Hand Crafted, Microbrewed, Mobile, and Field Friendly Database Solutions– Tyler Wilson

Happy Day of Archaeology! Take a moment today and think about the imprint you will leave in the ground when you’re gone! As a trained osteologist and physical anthropologist, I am familiar with bones, graves, and the grave goods our loved ones leave for us when we’re departed. I have participated in many traditional digs because, as archaeologists, we all love to uncover the past.

However, my current work with the Center for Digital Archaeology (CoDA) at UC Berkeley is anything but traditional. As Informatics Specialist I work with our CTO and Founder Michael Ashley to develop hand crafted, microbrewed, mobile, and field friendly database solutions to harmonize and collect all archaeological data directly from the dig site. This is done through our remarkable Codifi database, a mobile database solution run on iOS and Windows and implemented on iPads in the field. We have deployed our Codifi solution at many sites around the world, and I feel strongly that I am contributing not only to the growth of the field of archaeology but also making archaeologists’ work easier and more intuitive.

The work I do now is primarily about content and media. Storing, managing, adding and preserving metadata, relating, and presenting to a user. Archaeologists love content, as we should, our work is dedicated to its discovery and understanding. I’m glad that the work I do is enabling archaeologists to more easily create, manage, and relate their content as they find it. I enjoy being connected to digs in Turkey, Jordan, and throughout the Middle East, and empowering not only the data collecting process, but also the knowledge gathered from it to inform cultural heritage.

An example of one of these fantastic projects:


Last House on the Hill (LHOTH) brings together incredibly rich digital media with all of the archaeological data to company the 600+ page physical monograph into a single, but multi-vocal accounting of the UC Berkeley excavations at Çatalhöyük, Turkey. Explorers of LHOTH will find they can easily traverse what would otherwise be an unwieldy amount of content. Ruth Tringham, the project director and the Creative Director@CoDA, has poured thousands and thousands of hours into LHOTH, finding deep satisfaction in bringing this remarkable resource to life.

Digital Archaeology isn’t just Scanning

Connor Rowe, Center for Digital Archaeology, Mukurtu CMS. Today is the Day of Archaeology, in which archaeologists around the world blog about this day in the life of an archaeologist. Now my background is in cultural anthropology and digital media, but I happen to work with a team of archaeologists at the Center for Digital Archaeology here at UC Berkeley, so I tend to jump on the archaeological wagon, especially when it intersects with the digital world. Hence my participation in #DayofArch 2013.

Browsing through digital heritage inside Mukurtu CMS.

Browsing through digital heritage inside Mukurtu CMS.

My current project is Mukurtu CMS, an open-source digital archive originally intended for (and created by) indigenous communities to collect and share their (digital, digitized, and intangible) cultural heritage, on their own terms. It is built on Drupal 7, and attempts to remain community-based in its development process (yes, this is as hard as it sounds). We’ve been supported by generous NEH, IMLS, and university grants, which help us, first, eat, and, second, continue this project for little or no cost to interested communities (notwithstanding Congressional budget cuts…). These grants have allowed us to produce complementary tools, e.g., Mukurtu Mobile, an iOS (and soon, Android) app, and work on projects as varied as museum exhibits and school science curricula. My work consists primarily of community support, software and installation upkeep, and facilitation of internal and external communication. I also get to fly around the continents and help communities implement digital preservation workflows on site.

Pondering bugs in the Treehouse

Pondering bugs in the Treehouse

Today, however, I am in our sunny Berkeley treehouse office, listening to the quiet chirping of birds, leaf blowers, and jack hammers (the archaeological offices surround BP’s new capital investment), staring at lines of code trying, somewhat successfully, to fix a problem reported by a community using Mukurtu in New Zealand. Time zones make it a little difficult to collaborate in real time, but it adds to the sense that the work I’m doing is globally worthwhile. My work in this aspect of digital archaeology, what might be termed digital cultural heritage preservation and management, is a rewarding niche of archaeological work. It allows me to empower others in the face of expectations of steep digital learning curves, manage their own heritage, and make sure that history is not lost, but rather shared. It allows me to build and learn code, while also paying attention to cultural relevancy. There is responsibility tied to certain knowledge, sacred stories, and ancestors. By building, maintaining, and supporting Mukurtu, I help communities retain control over how their heritage is distributed. As Kim of Team Mukurtu (below) would say it, “does all information want to be free?

Team Mukurtu:
Kim Christen, Project Director and persona behind @mukurtu
Michael Ashley, Development Director and Chief Technology Officer of the Center for Digital Archaeology, @lifeisnotstill
Chacha Sikes, Lead Engineer, @chachasikes
and me, Connor Rowe, Service Manager, @mrthebutler

Epipalaeolithic Foragers in Azraq Project

Today, Lisa Maher is getting on a plane to return to her field project in Azraq, Jordan. It has been a fast and furious couple of days as the Codifi implementation team put some finishing touches on an alpha version of the EFAP1 Codifi database for her to play with on her iPad.


For this season, Lisa and her team will continue to document everything using paper forms, but one of the cool factors for Codifi is the ability to put everything into “context” – forms, photos, videos, people, events. Lisa will use Scanner Pro – an iPad app that will “scan” anything and turn it into multipage PDFs – for adding her paper forms directly to the Locus database entries. This will save scads of time in post-excavation.

This season is an opportunity for Lisa to give digital recording a try and provide us with real-world feedback on the application. We know we will learn a lot from the experience. The plan is to take the feedback and help her to produce a type specification that can be slotted into her forthcoming grant applications.



We will be reporting back with news as the season progresses on our blog!

Celebrating! All around the World, Old and New!

Today was a merry day for us Archaeologists at CoDA, all around the Old and New World!

Elena, our Web and Mobile Manager, is currently in Italy. She celebrated – a bunch of hours earlier than everyone else – a generous grant by NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) to support the next steps of Mukurtu Mobile!

Mukurtu Mobile is an iPhone app designed for indigenous communities or just any community that wants to document and share memories in its own terms, using protocols, categories and community terms that make sense to its members. It’s distributed as part of Mukurtu CMS, a free, open source platform built with indigenous communities to manage and share digital cultural heritage.

How can you celebrate with us? Join Elena’s party in Italy later today or… if you’re too late for that (as most of our staff is back in California), just join the Mukurtu community!

Check out the app and help us move forward with your precious suggestions!