Sophie Graham photographs part of the site

Image tagging has long been one of the least efficient areas of our workflow. In previous years, photos of the site during excavation were taken with digital cameras. At the end of the day the trench supervisors were expected to upload the digital images to a computer, rename the files and add captions to the photos’ metadata with Adobe Bridge, and store them on the server. In the best of circumstances this meant that an image taken early in the morning would be tagged 9-10 hours later, likely after numerous other photos had been taken. To make things worse, as the season progressed and the trench supervisors became busier they tended to defer these tagging processes for a day or two. By that time they often had difficulty remembering exactly what was intended by the photo—even for archaeologists, it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between two photos of dirt.

This year we decided to move the captioning process out into the field. One of the key pieces of technology that enabled this was the Eye-Fi Connect X2, a camera memory card with built-in Wi-Fi. This card allowed us to continue to use dedicated digital cameras, which currently produce images of a much higher quality than the cameras built into many tablets and mobile devices, and to operate away from existing Wi-Fi networks. Using Eye-Fi’s Direct Mode we paired each card/camera with one iPad. After a photo is taken the card automatically broadcasts a Wi-Fi network to which the iPad connects. The card then transfers images to the iPad, putting the photos directly into the Camera Roll. The Eye-Fi app on the iPad does the actual transfer, but it can run in the background. The entire process takes from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, depending on the number of photos.

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My name is Chris Motz, and I am delighted to be the newest contributor to this blog. I will be writing a series of posts detailing the paperless workflow implemented at the Sangro Valley Project this summer, and will post updates as we revise that workflow throughout the year.

This year the Sangro Valley Project proudly joined the ranks of paperless archaeological projects, with great success. In this first post I will give an overview of our paperless initiative, and in later posts I will get into some of the more technical aspects. John’s writing has been a great help while developing our database, so I hope I can also be of some help to those creating paperless systems in the future.

The Sangro Valley Project (, or SVP, was founded in 1994 and is now managed by Oberlin College in collaboration with the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici dell’Abruzzo and the University of Oxford. The project operates a summer field school in Italy for Oberlin and other students; it employs a multi-disciplinary team of specialists from Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The project’s goal is to characterize and investigate the nature, pattern and dynamics of human habitation and land use in the longue durée within the context of a Mediterranean river valley system—the Sangro River valley of the Abruzzo region of Italy, the territory of the ancient Samnites.

(Shameless plug: to get the latest news about the SVP and to see photos from this season, including our use of iPads in the field, please visit our new Facebook page.)

View from the site.

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