Apple Announces How the iPad Pro Could Change Field Archaeology

Apple recently issued a document saying that the iPad Pro has changed the way archaeologists preserve the history of Pompeii. It's a Tuesday morning. The archaeological team's excavations in Pompeii are in their final week, and everyone is busy. In addition to tools that archaeologists have used for centuries, such as shovels, buckets, brushes, and pickaxes, they're using a new device this time around the iPad Pro.

Inside an ancient Roman kitchen in Pompeii, Dr. Jordan Rogers uses an iPad Pro to 3D scan a pothole his team is excavating. 

"The iPad is the ideal archaeological machine," said Dr. Emmerson. Her team has been the first to use iPads to record data for archaeological excavations since 2010. She credits the iPad for revolutionizing field archaeology work.

Dr. Emmerson's main subjects are ancient Roman groups long excluded from traditional research, including women, the poor, and slaves. This summer, she developed a new workflow for the team with the iPad Pro at its core. She believes that with improved processing speed and battery life, a lidar scanner, and a versatile Apple Pencil, the iPad Pro will once again transform field archaeology.

"Archaeological excavation is a destructive process: once a place has been excavated, the same work can never be repeated. So one of the first tasks of our work is to fully document all relevant data so that future researchers can 'reconstruct the site' '." Emmerson said, "The iPad Pro collects data faster, more accurately, and more securely than any other tool, and it has the processing power we need to aggregate and present information like never before."

In the autumn of AD 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted violently, sending out volcanic material that completely buried Pompeii. A powerful earthquake devastated the city 17 years ago, and some archaeologists believe Pompeii has fallen into decline in between.

This year's five-week excavation was named "Tulane University Pompeii I.14 Project" based on the target building's location on the urban grid. Dr. Emmerson brought together archaeologists and university students on both sides of the Atlantic to excavate a commercial building. Previously believed to be a restaurant, the building dates back to the 2nd or 3rd century BC.

The project team also includes a technical team co-led by Dr. Alex Elvis Badillo. Dr. Emmerson worked with him last year to pioneer new techniques for documenting and publishing archaeological finds.

This summer, Dr. Badillo and Dr. Emmerson hope to achieve two technical goals: a fully paperless workflow using a single device, and the creation of an online database that would allow people to "rediscover" the scene virtually. Knowing that the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil can be used as a base for his work, Dr. Badillo also chose the Esri tool set and TopHatch's Concepts app for his excavation work.

This revolutionized the excavation program, especially the work of the team's two excavation supervisors, Dr. Jordan Rogers from Carleton College and Mary-Evelyn Farrior, Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University. The two oversaw a separate tunnel at the site, instructed undergraduates in their excavations, and recorded much of the data collected.

“In past excavations, I’ve been recording data with paper, pencil, or pen,” says Rogers. “Graphic paper was used for drawing, and strings and spirit levels were used to measure the position of objects. Different cameras were used to take pictures. , and upload photos manually when I get home. Everything is in a different place, and it takes hours of work every night to transfer the day’s records to the computer.”

Dr. Emmerson watches as Mary-Evelyn Farrior uses an iPad Pro connected to a Magic Keyboard to record data. Farrior sketches tunnels on iPad Pro with Concepts, an app that helps archaeologists draw diagrams to scale.

Dr. Rogers and his tunnel team are digging deep into the kitchen where the previous day's surprises were made, and his only recording tools are an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil.

Dr. Badillo customized Esri's ArcGIS Survey123 app to allow archaeologists to enter more than 50 categories of individual information on the iPad Pro, including attachments such as photos and sketches.

In addition, Rogers used the iPad Pro's lidar scanner in conjunction with the 3d Scanner app from Laan Labs to create a 3D map of the tunnel.

Allison Emmerson holds the extremely rare gold coin "Oris," which the team found during excavations.

The digital team collected the coin, along with all notable artefacts, for a 3D scan. The team aggregated the scan results with other information gathered during the excavation to create an interactive database of excavation sites. In the future, anyone can access this database online to digitally "re-excavate" the site a groundbreaking advance in the field of archaeology.

Dr. Alex Elvis Badillo used an iPad Pro to 3D scan a mask the team found in a kitchen excavation pit.

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