly, though, if you found this post through non-archaeological means and you’re a field scientist, this stuff will still benefit you.

Apple Watch

Since it’s arrival in April, the Apple Watch (not the iWatch for some reason) has taken the wearables space by storm. It’s not as big as some of the competition and it’s not even as powerful as some, but, what it does do, it does with classic Apple style and grace.

The first iteration of the software, WatchOS 1, is quite functional. I use my Apple Watch for many of the small tasks that I used to pull my iPhone 6+ out for. Let’s be honest, the 6+ is a massive phone and pulling it out of your pocket or bag every time someone sends a Candy Crush invite can get a little annoying. Instead, I see the notification come over my Apple Watch and I either dismiss it or quickly respond to it. Quite handy. A word of warning to manners-conscious people: when you look at a silent notification that announced itself by simply lighting up the screen, others around you think that you’re looking at the time and are getting impatient. I tell people that it was a notification, not the time. We have to recondition the general public regarding watches and what they mean. They’re not just time-pieces any more.

OS2 isn’t a major upgrade since the hardware isn’t being upgraded, but, it does bring a few notable improvements.

Time Travel. On the face of the watch, you can now rotate the digital crown to advance all of the displays on the watch forward in time. This will show you upcoming calendar appointments, sunset/sunrise, and whatever else you have on the custom face that is temporally based.

Facebook Messenger. For many, Facebook Messenger has replaced text messaging. Especially for people that constantly talk to people outside of their own country and can’t text them at a reasonable cost. With WatchOS 1 messages display on the watch face but you can only dismiss them. You have to go to the phone to reply. Now, it’ll be built in and you can reply on the watch with a canned response or you can dictate to Siri for voice translation or a simple voice recording.

iTranslate. I’ve used Microsoft Translator before and iTranslate seems to do much the same thing with some really nice features. On the watch, you’ll be able to speak a phrase into the watch and see the translation on the face AND hear the translation as well. It’ll be great for all you world travelers out there, or, those that work in Boston or the deep South!

GoPro Control. This new OS will allow you to use the watch as a secondary display for certain GoPro cameras. You can set the device at a location and watch it from your watch. You can also start and stop recording. GoPro control isn’t too useful for archaeology, however, I’m thinking of other things you can do. For example, can you see the display on, and control, a pole-mounted DSLR camera for taking overviews of sites and features? That would be nice.

So, while some of these might not be directly beneficial, the technology behind them is. Other developers will come on board and do interesting things with the new features available to them and we’ll all benefit in the long run.


The iPad line got a chipset upgrade, as usual, and the prices mostly remained the same. The biggest announcement was the arrival of the iPad Pro. First, let’s get the specs out of the way:

  • 12.9 inch screen (measured diagonally)
      • 5.6 million pixels (more than a 15” MacBook Pro with Retina Display)
      • Variable refresh rate display: when things aren’t moving on the screen it slows the graphics processor down to save power)
    • A9x Processor
      • 1.8x faster than the current iPad.
      • Desktop class performance
      • Faster than 80% of the portable PCs on the market
      • Edit three screens of 4k video in iMovie with ease
    • 8MP iSight camera on the back
    • Dimensions
      • 6.9 mm thick (just a hair more than the current iPad Air 2)
      • 1.57 lbs (only 0.03 lbs more than the iPad Air 2)
    • New smart keyboard case ($169)
    • New stylus available ($99) called the Apple Pencil
      • Charges by plugging into the lightening connector on the iPad
    • Starts at $799

While I feel this iPad, and the iPad Air, are too big to carry around for survey in the hot desert sun (I prefer my iPad Mini to my iPad Air 2), this iPad is ideal for excavations and testing. With the Apple Pencil, you can draw amazing detail on profiles and overviews. Really, anything you can do on paper with a pencil, you can now do with the iPad Pro. The new processor will give it more power and developers will soon be coming out with traditionally desktop-only apps for use. This might just be a true PC-killer. I’ll update on functionality when mine gets here!


3D touch graphic.

3D touch graphic.

The iPhone 6S and 6S+ were announced and are available for pre-order on Saturday. They’ll be shipped on Sept 18, I believe.

