Free tool to assist with archaeological survey and sampling

04Mar09

Leszek at Free Geography Tools has written a brief post about using a freeware GIS tool (FGIS) that would be of some value for archaeos engaged in field sampling (on any scale). The tool allows you to create files containing either a series of random points or systematically spaced gridded points. Creating such files is a useful skill most archaeologists will need at some point: for example, I have used random and systematic points for field surveys (eg. to define centre points of areas to survey) or as part of a detailed recording or excavation sampling strategy (eg. to define 1 metre squares on large sites for detailed recording work).

The tool allows you to define a geographic area (polygon) that you would like to sample and then allows you to populate this with points. You can create a random or systematic (grid) distribution of points and can define both point spacing (for grids) or number of points (for random points). Resulting points can be saved as a shapefile, a common and mostly open GIS format as well as a few other formats.

Once you have your shapefile of points you can upload it to most GPS devices using DNRGarmin and similar Windows software, or GPSBabel for fellow Mac users. You can even covert it to display in Google Earth and print the resulting image with Lat/Long or UTM coordinates attributed to each point.

There are more advanced options for doing this with many commercial GIS applications but they’re not free and therefore less accessible for students. This method also seems rather low-tech, and low-tech is king on fieldwork in my experience! Also, if you are not already a regular reader of Leszek’s blog I highly recommend it as he writes about many useful tools for archaeos.

Links
Check out Leszek’s post here.

DNR Garmin website

GPSBabel

FGIS

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