the iPhone and archaeology

Posted by on May 25, 2009 in Dirt, Research and Engagement | No Comments

Over the past week, I have been out in the field with the Campus Archaeology Program, excavating what appears to be a dump site for some destroyed campus buildings. With Campus Archaeology I have had the luxury of working within a very stable 3G network, in addition to the campus wireless system, so I have been able to take full advantage of the iPhone during our excavations. I thought I would run through some of the applications that I have found particularly helpful thus far.

A-Level – One word: Tripod. Plopping the iPhone on top of the tripod while trying to get it level makes this job a breeze.

MotionX-GPS – This has been great simply for getting waypoints of sites, but it also has a series of other functions. You can record a photo with the waypoint in case you don’t remember it. Also, you can broadcast that point via Twitter or Facebook, great for helping others find your location.

The Weather Channel – Anyone who has worked in the field knows the importance of knowing whether or not rain is going to fall. Having hourly forecasts and a radar on hand lets you make the call: cover up the units and head to the bar, or keep digging?

Jobs – Since I am keeping track of my field crew’s hours, Jobs allows me to track how much each of them has worked individually. I hit the clock in button when we start, and stop it when we finish. The export function makes importing this data to a spreadsheet easy to do, and with Numbers, I can whip up a smart looking invoice in no time.

AirMe – This app allows you to upload photos you have taken with your iphone directly to a variety of photo sharing websites. Since Campus Archaeology uses both Flickr and Facebook, this allows photos to be uploaded in real time, so that people who monitor those sites can comment on the pictures. I can also send a picture directly to Twitter, along with a message, meaning that I only have to hit one button to get pictures sent anywhere.

Why social networking sites? First, it allows me to keep the community interested in the archaeology, to look at pictures of what we are finding, and to ask questions. Second, interactions with my boss, who is in the office, has been very helpful. I can post a picture, she can look at it, and ask questions, ID an artifact, or offer advice from offsite. This has been very helpful, and allowed for the process to move along quickly for both of us.

Tweetie – a fully functional Twitter app, Tweetie lets me read and respond to messages I receive from the public. AirMe does not allow for this application.

Safari – Just the other day, we discovered an artifact that had a company name and a patent description on the back of it. Instead of waiting for the lab to figure it out, I was able to use Safari to get on Google, learn about the company, and date the patent. Such information is important since it allowed us to do some interpretation in the field, and better inform our next decision.

AntiMosquito – Need I say more? It sends off a high pitch sound that only Mosquitos can hear, keeping them away from you while you try to clean off that feature. Seriously.

If enough people begin using the iPhone in the field, I think there would be a demand for an iPhone app that could do field notes. Input your coordinates, take unit photos, copy all the necessary info about artifacts found, interpretations, soil coloring, and so forth. The only thing that might not be possible would be map drawing…but I’m sure there is an enterprising young mind out there somewhere who is figure out how to draw maps on the iPhone…