University takes iPad into Trenches of Pompeii

December 12, 2010
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Years ago I took an archaeology course at the University of Cincinnati.  At the time, the professor considered the appropriate technology choices for recording ancient finds a clipboard, paper, and pencil.

Years ago I took an archaeology course at the University of Cincinnati.  At the time, the professor considered the appropriate technology choices for recording ancient finds a clipboard, paper, and pencil.

Using a gridded piece of paper you brought to the dig site, you drew a major physical landmark as a reference point in a topmost grid and then marked all of your dig finds relevant to that spot. This sheet of paper became a valuable work artifact for the archaeological project.
Of course, your paper might get dirty, wet, partially destroyed, or lost. Plus, somebody later had to decipher and transfer all of your pencil marks into an electronic document for computerized analysis.
The common archaeological task of recording field data is changing. To this point, computers have not been portable or durable enough to take down into a dirty pit nor have they had adequate battery life.  Today, touch-screen tablets may have overcome those issues and could provide a great platform for dirty field work.
On a recent project, the University of Cincinnati adopted the Apple iPad to simplify the massive data collection involved with archaeology. Steven Ellis, the assistant professor of classics at UC, used a half-dozen iPads to digitize his team’s findings from excavating an entire neighborhood in Pompeii.

The team used iPad apps such as  FMTouch, Pages, iDraw, and OmniGraffle

For more information, read about the Pompeii project in general and the use of iPads on the project, or see the UC case study on the Apple website.