Solutions

Jericho Mafjar Project

FileMaker Go for iPad Modernizes Archaeology

Archaeologists at Jericho Mafjar uncover the benefits of FileMaker Go for iPad


Overview

  • Determined to simplify data collection in the field and share finds with other researchers, Ph.D. candidate Michael Jennings created a FileMaker Go for iPad database for archaeology.

Industry

  • Archaeology

Solutions

  • Used FileMaker Go in the field to gather archeological findings and share them with other researchers

Benefits

  • Created instantly digitized, searchable and sharable record of excavations on high-profile digs such as Jericho Mafjar; moved from paper to searchable, easily shared digital records
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"We document what we excavate on the spot with FileMaker Go for iPad, recording the data using established scientific principles," says Michael Jennings.

Much of what we know about the ancient world has been unearthed through archaeological excavations. With handheld picks, trowels and tape measures, archaeologists have unearthed the past. Yet ironically, many of their findings have remained buried, trapped on paper records in dusty basements, largely inaccessible to other researchers. But today, archaeologists on some of the world’s highest-profile digs are capturing details of their discoveries in the field and bringing them to light using FileMaker Go for iPad.

"We document what we excavate on the spot with FileMaker Go for iPad, recording the data using established scientific principles," says Michael Jennings, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago. "Now, everything we find is instantly digitized, searchable and sharable."

Traditionally, archeologists have relied on paper logs, lugging hefty binders around the world on airplanes. Data is sometimes lost, or findings are affected by illegible handwriting. Information gathered in the field is often not entered into a computer until researchers are back home, thousands of miles from the site and months away from memories of the initial find. According to Jennings, time wasted in manual data entry is better spent analyzing finds and making discoveries accessible to other researchers.

Having FileMaker Go in the field gives us a framework for organizing our observations and easily sharing them with other researchers around the world.

— Michael Jennings, Ph.D. Candidate, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, University of Chicago
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The Jericho Mafjar Project is focused on the Khirbet al-Mafjar site, which is located near Jericho in Palestine.

Modernizing field research

Jennings is currently working on the Jericho Mafjar Project, focused on the Khirbet al-Mafjar site, which is located near Jericho in Palestine. Famed as one of the most important of the desert castles of the early Islamic period, the site is a vital monument in the history of Islamic archaeology, featuring a lavish palace and great bath, decorated with fine mosaics, elaborate stucco figures, stone sculptures and frescoes.

In addition to its beauty, Jericho Mafjar provides insights into life in the Jordan Valley in the 8th-11th centuries when Christians and Muslims lived as neighbors. In a rare collaboration, Palestinian and U.S. archaeologists are working on the site shoulder-to-shoulder. And, through FileMaker Go for iPad, the dig is modernizing archaeological recordkeeping.

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Seeing that a field-worthy database would assist researchers by eliminating paper and data entry, Yasin worked with Jennings to extend an existing FileMaker database to the iPad.

Extending FileMaker Pro to the iPad

At Jericho Mafjar, one of the main challenges is that records for the northern area of the site, excavated by a Jordanian team in the 1960s, are missing, so the current researchers had to start from scratch. They began examining each wall and architectural feature such as decorative wall carvings or moldings. For years, the team used photos and sketches, capturing the wall decorations on paper or on laptops in the field and then later compiling them into a comprehensive FileMaker Pro database.

According to Jehad Yasin, field director of the project who worked together with Jennings, this process worked, but consumed way too much time in laborious, after-the-fact data entry. Seeing that a field-worthy database would assist researchers by eliminating paper and data entry, Yasin worked with Jennings to extend an existing FileMaker database to the iPad. Jennings notes that it was exceptionally simple and fast to extend the desktop database to iOS for fieldwork on the iPad.

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Researchers take pictures using the built-in iPad camera, and load the images directly into the FileMaker Go for iPad.

New-world Solution for Old-school Archaeology

On-site at Jericho Mafjar today, researchers no longer need to carry heavy binders with sheets detailing finds from each wall. When researchers reach a new excavation unit, they take pictures using the built-in iPad camera, load the images directly into the FileMaker Go database on iPad, draw a quick sketch on top and import it. "Total documentation in minutes – boom!" says Anthony Lauricella, area supervisor for the project. "The FileMaker database – on iPad and in the office – now contains all the necessary data in one record."

FileMaker Go for iPad provides the flexibility to adapt on an as-needed basis.

The team has been able to modify or add fields – adding a yes/no radio button indicating the presence of re-used blocks as part of a wall’s construction, for instance. All the data about a wall or architectural feature is available in a click, making the information transparent to re-interpreters or future excavators. "And, by creating preset lists, available via drop-down menus, for everything from soil composition and coin types to historical phasing, we have been able to both speed things up significantly and introduce standardization in responses that better allows us to find patterns in the data," says Jennings."

FileMaker Go also helps in analyzing research, by making it easier to uncover the relationship between walls from different eras to explain the rise and fall of different civilizations and cultures within the city. To date, researchers have filled in over 1,000 records. Jennings says he cannot imagine how much time this would have taken without FileMaker Go for iPad, particularly in terms of keeping the relationships between walls updated on paper. Says Jennings, "FileMaker Go gives us a new-world solution for old-school archaeology. The trowel is still our most important tool for figuring out how the elements relate to one another – but having FileMaker Go in the field gives us a framework for organizing our observations and easily sharing them with other researchers around the world."

For FileMaker:

Kevin Mallon
Public Relations Manager
FileMaker Inc.
408-987-7227
kevin_mallon@filemaker.com
http://www.filemaker.com

For University of Chicago

Michael Jennings
Ph.D. Candidate
Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
University of Chicago
mdj@uchicago.edu