Regardless of the chosen excavation methodology, just a few decades ago most archaeological excavations were characterised by a comparable set of tools relating to the activities we usually expect from archaeology: excavation, documentation and interpretation. At the heart of the documentation was - and still is - the spatial recording of contexts, features and distribution of finds. Spatial observations and interpretations are transferred to paper in the form of hand-drawn sketches of identified features, complemented by sheets or lists of contexts, classifications and descriptions of relationships between various entities. All are fairly easily managed by analogue tools - pen and paper.
Since then, new tools have slowly found their way into archaeology, a development that may be best illustrated through the proceedings of the annual conference of Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology from 1992 until the present day (CAA). We clearly see a digital development in areas of data management and quantitative analysis, but also in evidence is an increased focus on managing spatial field data in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or Computer-Aided Design systems (CAD). This progress marks the starting point of a still ongoing digital revolution of spatial recording in archaeological fieldwork, following the general trends of technological development in a world of faster computers, global satellite navigation systems and digital equipment for remote sensing and surveying. At the same time, archaeologists must deal with dichotomies of data which are either 'born digital' or derived through some sort of digitisation process.
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