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A surprise gift
As a professional archaeologist, I am also a member of a successful community archaeological group, a non-profit society who love to do archaeology, report on it and get involved.

I would like to get the group a proper total station/EDM and provide training in it.

So I am asking anyone out there...

What do you suggest?

This is a fledgling group (although its members are very experienced), but has already gainned HLF funding to do 2 seasons of excavations on one site, are working for the National Trust on another - HLF like video cameras, photos, talks, but I really want to get them something good....and usefull!!

any ideas?
Rather than go for a total station I would look at something more basic and training in survey methods that do not require any sort of electronic device.

On my wish list for local groups would be

A level

A plane table

A theodolite

I would then be looking for a good hand held GPS system before I thought about a total station

Problem with anything electronic is that you are going to need the computer programmes to handle the date, plus a means of producing good quality out put.

Much as I do love a good total station my understanding of and ability to use basic survey methods has been of far more use on a wide variety of sites.

Once you understand basic survey methodologies then is the time to start using a total station. A total station gives a false sense of security.

They also still cost a fair bit of money and can go wrong.

Perhaps ask your group what they would find most useful?

You can hire a range of equipment and the hire companies usually provide some training. So perhaps a day with a survey hire company demonstrating kit to your volunteers?
I would agree with that, with the hite of a Total Station being as little as 50 quid a week.! Training as well..

There is serious trouble trying to source plane tables and alidade.s.. any suggestions gratefully recieved.!
If you're talking hiring stuff in, why not go the whole hog and and go straight to GPS-on-a-stick? It's the coming (already arrived?) thing so probably more useful training in the long run?
costs more though... and to my mind you should only use it if you know what you are doing in survey, otherwise you are merely a button pusher, doing it in teh right order... thus you are unprepared to deal with survey issues, which you would understand if you had trained on other techniques.

I used the Leica 1200 series smart rover... very very impressed, but I did have to know what I was doing in terms of survey... otherwise I would have been standing in a field with a mushroom on a stick.
Any piece of kit is only as good as the operator using it

With out a basic understanding of survey principal all you have is expensive gizmo that lulls you into thinking you have done a good job.

If you could not at least attempt the survey with a couple of decent tapes and a theodolite you do not have the knowledge to know if the survey you are producing with the electronic kit is sound. The out put may look great but could you define the level of accuracy of the survey you have produced?
Once upon a time local groups could borrow survey equipment from the CBA. Is that still possible?
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...
Suzi would know...
I agree that the best way to go is to start simply. Only move onto complex survey equipment if there is demand and the site needs it. After all GPS and Total Stations were never seen on site until recently. We managed ok in the ol' days with tapes and theo/dumpies. Many local groups have people who are experts in this stuff and have their own equipment. Ask around. In Kent I know that many sites were surveyed and geophized using personally owned kit.
Thanks Peeps,

Good advice - am now going to look at GPS stuff. Technology moves on so fast!

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