Digital Archaeology at PIARA 

PIARA is proud to have been part of the first wave of paperless archaeology. During 2011, in the rural Ancash highlands, PIARA integrated a procedure of 100% in-field mobile digital data collection for archaeological excavations and ceramic analysis, 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 with custom FileMaker databases and a variety of other applications, this our has allowed for greater consistency and efficiency in the recording of archaeological data. It's visual guides and interactive format has also enhanced the way that students learn the craft and science of archaeology. It has also helped crew members—which often shift from year to year—to effectively build off the work of their predecessors and collaborate on research across the site.

Since beginning this work, we've expanded this technology to heritage and development projects, including the installation of digital touchscreen museum exhibits and an interactive library book catalog for the local school to tracking the books we've donated to the Hualcayán Community Library.

Finally, we've also integrated photogrammetry techniques to the study and preservation of archaeological remains, from documenting millennia-old temple structures to portable objects like reconstructed effigy bottles.

 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)

Was It Worth It?


Creating the database and researching different applications was lot of work upfront and required substantial “tech savvy,” but was a substantial time saver in the production, analysis, and reporting of archaeological data.
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!

For more photos of our initial "iArchaeology" digital archaeology project, click here.

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All PIARA artwork, photos, and web and flyer designs are copyright © Rebecca E. Bria