Can you spot the new bit of kit that has become part of the toolboxes which are daily trundled up to site in our BK wheelbarrows? On the ladder: two of our Android tablets.
As we reported last year, Boncuklu is a test excavation for the FAIMS recording system, designed for use on Android tablets. Based at Macquarie University in Australia, the Federated Archaeological Information Management System (FAIMS) provides e-tools – accessed through the FAIMS app free on the Google Playstore – to collect field data electronically and thus help us to speed up, improve the accuracy of and enrich the records we make of the stuff we find during excavation. In 2015 we are using FAIMS on up to 10 Android tablets at any one time, connected to a central server via a wireless intranet.
As well as allowing written descriptions of the deposits, features, artefacts and samples we collect – including the numerous human skeletons we find buried across the site – we can also add photos, videos and audio records using the onboard cameras and microphones built into the tablets. We also add sketches drawn on the tablets using drawing apps. Following a successful trail in 2014 we have gone mostly paperless this year – with the exception of the central register and some of the labels that Jo is filling out above – and so far results are good. Diggers are finding a new layout much easier to navigate, and features such as field validation means it is harder to forget key information.
Data has been flowing into the server at the average rate of 18 new contexts per day. With 10 tablets simultaneously entering those data to the server, the system is being pushed hard, but with the exception of minor delays with data entry at very busy times and occasional tablet overheating (it has been a hot summer) the system is doing its job well and will cut down the time we used to spend typing up paper forms into the database by more than 90%. FAIMS is clearly the way forward and we are delighted to be part of the project. Thanks also to the dig team who have been enthusiastic guineapigs when using the system and are providing feedback to refine further the system for future years. And Angie wins the prize for best FAIMS stance.