No Second Chances: Revolutionizing Archaeological Recording Using the ArcGIS SDK for Java

01-06-2018 09:52 AM

No Second Chances: Revolutionizing Archaeological Recording Using the ArcGIS SDK for Java

Author/Presenter:  Sandra Schloen

Organization:  Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

Address:  1155 E 58th Street, Chicago, IL 60637

Phone#:  773-702-1352


Presenter Bio:

Sandra is a software developer and consultant with over thirty years of experience in the technology industry, focusing on applications and services for academic institutions and researchers, particularly those in the Humanities and Social Sciences where technological expertise is often rare, technology budgets are rarer still, and representation of semi-structured data is generally problematic. As part of her work as a data manager for several archaeology projects throughout the Middle East, Sandra has developed innovative solutions for data capture under unfavorable conditions, data integration of heterogeneous data sets, and publication options for collaborative, academic projects.


Archaeology, as a destructive science, is a field of research where there are no second chances, making data capture of paramount importance. Temples and palaces, houses and courtyards, pottery and bones, artifacts and samples, are here today and gone tomorrow, leaving only the trail of information recorded by the excavator.

Many archaeologists were early adopters of GIS technology given the spatial nature of their data, both at the regional and local levels. Additionally, extensive use of other technologies like GPS-equipped portable devices and drone photography has taken off. Archaeological data capture requires detailed recording, extensive photography, and analysis of excavation areas, artifacts and samples, all geospatially sourced. This has put an undue burden on the attribute tables of ArcMap to support more than geo-information; or, more typically, required archaeologists to keep separate “databases” of related data in addition to their geodatabases. Integration of all excavation data within a single computational framework was virtually impossible.

The ArcGIS Runtime SDK changed that by providing the means for software developers to add powerful spatial capabilities to other applications. By integrating ArcGIS functionality within an enterprise-level database system, researchers can have the best of both worlds.

This presentation will use an active archaeological project in the Middle East as a case study to illustrate how the integration of spatial capabilities within a comprehensive research database environment has revolutionized the process of archaeological recording in real time for researchers in the field. Specifically, we will demonstrate how the Online Cultural and Historical Research Environment (OCHRE;, itself a full-featured database environment applicable to many domains of research, uses ArcGIS features to provide an interactive map canvas on which archaeologists can record find-spots and display shapefiles that represent excavated features while using high-resolution georeferenced aerial photographs as a backdrop. Queries and styling options allow the creation of heat maps, phase plans, and other valuable visualizations, richly linked to core database items. This ground-breaking graphical interface, made possible by the Esri API, lets researchers capture today’s data to inform tomorrow’s activity in the field, leaving behind a digital record that will last “forever.”

Version history
Revision #:
1 of 1
Last update:
‎01-06-2018 09:52 AM
Updated by: