Finding the right balance between progress and preservation

With Trimble Catalyst, Cooper says surveying in the field, like at Lake Tyrell in Australia, is really easy.

From agricultural fields to housing estates, cultural heritage sites tend to pop up in the most unexpected places. And when they do, these artifacts can bring development and construction to a screeching halt.

Archaeologists like those at Cooper Heritage Management help balance the sometimes competing needs of developing the future and preserving the past.

“If a road or a construction project could put Indigenous cultural heritage at risk, they call us,” says Abby Cooper, Director, Senior Heritage Advisor and Historian at Cooper Heritage Management.

An archaeological management consultancy based in Western Victoria, Australia, Cooper Heritage Management specializes in Aboriginal cultural heritage. This includes the preservation of bodily assets such as scarred trees (a tree whose bark has been removed to make, for example, a canoe, shield, or dish), stone artifacts, quarries and sites of encounter, as well as intangibles such as songs, dances and stories.

The company tends to work for local and state governments, private developers, mining companies, and indigenous traditional owner groups. A typical project is to ensure that a new development complies with the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Act and its regulations. “Our job is not to stop development,” says Cooper. “We want to make sure that a project can move forward in a way that preserves the integrity of cultural heritage. “

For this, it depends on Trimble Catalyst.

Flexible for the field

An example of a stone artifact recovered from an excavation site.

Trimble Catalyst is a subscription-based GNSS solution providing precise positioning (1 to 2 cm) for geolocated workforce. With Catalyst, Trimble delivers professional-grade positioning as an on-demand, easy-to-use service. It’s a simple, lightweight, plug-and-play USB antenna, with a simplified setup compared to more traditional hardware receivers, making it convenient for the field work done by Cooper Heritage Management.

For Cooper, one of the main advantages of Catalyst is that it is fast and easy to use. Before leaving for work, she simply uploads the project area and any previously saved native sites to the Trimble Connect collaboration platform and synchronizes the data with Trimble TerraFlex, Trimble’s GIS data collection software.

“On the pitch, it’s really easy,” she said. “I just log into Catalyst through the Trimble Mobile Manager app on my phone and attach the Catalyst DA antenna to a 2 meter rover rod or Trimble backpack, depending on the terrain I’m working on. “

Prior to using Catalyst, Cooper did much of his fieldwork using Trimble’s Juno portable system. But once she got a chance to try Catalyst, there just was no turning back. “I was immediately drawn to the color graphics and their simplicity, especially the way they let you download an entire area of ​​activity directly,” she adds.

Catalyst also provides Cooper with the correct precision. “While Victorian archaeological standards require an accuracy of 1 meter, for most work I use the 2cm level,” says Cooper.

However, some jobs do not require such precise precision. For example, when working under dense forest canopy, Cooper tends to use decimetre precision because it allows her to complete the investigation faster, which saves money.

“I like the flexibility that Catalyst gives you the ability to have centimeter, decimeter or meter accuracy as needed,” says Cooper. “It’s a great feature. “

Precision for archeology

Cultural heritage sites tend to appear in the most unexpected places, including here, where artifacts indicate human occupation as early as 32,000 cal BP.

Cooper recently used Catalyst to save a stone hut, part of a World Heritage Site, made from basalt lava that dates back 6,600 years. The remains, which are arranged in a C-shape, were recorded with an accuracy of 1 and 2 cm.

“Using Catalyst, my phone, and a rover rod, I was able to go around and record the inner and outer circumference, which gave us a very good indication of shape and size. from the hut, ”says Cooper. “Without Catalyst, we wouldn’t have had the precision to do it. “

The company is currently working with a local council on a tourist trail that will run alongside a local river. Using Catalyst, Cooper’s heritage management team recorded 16 tagged trees, a shell mound – a heap mostly made up of mollusk shells – and a scattered artifact, a location that contains material remains of the activities. past of indigenous peoples. At the time of writing, the team was heading out to the field to undertake excavations to determine if there were any subterranean artifacts or deposits of shell clusters along the river.

“Its accuracy of 1 to 2 cm makes Catalyst particularly ideal for recording these types of in situ archaeological deposits,” adds Cooper.

No need to reinvent the wheel

Cooper in the field digging a site in Western Victoria, Australia.

Prior to using Catalyst, these types of projects would require Cooper to register each site on an individual registration form. “These forms can be three to five pages long,” she says. “When you’re in the field for days, or even weeks, and finding a lot of sites, it can quickly add up to a lot of paperwork to carry and track. “

To save time on projects like these, Cooper has created different models in TerraFlex that she can use with specific types of sites, such as scarred trees, scattered artifacts, and shell clusters. This allows him to easily record all the relevant items for a given site and enter the data directly into Catalyst, with no paperwork required. The feature also allows it to attach photos to data, which helps identify sites when collecting data.

“Being able to tailor the way we use Catalyst to our needs allows us to streamline the entire operation, and even go completely paperless,” says Cooper. “We don’t need to have multiple maps in the field or go through paperwork, it’s all there on one device. “

Develop the future, preserve the past

According to Cooper, while development is essential to society, it is just as important to take action to preserve our past, our cultural heritage. After all, this heritage is what shapes our identity as individuals, as communities and as nations. By giving us insight into where we came from and who we are, it also helps us learn from the past and shape our future.

“Catalyst makes this balance between progress and preservation so easy, I don’t understand why not all archeology companies are using it,” notes Cooper.

With its ease of use, the right amount of precision and the ability to customize, Catalyst gives Cooper Heritage Management a distinct competitive advantage, an advantage they continually use to protect Australia’s rich cultural heritage.
for generations to come.

Nick Klenske, based in Chicago, USA, is a freelance writer and editor specializing in science, technology and innovation.

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