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The process of mapping Bau Du archaeological site, Quang Nam Province, Central Vietnam

  During our internship in Central Vietnam in March 2017, several days were dedicated to surveying and mapping practices in the vicinity of the Bau Du shell midden site, Phu Trung village, Central Vietnam. Bau Du is considered as an important archaeological site of the Neolithic period in central Vietnam and the groups of Australian, Japanese and Vietnamese archaeologists and anthropologists are working with the aim to collect samples of human bones and date the site precisely.

  Our internship included participating in the excavations and also in the process of mapping the site, creating a digital elevation model and recording locations. All of these were necessary to eventually create a digital map from data obtained using a total station.

  Archaeological fieldwork is a long process, consisting of several phases, starting from survey and excavation through documentation and reporting. In this process, the maps are used for different purposes in every stage from the phase of planning the survey to the exhibition phase.

 Archaeological excavations in the modern world cannot be accomplished without an accurate mapping of the site and the landscape survey. Maps are an important part of most archaeological projects as they can reveal the way the site was used, it’s distribution, patterns of occupational use. They help us understand how the archaeological remains are arranged spatially, being inseparable from the landscape.

 On the first day of our land survey, we set the base station GPS receiver under the open sky, for static measuring and left it for one hour to record signals from the satellites and accurately map the location of the site. Such GPS devices receive signals from multiple satellites orbiting the earth and measure the distance from each satellite on the basis of how quickly the signals travel. Then, the device calculates the location of the receiver on the ground. With careful set-up, the use of such device allows collecting geographic data with an extreme accuracy.

  After the location was confirmed, it was time to set up the total station and collect the point data around the site. We used the coordinate mapping function of the total station, which enabled to record a range of points—from across an archaeological site, matching X, Y, Z coordinate system. The process of data (or point) collection was done by each of the internship member students. We worked in three groups, with three students in each group. While one group was practicing excavation process, other students were busy with data collection. We would switch our roles in moving the prism pole and operating the total station. Some obstacles that may occur during this process in a wooded place, are the plants, trees and other items that can block the line between the total station and the prism pole, so sometimes we had to remove all the items from the way, which appeared to be quite time-consuming. Or because the tree would block to view, we had to change the location of the total station. In this scenario, we were able to collect around 100 points a day. In the evenings data was transferred into a computer to ensure its accuracy and preservation before moving on to new survey areas the following day. Our lecturer and survey leader, Mr. Kengo Miyahara used ArcGIS software to create the contour map and visualize the data we had collected during the day. There are different GIS programs, most of which are able to process geographic data from a variety of sources and integrate it into a map project. GIS is a very important tool used in archaeology and cultural resource management for data collection, its storage, and retrieval. GIS has largely contributed archaeology in identifying the location of uncovered heritage sites, in interpreting and managing cultural resources and its associated landscape. Which is why the process of mapping the archaeological sites has become one of the most important components of archaeological fieldwork.

  In my opinion, it is very important that all students with the major in archaeology got educated in cartography and Geographic Information Systems, as well as 3D modeling and reconstruction. These subjects are viewed as one of the important tools for investigating archaeological research questions.

  Archaeological part of our internship to Vietnam was very fruitful in many ways. While the aim of the survey was to collect a maximum amount of data, for us it was also a professional training in survey and mapping of an archaeological site. Probably it was one of the most interesting and important experiences in the career of any archaeologist.

  Archaeological heritage is a non-renewable resource of mankind. It is our duty to document, record and ensure long-term preservation of it.

(T. M.)