The new iPhones both have the new A9 chip which makes them 70% faster on the CPUand 90% faster on graphics than the current models. The new M9 motion co-processor gives more accurate health and fitness data that is always on and Siri is also always listening now. Previous models required the phone to be plugged in to use “Hey Siri”. Now, though, she’s always listening.

The touch ID has been redesigned and is now much faster to respond. I have touch ID turned on for all my devices. Passcodes are easy to forget.

12MP camera!

12MP camera!

The biggest news for me is the back camera. It’s now 12MP and shoots 4K video! Yay! I can use it for the NV BLM (10MP camera requirement)!

The new phones also have Force Touch, or, 3D touch, similar to the Apple Watch. It lets you gain a lot more functionality when tapping on your phone. You can "peek" in an app by pressing down a little bit harder than normal. If you hold long enough the app will "pop" into place. Pretty slick and I can see many applications for archaeology. For example, having a dynamic site map where you can force touch artifacts and features to get more info.

Pricing is the same as it’s been for years with the 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB pricing at 199-299-399 for the 6S and 299-399-499 for the 6S+.

So, do you NEED to upgrade? Well, that depends on use. If you’re devices are doing what they need to do, then no. If you have an older device then you might want to just because apps will stop working at some point on older devices.

If you do replace your old iPad or iPhone, do the responsible thing and sell it to Gazelle. They’ll either refurbish it and resell it or they’ll responsibly destroy and recycle it. And, you’ll get a few dollars in your pocket. They even pay for shipping.

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

#119 Re-imagining Archaeological Site Recording

Recording a site in the Great Basin a few years ago.As my readers know, I’m an archaeologist in the Great Basin.  As you also know, I’m a huge tech geek.  My wife and I shut off our cable back in January because all we were watching was crap.  Well, I really enjoyed pretty much everything on HGTV.  That’s right.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I love watching House Hunters (International included) and Holmes on Homes.  However, now instead of watching cable TV I now watch video podcasts.

Most of the podcasts I watch are technology related.  Most of those are related to new products and new apps for iOS and Android.  I also watch the TED Talks podcast.  Every day one talk, ranging from several minutes to about twenty minutes, from TED conferences and TEDx conferences from around the world is put into the feed.  I don’t often get to watch everyday so the first day of my weekend is often spent drinking coffee and watching TED talks.

For those of you that don’t know TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design.  TED talks started in 1984 and they are devoted to “ideas worth spreading”.  There are two annual conferences and numerous independently organized TED conferences called TEDx.  The talks are inspiring and are given by people with ideas that will change the world.  They are strong and confident and nothing is more inspiring than watching TED talks.  What does this have to do with CRM archaeology?

I’ve been having more and more conversations with co-workers and other CRM professionals regarding the use of tablets in the field for site recording.  I’m starting to feel like a broken record when I talk about this but I truly believe that a paradigm shift is coming in archaeology.  Maybe the TED talks are convincing me that recording a two-can site with an iPad will change the world but I don’t care.

The fundamental problem with the conversations I’m having lies with the thinking process of the people I’m talking to.  In the IMACS states (see my post here) we type up site forms in an MS Word document.  Most people I talk to seem to think that recording via a tablet would mean typing up that Word document in the field.  Let me say that again: people think we should be filling out Word documents in the field.  That is the worst possible solution and I’ll tell you why.

Tablets represent a shift in the way we create and consume electronic media.  We need to have a corresponding shift in the way we record sites.  No longer are we restricted to the state site form template or the template that our companies have created.  We no longer have to jump around the paper site form to record a site in an efficient way.  Most Crew Chiefs have a certain way they record every site.  They have a particular order of operations.  Having a plan of action is a good way to ensure that you’ve covered everything and that you didn’t miss anything.  With a tablet you are able to adjust the form on the fly to suit your needs and the needs of the site.  With a tablet you are able to freely record the site in the most efficient way.

I’m currently using the TapFormsHD app (link to the App) for iPad to record sites.  Eventually I’d like to use an app created specifically for recording sites using the Nevada IMACS Site Form or the full IMACS site form.  The app would be designed to collect every single piece of information required on the form quickly and efficiently.  It would output in a variety of ways including as an MS Word document that would need minimal editing in the office to complete.  The editing should take no more than 30 minutes for the average site.  That’s pretty quick compared to the three hours required for digitizing and editing that most companies budget for.

