Equipment; total stations, GPS units, notebooks, cameras, scales, nails….

robotic total station

…and more are all absolutely vital to the goals of the project. However, collecting the appropriate data in the field is no easy task, especially in desert environments. Sand gets EVERYWHERE (our food is no exception). As a result we have to constantly monitor and clean our equipment. What is more, the sun and the wind can also take their toll. Although nothing has quite melted or blown away just yet, where the consistent and reliable operation of the equipment is at stake, it always pays to be safe rather than sorry. The desert environment not only takes its toll on the equipment, but also those who operate the equipment. Sometimes we make errors. There are times when the error can be traced back to a particular moment when somebody made an inevitable mistake and/or these errors may occur for what seems like no reason. Some can be fixed in the field while others do not become apparent until we begin the download later on during the day. Tash and I ran into this problem recently, which Tash describes to you below……

Downloading!

I can’t really think of a better title, but it says it all really…

Each night the survey team arrives back from the field and downloads the data that was collected for the day. Either Shezani or I usually download the Total Station data, which includes spatial information on the transects (sampling units) we layout for our survey and analysis areas together with the artefacts, pottery, bone and geomorphology identified within these transects. Downloading is a fundamental part of data collection, management and analysis. By going through this daily process directly after field work we minimise any errors made that day and can prepare for the following day, as well as presenting the up-to-date work to the rest of the Fayum team that night. Just to give you an idea of what might hit the fan: The other night Kane and I had to put our heads together and come up with a fix quickly, before the evening meeting took place at 6pm. What I found when I imported the TS data into Leica Geo Office Combined was a stray transect that had made its way south (by several 1000s of metres!) from where it was actually surveyed and in the process had completely flipped itself! By going through the TS field book Kane and I were able to find the source of the problem – a number was missing from the station northing. This was fixed in Leica Geo Office Combined by checking the downloaded data against previously set GPS points for that transect. This goes to show that despite our repetition in checking over each stage of recording (including noting down and reading back each coordinate for each station) mistakes do happen. By taking notes systematically of the key steps of set-up, recording and downloading each evening the integrity of the data is increased. Phew!

Tash and lizard

…….. There are also times during in-field data collection where, despite the need to proceed, equipment gets tied to an area and can’t do the job it’s supposed to do because a certain task has not been completed which needs to be completed before the data collection can proceed. One such situation occurred just the other day when Tash and I were on total station duty but could not proceed until the geomorphology was outlined (totally true I swear!). While we waited we were presented with the opportunity to hang out with the local wildlife. A local lizard approached us. Considering we have very rarely been able to chill out with the desert locals, we were stoked. The lizard, however, appeared to be unexcited by this chance encounter and was more interested in eating the flies that pester us day by day….

–          Tash and Kane

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