High Tech Archaeology

by Jonathan BrisendineField Archaeologist

So what do I mean by high tech archaeology? By this I am referring to the robotic arms we employ to dig units for us. Only kidding!! What I am referring to is the technology we use in order to make field notes presentablefor reports and allow us to map our findings. After digging a unit or finding a feature we make a detailed drawing on graph paper in the field. This drawing shows a plan view of the floor of a test unit as well as anything of note such as features, bricks, and stones that are visible in the unit (as seen below).

While detailed, this plan map drawing is only on graph paper and as such is not easily distributed or reproduced as a computer file. Using a program called AutoCAD, we scan the hand drawing and use the scan to recreate the drawing digitally. AutoCAD is for 2D and 3D computer aided design and drafting. Because it creates measured drawings and is compatible with other software, the advantages are endless. The many advantages include cleaning up lines, creating a style view ideal for reports, and making small details easier.


The true power of the program comes from such things as the ability to map small features in an entire site, combine drawings while retaining size in relation to one another, and it’s compatibility with ArcGIS. ArcGIS is a relational database and mapping system. It is a geographical information system that allows us to tie data to real world locations. Since ArcGIS is also compatible with our artifact database system, the combination is tremendous!

Overall using technology is a huge aspect in archaeology not only in this but many other facets of our daily work. Every day we learn new ways to make our results better either through new techniques or utilizing new technology.


About cartarchaeology

We are the County Archaeological Research Team, part of the Archaeology and Collections Branch, Resource Management Division, Fairfax County Park Authority. We are tasked with understanding and managing the cultural resources on Park land throughout Fairfax County.
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