So, will tablets change the world as far as archaeological site recording is concerned?  Maybe.  One thing I’m certain of, though, is that we need to move to a place where we are digitally recording sites because that is where the world is going.  We have the opportunity right now to choose to be innovators in this area or to play catch up five years (or less) down the road when clients expect us to be fully digital.  Archaeology has always played catch-up where technology is concerned.  Let’s help the next generation come into a field that is as technologically advanced as the world they grew up in was.

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

#92 Archaeology Apps for your new iPad

The “New iPad” was announced by Apple last week and came out for sale on Friday, March 16.  Did you get one (Lindsey!)?  Did you take advantage of the lower price on the iPad 2?  It’s $399 for the 16GB Wifi version and $549 for the 16GB WiGi+3G version.  The iPad 2 price tag should bring over anyone considering getting a tablet from another company.  

So, it’s Sunday morning, you’re drinking coffee (or tea), maybe it’s raining, and you have your new iPad sitting on your lap.  What do you want to do with it?  On Sunday morning it’s perfect for reading blogs with Flipboard or maybe watching a show on Netflix or Hulu.  When Monday comes around you’ll be ready for work and ready to amaze your co-workers with your shiny new iPad and you’ll want to show them what it can do.  Here are a few apps to get you started.  Prices are in U.S. dollars and links go to the U.S. App Store.

iAnnotate PDF ($9.99) I use this app nearly every time I record a site or type up a site record.  Every piece of reference material I have is organized on this app.  You can import PDFs via a free server download on your computer which syncs with your iPad (on the same WiFi network) or you can download PDFs from the internet or email directly on the iPad.  Once you install iAnnotate a link will appear in most other applications that allows you to view your PDF in iAnnotate.  The app has it’s own web browser and can connect to a server.  Ever see a crew chief or field director carry around a 2 in three-ring binder full of reference materials?  Mine is about 1 cm thick, weighs 1.3 pounds, and is shiny.  Beat that.

Documents To Go - Office Suite ($9.99) I bought this app back when I was in grad school.  It came in handy for creating and editing Word and Excell documents on the go.  The reviews on the iTunes store are not very good but that mostly relates to the fact that they haven’t adding a print option yet.  That’s not really a problem for me since I don’t print things, usually.  I’ve had great success with this app, however, there are a number of quality MS Office apps for document creation and editing.  Look around, read reviews, and do your homework.  None of these apps are cheap and you don’t want to get stuck with something that doesn’t fit your needs.

Apple iWork Products ($9.99 each) There are three Apple programs that work well in the field.  Pages is a powerful word processing app that works, with one purchase, on your iPhone and on your iPad.  You can create documents on either device and share them as PDFs, Word Files, or Pages files to other computers via email and other options.  Numbers is Apple’s spreadsheet program.  The app has a great feature for filling in tables.  You create a form based on column headings.  The form makes data entry almost fun and is really easy to set up.  I used that feature in grad school to enter magnetometry data during my shallow geophysics course.  It was super easy to set up and easy to export.  Keynote, Apple’s presentation app, is great for making dynamic presentations quickly.  Tired of Powerpoint and the usual backgrounds and transitions? Try Keynote.  All of the Apple apps have the ability to sync to Apple’s iCloud.  I’ve created blog posts on my iPhone, added edits on my iPad, and finished it up on my Mac.  All of that is seamless and flawless.  With all of our devices these days and the possibility of dropping them over a cliff, it’s essential to back up to a cloud service.  Get the files off site and store them securely.

