Digital Archaeology at PIARA 

iPad homescreen showing applications used for in-field digital data collection

Interested in what we're doing and how we're doing it? Please read below and check out our iArchaeology Blog, which we will be updating periodically with news of our explorations!

During 2011 in the rural highlands of Peru, the Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash was able to successfully integrate a procedure of 100% in-field digital data collection during archaeological excavations, made feasible by recent advances in the portability, durability, sophistication and affordability of consumer-line tablet computer hardware and software. Using a system that incorporates iPads, a variety of applications and FileMaker databases, this methodology allows for greater consistency and efficiency in the recording of archaeological data. These preliminary explorations in paperless archaeology demonstrate the power of technology in streamlining the collection and processing of data from archaeological excavations. 

 Why Did We Want to Do It?

Aside from our innate need to let our inner tech nerd run wild, there were a couple practical matters that were very important factors in our decision to "go digital," namely:

Streamline the data collection process and eliminate time needed for data entry and post-processing 
Increase efficiency and consistency in data collected 


 Below you can see a smattering of screen shots from our database, representing the ability to view data in different layouts as well as the variety of data we were able to collect. 

 How Did We Do It?


Inspired by the iPads in Pompeii project featured on Apple's website after the iPad was first released, we set out about researching all the different aspects such a project involved, including:
Researching other projects that utilize similar integration of digital databases and  technologies (Wallrodt and Ellis 2011)
Digitizing field record sheets for various types of data into a relational FileMaker database, linking together various sources of data in 
Incorporating the digital database into archaeological excavations through the development and institution of a set of methodologies using the FileMaker database and other applications (e.g. OmniGraffle, iDraw, Ultralingua; see photos below)

Students using the iPads for in-field data collection in one of the tomb contexts

Was It Worth It?


The answer to this one is a solid "You betcha!" 

Creating the database and researching different applications was lot of work upfront and required substantial “tech savvy,” but was a huge time saver in the end
Produced data that is easily managed, referenced and accessible, especially for large, long-term projects
Provided standardization and flexibility in the way data is collected and displayed
Made data collection fun! Students actually want to do the photo log!