Digital and analog archaeology tools shown in the field.

#6 Archaeology Digital Data Tools

For today’s blog post, I wanted to share a table comparing some of the digital tools available to collect, organize, track, and begin analyzing archaeological data. This table is by no means complete, so please add comments of projects not yet listed! If you have personal experience working with one of these programs, feel free to also comment on your experience. I plan to update this table periodically as I get the chance to install and test each one.

(Click through to view the table)

Table 1. Archaeology Digital Data Tools (updated 10/7/2013)

Name (click for website) Features Application Type(s) Project Type Platforms Related Blog Posts
Archaeological Recording Kit (ARK/ArkDB) Web-based toolkit for

  • Data
    • Collection
    • Storage
    • Editing
    • Sharing
Desktop Open Source Requires Apache/MySQL/PHP
installation but then runs on:

  • Mac
  • Windows
  • Linux
  • Data collection, tracking, and analysis
  • Front end to several different database management systems
  • Basic GIS capability
  • Inventory control
    • Create barcodes/labels for tracking artifacts and samples
Mobile/Desktop Proprietary
  • Windows
  • Windows 8 Tablets
ArchField Features list quoted from ArchField website

  • Flexible programming design (Web-Based using JavaScript, PHP, Ruby, CSS; GNU cross-platform compiled C++ versions, Objective-C version for iOS (in progress))
  • Direct Communication with Total Stations and/or several GPS units to acquire and store real-world coordinates.
  • Automated creation of Structure-from-Motion (SFM) 3D Architecture Models from DSLR Cameras
  • Automated Integration of SFM and LIDAR Scans in CalVR
  • User-friendly GUI interface, designed to rapidly streamline the recording of archaeological data in the field.
  • Server based storage using PostGIS on PostgreSQL (CouchDB for iOS)
  • Real-time recording and conversion of data to multiple output formats and projections
  • Real-time visualization in Google Earth, Open Layers, CalVR, and any program that supports either KML or PostGIS.
  • Rapid conversion tools for export and import of data into different formats
  • Synchronization across multiple database servers
  • Dynamic Labeling and Symbolization of daily recorded artifacts/loci (Real-time Top Plans)
  • Auto-Generation of labels, barcodes, and QRcodes  
Mobile/Desktop Free?
  • iOS
  • Windows
  • Features mention compiled versions for other OS, but do not list them
  • Any data collector that runs a web browser
  • Data/media integration and presentation
  • Combine multiple data sources
  • Process documents, extract metadata
  • Personal search history
  • Mobile sync
Mobile/Desktop Proprietary
  • iOS
  • Mac/Windows (for Desktop version)
  • Works on multiple GPS devices, Android tablets/phones
  • Collect audio, video, pictures, GPS, text data
  • Projects save as Access mdb files
  • Streamlined user interface can work across language/literacy barriers
Mobile/Desktop Free
  • Android
  • Windows Mobile

Federated Archaeological Information Management Systems Project (FAIMS)

  • Highly customizable
  • Basic GIS
  • Track/compare database changes and users
  • Local and cloud sync/backup
  • Data output through tDAR (forthcoming) and Heurist
  • Sync to local or remote server
Mobile/Server Open Source
  • Android (4.0+)
FileMaker Pro/Go Database Management System (DBMS) that can create a server and mobile collector for relational archaeological databases

  • Polished user interface
  • Many quality tutorials available
  • FileMaker Go app is free
Mobile/Desktop (App Creation Tool) Proprietary
  • FileMaker Pro: Mac/Windows
  • FileMaker Go: iOS only
Heurist Database Collaborative web database software for recording and publishing research data

  • Web bookmarking
  • Bibliographic functions
  • Mapping
  • Timelines
Desktop (Web Based Tool) Open Source Web-based:

  • Mac
  • Win
  • Linux
  • Built on top of OpenDataKit
  • Powerful form creator that runs in any modern web browser (i.e. not Internet Explorer)
  • Built for data collection and sync in rural areas with few power options
  • Data exports in CSV format, can be opened and analyzed using many tools including Excel, R, SPSS, LibreOffice Calc/Base
  • KoboMap extension (in development) will support mapping of survey data using Google Maps
Mobile Open Source KoboForm (Form Creator):

  • Mac
  • Windows
  • Linux


  • Android


  • Mac
  • Windows
  • Linux
MIT App Inventor
  • Visual programming language for creating Android apps
  • Simple way for non-programmers to create apps, learn programming basics
  • Can create mobile data collector apps that cloud sync through Google drive/fusion tables.
Desktop (App Creation Tool) Open Source
  • Android
Mozilla App Creator Web based app creation tool for devices running Firefox OS Desktop (App Creation Tool) Open Source
  • Firefox OS
Online Cultural and Historical Research Environment (OCHRE) Internet-based database management system designed for cultural data and collaboration. Desktop Web-based, requires Java

  • Mac
  • Win
  • Linux
  • Form creator that runs in any modern web browser (i.e. not Internet Explorer)
  • Export data in CSV format
    • Readable using Excel, R, SPSS, LibreOffice Calc/Base, many others
  • Export spatial information to KML (Google Earth)
  • Create graphs  and visualizations
  • Utilize Google’s App Engine to create a “cloud” server for data synchronization
Mobile/Desktop Open Source ODK Build (Form Creator):

  • Mac
  • Windows
  • Linux

ODK Collect:

  • Android

ODK Aggregate (Cloud Sync):

  • Any (through virtual machine)
  • Google App Engine
  • Tomcat Server
  • Amazon Web Service

ODK Briefcase (Local Sync):

  • Any (requires Java)

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