Evernote (Free) Evernote is a universal app for all of your iOS devices.  This app is difficult to explain.  You sort of have to find out how it can be useful for you.  I’ve had an Evernote account (free for 60 MB data transfer per month) for a while now but never really knew how I was going to use it.  Recently, though, I found a great way to use it.  I’ve been doing a lot of research into historic artifact dating at work.  When I found a resource in the office, like in an old fashioned book, I would take a hi-res pic with my iPhone and create an Evernote note for it.  Then, if I found additional information on the computer, I could “clip” a portion, or all, of a web page and add it to the note.  These notes are available on all of my devices.  I love having the ability to add different things from different resources into the note.  I can even create a voice note.  When I’m in the field and find a unique bottle base I can snap a pic, create a note, and research it later.  Then, I can add details and references to the note later and have it for the next time I find that base again.  I also use Evernote for projectile points.  I set up a system using IFTTT that allows me to take a pic with my iPhone, post it to Instagram with the hash tag #ppt, then create a new note with that point in a projectile points folder on Evernote.  The note is created automatically and is immediately available on all of my devices.

mColorBook ($4.99) I reviewed this app in it’s own blog post.  Check it out here.

Notes Plus ($7.99) There are a number of note taking apps for the iPad.  I like this one because of the multiple ways of entering onto a single note.  I can draw shapes, type, write with my finger or a stylus, and speak into the microphone.  This is a great app for taking notes in a meeting or for taking notes while talking to a client.  Write in the rain is nice but it’s not searchable, it’s not organized, and it’s difficult to find particular notes.  Upgrade to the 21st century and get Notes Plus.

 Tap Forms HD ($8.99) I reviewed this app in it’s own blog post.  Check it out here.

Oxford Concise Dictionary of Archaeology ($14.99)  This comprehensive dictionary of archaeology, from the people who invented quality dictionaries, contains over 4,000 entries.  It’s a universal app that works on all of your iOS devices.



These apps represent the tip of the iceberg of possibilities.  When you start to think efficiency all the time you’ll start to realize the possibilities of your iPad.  When you start to be more green and recycle more, you’ll want to use your iPad for as much as possible.  Some tasks seem more cumbersome and more difficult on the iPad than on just plain old paper but it’s like everything else, there’s a learning curve.  Once you become more efficient and more capable with your new tablet, you’ll discover a world of possibilities in the palms of your hands.  Crap, I sound like an Apple commercial.  If only they’d pay me.

See you in the field (I’ll be the dork holding the iPad standing next to the crew chief with the three-ring binder trying not to let his site forms blow out of his clip board in the 40 mph wind)

#89: Data Entry in the Field with Tap Forms

For the past, I don't know, forever, I've wanted to bring more technology into the field.  I didn't know how to do that until Apple came along and gave us the iPad.  Ever since I got my iPad 1, and then the iPad 2, I've had dreams of using it in the field to record sites and eliminate paper.  Today, I'm one step closer.

My biggest problem with making my digital site recording dream a reality is that I don't know how to program iOS apps, or program in Objective-C, or program in any language, or know a whole lot about databases.  So, I've had a lot to learn, and still do.  In the mean time I heard about this app called Tap Forms.  It goes a long way toward making digital site recording a reality.  I can do pretty much everything that I need to as far as filling out the form goes.  It won't let me fill out the artifact tables but that is the only real hang up.  Having the ability to populate a word document with everything but the artifact tables and references still saves a lot of time.  Of course, some minor editing should be done but my trial runs have shown that editing will be minimal if Crew Chiefs are taught how write in the field.  Actually, that seems to be the biggest problem: getting everyone to write well and consistently.  That's another issue for another time.

Below is a slide show that shows how I used Tap Forms and how I got the file it exported to merge with Word.

Now I just need a company to trust me enough to use it in the field.  If you try this then let me know how it went.

Note that if you change or add any lines on the form in Tap Forms you will need to change the place holders in your Word document.  If you don't change the form then you can save the word document as a template for future site forms.

Hope it works out!  Let me know!

#72 Where is the Passion?

I’ve worked for about 15-20 different archaeology companies in most areas of the nation.  Those companies include small mom-and-pops up to big engineering firms and everything in-between.  Maybe I’ve just been unlucky but none of the companies I’ve worked for have ever given me the sense of joy and excitement that my wife gets when she goes to work, talks about work, or pretty much does her work at home.  I’d really like to change that, or see someone else do it, at the very least.

