This post is authored by Kye Miller, Senior Project Director at PaleoWest Archaeology.
At the dawn of my career as an archaeologist, like most of us, I learned to draft site sketch maps with a compass and pacing, all forms and logs were kept on paper, and transects were determined from a compass bearing. Fast forward to 2019 and I haven’t used paper in the field or office for over seven years. We are now training newly graduated “green” field technicians exclusively with digital methods: GPS units, iDevice data management and mapping, photogrammetry, and so on. The newer generations of cultural resource managers will likely never know the pleasure of carrying a handheld compass, lined and graph paper and pencil, and paper topographic maps. These tools, and much more, are rapidly being replaced with digital devices and applications.
Digital methods, such as the PaleoWay system employed by PaleoWest Archaeology and systems developed by our partner Codifi Paperless Solutions, allow archaeologists to significantly reduce workloads (primarily data entry and digitization), errors, and ultimately the cost for conducting cultural resource projects, while increasing efficiency, accuracy, and quality of data collection. In the summer of 2014, PaleoWest Archaeology conducted the first large-scale all-digital data recovery project on a Colonial-Pioneer period ballcourt village along the Santa Cruz River, north of Tucson, Arizona. The project developers required a tight schedule and employing all-digital methods allowed us to collect quality data faster than ever before to meet a nearly impossible deadline, resulting in the identification and excavation of an adobe ballcourt, over one hundred pithouses, and hundreds of burials and extramural features.
I’ve observed mixed reactions to digital methods in CRM. Some more seasoned CRM practitioners are hesitant to utilize the new technology, often seemingly originating from a general lack of knowledge of digital technology coupled with a lifetime of traditional record keeping. The younger generation is more amenable to, and excited about, the transition to digital methods and, with their reliance on digital devices in their daily lives, typically requires fewer hours of training. Most tend to envision a bright future that improves the way we document and manage invaluable cultural resources.
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