Kythera Island Project
Examples of KIP GIS analysis:
GIS during intensive survey
Scale issues
Second Palace farmsteads
Post-Medieval land use

The Role of GIS During Intensive Field Survey

Principal Investigators:
Andrew Bevan (UCL)
James Conolly (UCL)

Total station survey near Kastri
Total station in use for contour survey around Kastri/Palaiopolis. Photography by J. Conolly 2000.

In KIP, we have sought to establish a balance between embracing digital technology and becoming too preoccupied with it. A good example is the use of GIS during field survey. KIP data collection in the field was usually non-digital: it relied on hard copy maps or photos and written records, and only more rarely on GPS, total station survey and dataloggers. Rather, GIS was deployed on a 'day-before, day-after' basis. The day before fieldwork was carried out in a given area, it was used to design field strategies, estimate probable coverage rates and produce print-outs of paper maps or rectified aerial photos. The day after fieldwork, the completed survey units were digitised, field records entered in the database and any inconsistencies checked with the field personnel involved. Tract maps of artefact density were then produced that fed back into next day survey design.

While we hope and expect low-budget GPS, digital video and palmtop dataloggers to become increasingly central to survey work in the future, there remain sound reasons to create a paper record at or near the time of field observation. The main advantages are summarised below:

  • Digital specialists in the field can become a logistical bottleneck, because their equipment and time is limited. The less emphasis on technical know-how there is in the field, the more easily survey tasks can be distributed. Teams can break up temporarily into smaller units (e.g. to cover small isolated patches of ground) or the overall number of teams can be increased without any technological implications. Individual surveyors can also be left to concentrate on archaeological problems and not technology.
  • Paper records are more resistant to extreme summer weather conditions. The capture of non-digital data costs less in terms of hardware and poses less risk to equipment. The threat of complete information loss on a given day is minimised.
  • The combination of paper records and next-day data entry builds useful informational redundancy into the system. Data accuracy can be checked during data entry and problems can be solved when events are still fresh in the memory.
  • GPS readings need to be transformed to Greek projection systems (HATT, EGSA '87) or vice versa if they are to be used alongside existing Greek geographic datasets (maps, aerial photos) – this is perfectly feasible, but necessarily a specialised task.

Digital tools (hardware and software) offer important advantages for surface survey, and modern GIS now provides the framework for them to feed back into survey strategy during the fieldwork stage. We strongly advocate this dynamic link, but wish to emphasise the risk that such tools could be deployed indiscriminately or inappropriately with respect to project objectives (resulting in wasted time and money).

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