You see, several years ago my wife took up knitting again.  She had been taught by her grandmother when she was a kid but didn’t do much with it for most of her life.  As she started to really get back into it and started doing more complicated patterns, even attempting to design a few of her own, her passion for it started to develop.  I wasn’t sure where this passion would go or whether it would develop further but one thing was certain: she didn’t feel that way about archaeology (did I mention that she is an archaeologist too?).

So, a few months ago a position opened up at the local yarn store.  Well, it’s more than a store, really.  It’s a locally based international online retailer of all sorts of knitting related items.  She decided to take a huge pay cut and lifestyle change and got a job with the company. I’ve never seen her more happy!  We went to the company holiday party last week and I was amazed at the outpouring of support from the employees and from the owner.  People were moved to tears when they talked about how much they love working there and how much they love working for the owner.  I think I’ve been in archaeology too long because it all seemed like something out of a movie.  Do people really think that way about a job?  Do they “love” their employer and what they do?  Yes.  Believe it or not, they do.  This is no small company either.  They have almost 40 employees all working out of the same building.

Now, I certainly love my job.  I love talking about it, writing about it, and podcasting about it.  What I don’t love is the work environment that many of us have to deal with.  It’s a real spirit killer.  How many times have you said to either new techs or people that aren’t in the business that this type of archaeology has a high turn-over?  I’ve said it lots of times.  That’s ridiculous!  We have a job that many people would kill for!  Of course, most people think it’s all fortune and glory and Indiana Jones but that’s beside the point.     I think that we should feel passion for what we do and we should have a happy, up beat, and encouraging work environment.  From what I know of leadership that attitude comes straight from the top.

Sometimes you never even see the person at the top that writes the reports, or at least signs their name to them.  They’re there though and you can see their influence acting on and through their employees.  Ever work for a crew chief or field supervisor that is a real ass and seems to hate life?  Or, better yet, ever work for one that is only concerned with getting as many acres surveyed or sites recorded in the shortest time possible that they possibly can?  That attitude comes from above, usually.

So, why are CRM archaeologists so seemingly unhappy with their jobs?  Better yet, why do we continue to work for companies that piss us off or make us unhappy?  I imagine for most of us it’s because we don’t want to give up that sense of security (money), and, we still love archaeology and will do anything to stay in the profession.  I think that this dedication and passion should be rewarded by treating employees with the respect they deserve.  After all, no company would be able to function with out it’s field techs.

My vision for a company that I’d like to work for involves intense collaboration and socialization.  All of the employees would be working in a large, open space, with no cubicles or walls between them.  The PI would be out there too.  He/she would not be in an office down the hall where they are largely unapproachable.  I don’t know exactly what the office would look like but I know I wouldn’t want walls.  People need to feel like they are part of a team and I don’t think a sterile, quiet, cubicled environment is the way to do that.

I also think that giving more benefits to the employees keeps them happier.  My wife’s employer is giving everyone in the company a health and wellness stipend starting the first of the year.  It’s to encourage everyone to go out and be healthy.  They are making plenty of money, why not spread it around?  

How do you give more benefits to the employees in a cash-strapped field?  Work smarter.  I truly feel that by eliminating most paper, in the field and in the office, you could save a medium-sized company hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.  That’s not just in paper costs either.  That includes maintaining copiers and printers, having people type up the forms in the office, and storage of all of the field forms for decades to come.  Everything can be done digitally and last generation’s archaeologists need to realize that the digitization of our world is not something to be feared.  Just remember three things about digital documents and data: backup, backup, backup.  That’s it.  

There are some companies that are not opposed to technology.  I don’t know of any CRM companies that are using tablets in the field just yet but there may be some out there.  There are certainly academic projects that have gone completely digital and are even drawing feature maps and rock art on iPads.  We have the resources to be as technologically advanced a field as others, we just have to take that first step.  When we start saving all of this money, while not lowering our prices to clients because we have to continue to value our work appropriately, we can start giving more back to our employees.

I also feel that professional development and intellectual development should not be treated like something that is secondary to getting that next survey done.  I would love to see a company where people all the way down to the field tech level are rewarded for going to conferences, presenting papers, and attending local talks, or even giving them.  The more we know about current research the better we will be on our own projects.  I would reward people for giving local talks on archaeology and projects in the area too.  What are we doing all of this for anyway?  The public has a right, and usually a desire, to know about the archaeology in their backyard and in the state they live in.  Tell them about it.  

