Maarten SMEETS1 / Geoff AVERN2
(1Studiebureau Archeologie, Belgium / 2University of Southampton, United Kingdom)


  • the development of a new recording system based on a metrological tracking system, particularly useful for urban archaeology with much stratigraphy.
  • field trials of the system to verify its function and recognition of the superior results achieved,
  • a report on the first use of this system on an urban archaeological site and by a commercial archaeology company,
  • discussion of the advantages of the system for urban archaeology.

Abstract: This paper is both “theory” and “application” in that we begin by reviewing one of the authors search for better recording instruments for excavations and finish with the other authors experiences of applying the resulting technology to commercial archaeology.

The second author (GA) has worked for over a decade on digital instruments for improving the recording of archaeological excavations and creation of 3D digital excavation models.  Recently, technology from Nikon Metrology looked like it might provide a significant breakthrough in the acquisition of digital excavation data.  The author will describe his aims, the workings of the newly applied technology and the results of the first field trials.

As a consequence of these field trials Nikon Metrology released a new version of their tracking system called the iSpace for Archaeology, specifically for making excavation drawings.  We will describe its current functioning and briefly consider its potential future uses.

The first author (MS), in his capacity as director of the company Studiebureau Archeologie, conducted an excavation of  a housing development site with remains of a 13th Century Beguinage in Tienen (Belgium, prov. Vlaams-Brabant).  This was the first commercial excavation to use the new Nikon “iSpace for Archaeology” recording system, by which it was possible to reduce the duration of the excavation from (a projected) 50 days to 30 days.  The author will discuss aspects of using the iSpace recording system on the excavation including learning to use the system, the speed of data acquisition, how the data is used, time savings that were realised and his views on the potential impact of the system for urban and commercial archaeology.

Keywords: digital, recording, tracking, 3D