It would be great to see a year-end bonus structure that was based on a points system.  Points could be given for presenting a paper, giving a talk, going to a conference, or anything related to communicating archaeology to someone else.  

I’m trying not to make this into a huge rant.  I love my field and I want to see it get better.  I want to see people that are happy to be heading out into the field for one more session.  I want to see people telling their friends and family that they wouldn’t want to work in any other field for anyone else and that they are very happy with their lives and with the decisions that they’ve made regarding archaeology.  I just don’t see that right now.

Please, if I’ve just had bad luck and you work for a company that makes you shout tidings of joy out the windows of skyscrapers then leave a comment.  If you work for an employer that makes you LOVE going to work everyday and encourages you to better yourself professionally and intellectually, leave a comment.  If you are a venture capitalist and want to fund my new company, call me!

#45 The Magic of Reality - A Review

"The Magic of Reality" for iPad.  Text by Richard Dawkins (c) 2011; Illustrations by Dave McKean (c) 2011; iPad App Developed by Somethin' Else for Transworld Publishers.  Available on iTunes in the App Store for $14.99

This book is fascinating for at least two major reasons.  It is a phenomenal book that is both insightful and creative while being rational and scientific.  This book is also a great leap forward in the way we read and consume material by way of the iPad application.  By the way, the book is also available as a beautiful paper book and as an audio book.  Although, I would recommend reading this book by one of the two visual methods because that is the best way to get all there is out of this amazing resource.  This review will focus on the iPad app since that is the one I read.

First, let me discuss the app's success so far as an example of how the information is being received by the public.  The iPad app was released on September 23, 2011 and as of October 8, 2011 was listed third in a list of top paid iPad apps in the "Books" category.  The list is based on total number of downloads.

The "Magic of Reality" is listed on another list in the app store.  This is a list of Top Grossing iPad Apps, again in the "Books" category.  This list is based on the purchase price of the book and it is listed fourth.  Not too bad for only being out for a few weeks.  I'd also like to point out that Dawkins' book is three positions ahead of the Bible which, at least this version, has been out since 2009, six months after the iPad's debut.  Do not be confused by the Bible App's listed price of "Free".  There are several pricey in-app purchases that tend to advance it within this list's ranks.  Now, on to the review.

The book is split into twelve chapters.  They deal with everything from magic to the beginnings of life, the beginnings of the universe, aliens, earthquakes, miracles, and much more.  Each chapter begins with common myths surrounding the topic.  For example, chapter 2, called, "Who was the first person?" starts with several myths regarding the beginning of humans from different indigenous cultures around the world.  Accompanying the text are amazing pictures, graphics, and illustrations.  In the image below, the hands descend from the sky to light up the body with a beating heart.  Following the mythology of the topic, Dawkins gives a simplified, yet not dumbed-down, explanation of the subject using current scientific principles and excepted theories.  The book is certainly not written for scholars of these topics, rather it is written for people that have rudimentary knowledge of a few of the topics but not all.  However, the book covers more than most people have a familiarity with and can teach even the most scholarly among us at least something.

The moving images and illustrations are well drawn and keep you interested.

Often, an image is important to the text for several pages.  Using the format of an iPad app, the image can stay on the screen while a page turn simply moves new text onto the page.  The days of referring back several pages to a figure mentioned in the text are over.  Authors now have the freedom to adjust the format of the book to better suit their needs and to more adequately present the information to the reader.

The metaphors and illustrations that Dawkins chooses to use as tools for illustrating the principles of the chapters are easy to understand and clearly get the point across.

There are interactive pages within almost every chapter.  The image above is one such page.  After pressing the hand symbol you are asked to blow into the microphone on the iPad.  This has the effect of moving the iguanas on the debris flows onto the islands in the Galapagos where they experienced a divergent evolution.  This exercise allows the reader to visualize a method in which the iguanas arrived on the islands.

The Magic of Reality is simply amazing, both for its information and it's presentation.  Dawkins represents the achievements of science to explain much of what was mystery a short time ago and it represents an evolution in the way we will read books in the future.  I'm excited for other scientific books to come out in this format with this level of interactivity and highly recommend it to any student of science or anyone who wants to learn about how the world works.

Written in Sparks, Nevada


2008  The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology (iPad App), Oxford University Press, 2nd ed.   Developed by Handmark, Inc.

Archaic In America, this term refers in a generic sense to a simple hunter-gatherer lifestyle involving small bands of people pursuing a pattern of seasonal movements linked to the migrations and periodic abundance of animal and plant foods.

#20 Digital Archaeology

I'm officially an Apple Application Developer.  It's not as glamorous as it sounds but it did cost $106.  They don't want people screwing around just to get the Software Development Kit (SDK) and the ability to receive advance copies of iOS software (such as the new iOS5 that should be out in the Fall).  All this means is that I can take my application development to the next level: creation and testing.  You can't test your apps on an actual iOS device without being a part of the Developer Program and you can't distribute your apps on the Apple App Store either.

I have several apps in mind.  The first is a site recording application based on the Inter-Mountain Antiquities Computer System forms currently in use in the Great Basin and the Rocky Mountain region (for the most part).  The IMACS forms consist of several parts.  Part A is filled out for every site and includes two pages of site location, site description, topographic, vegetation, and soil information.  There is company information and eligibility (NRHP) information as well.

The next two parts depend on the type of site you are recording.  Part B is a two page (minimum) form for prehistoric sites and Part C is a two page (minimum) form for historic sites.  There are additional forms for petroglyphs and for encoding the main IMACS form.

So, at a minimum, you need four pages to record a site.  However, you have to include a site map, artifact tallies, continuation forms with feature descriptions and field specimen descriptions, photographs, and whatever else should be included.  I recorded an historic mining complex near Tonopah that ended up being about 60 pages (in the field, less when typed up)!  Let me say that again: 60 pages!  That page count means that I had to have those forms with me, in my backpack, and/or in my clipboard.  The typical Crew Chief also carries a binder full of information for dating and identification as well.  I've eliminated the binder by PDFing (in 2011 that is certainly a word) all of the historic and prehistoric reference material and uploading all of it to my iPad.  I can't get away from the forms, though.

My vision for site recording in the Great Basin would include at least two to three iPads (or other tablet device if someone wants to write the code) per crew.  The Crew Chief would have the "master" iPad and the crew members would have the "slave" iPads (electronics term; not a slight on the current position of field techs in this country, although not far off).  The CC could "distribute" via Bluetooth certain sections of the IMACS form to be filled out by the crew members.  Once they filled out their specific parts they could upload back to the "master" device.  The "master" device would have the ability to upload to the cloud or to a company server at any time for backup purposes.  It could also print the IMACS form in any format the company desires.  

There would be a few more time saving features as well.  IMACS sections are typically filled out in a fairly robotic way with canned sentences and variables.  A typical site description starts out, "This site is a 20 x 40 m lithic scatter with five features".  There is no reason the device can't create that sentence based on the inputed information.  Other sections could be filled out in a similar way.  The IMACS form could be customized as the user records the site based on a series of questions.  For example, you could select to start a new site.  The app asks what the site number is, what type of site it is, and what the coordinates of the datum are.  The rest of the sections are populated and changed as you fill out more information.

This is all fairly complicated and I'm not sure how I'm going to do it on my own.  It might take a while.

I have ideas for projectile point identification and historic reference information as well.  Once I get some programming experience under my belt I'd love to design apps for companies that have specific site recording needs.  

I feel that we can drastically reduce the overhead costs of archaeology by streamlining the site recording process.  Many Great Basin companies typically have a couple of people in the office whose sole responsibility is to type up IMACS forms.  It is a long and tedious process that potentially includes written errors from the crew, input errors from the typist, and translation errors (reading lefty scrawl like mine!).  These people are typically earning $30-40k per year or more.  That money and those people could be put to better use.

I'll give updates on my progress throughout the development process.  I also welcome any suggestions.

See you in the field!


Written at Starbuck's on Kietzke in Reno, NV.