Guide to Xenoarcheology
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This guide is not only a guide to the basic mechanics of Xenoarcheology, it is also a guide to be an efficient and realistic Xenoarcheologist. If you feel some parts are too much for you, feel free to ignore them, but from an in-character perspective you're far more likely to keep your job and be considered a meaningful contributor to your field if you're following procedure rather than being somebody who leaves tools and finds in disarray, doesn’t analyze their findings, and regularly destroys items of historical significance.
Xenoarcheologist, Anomalist: The Difference
The first thing to know is that a Xenoarcheologist is not an Anomalist. While they tend to work together for obvious reasons, and due to the nature of the Sif Anomalous Region there is likely to be some overlap, their exact field of study, methods, and RP archetypes are fairly different.
A Xenoarcheologist's job is the search for and investigation of artifacts of historical significance. If you want to be pedantic, the investigation of fossil record and Sif's natural history would make you a Xenopaleontologist, but NanoTrasen isn't paying you to be that kind of pedant.
Artifacts are items many would consider useless, or even trash. Cutlery, pottery, ritual objects - if it's old enough, you're here for it. Some may belong to long-dead alien civilizations (Often referred to as "Precursors"), or just earlier planetary colonists. From a gameplay perspective, most of these things are useless, and purely decorative though some may have limited function and may have some technological value in the Destructive Analyzer if you truly have no respect for material culture.
As such, Xenoarcheology is mainly a roleplaying job, where your goal is to make sense of these objects, and try to deduce what they might have been, who might have used them, and how they ended up buried at your digsite. It also quite different from some of the other Scientise jobs: You do not work in a laboratory, you work outside, digging your way through the cold, hard rock of Sif's underground cave networks. Xenoarchaeology is less of an experimental science, and more of a branch of (Xeno)anthropology, which sets them apart from much of the research department who are probably more concerned with the latest breakthrough or invention than the daily life of the long dead.
A core concept in archaeology is that a site can only be excavated once, so the care and accuracy put into doing so has to be as meticulous as possible. There are rarely hard answers from the fragments found at any given site, so preserving context as it is found is vital, down to the exact depth and relative positioning of each object. Artifacts separated vertically could have been buried decades, or centuries apart, not to mention the potential influence of siesmic activity, ground water, or later disturbance of the site.
By contrast, an Anomalist is very much an experimental scientist. Their job is to analyse anomalous objects either brought to them by the Xenoarchaeology team, or by Explorers from the wilderness. They may accompany either group on expeditions, but may not be so concerned with the preservation of some potsherds or the exact depth and position their weird doodad was found in. Far more interesting may be "What does this thing do, and how can we use it?"
However, that does not mean the job is totally devoid of an RP element. Some objects may have been rendered anomalous by the Skathari Incursion, but others may simply be alien technology beyond our current understanding, and what better way to expand that understanding than by poking around. How was your anomaly used by the people who made it? How does it relate to the artifacts the Xenoarcheologist found with it? You are not a Xenoarcheologist, but that does not mean you should totally ignore them.
The Xenoarchaeology department, due to the potential risks posed by anomalous finds, is located a little ways north of the main station. This can be accessed via a surface elevator, or by a dimly lit underground path from the basement level of Research.
The southeast corner of the Xenoarchaeology department consists of a prep room, containing (almost) all of the equipment needed for a successful expedition. Also relevant are the spectrometer room to the left side of the structure, which is used for analysing soil samples, and the small office area near the entrance which may be used for writing up all those juicy reports. A small first-aid locker is situated in one of the hallways in case of an accident. The rest of the building is largely used for Anomaly Research, but you can poke around if you so desire.
In the office area, you will find several items which may be of interest: a camera, a clipboard, a folder, and paper. Feel free to take some of them to do a more thorough job, like taking pictures of your findings, writing reports, notes, theories, etc. Also recommended are latex gloves, in the event you encounter an anomaly these will reduce your chances of accidental activation and your sudden untimely death!
Now, proper Xenoarcheology equipment. All of these are available in the Prep room, so be sure to look around thoroughly.
- Measuring Tape: Tells you how deep you have already dug into a particular rock wall. Useful when you lose track of your excavation.
- File:GPSDevice.png GPS: Tells you your position on the planet. Not of major importance, but can be useful if you want to keep track of that and can be left at a dig site to find it again later.
- Excavation Pick Set: Absolute necessity. Contains the small picks you need to excavate your artifacts, they all dig a different depth, detailed later in this guide.
- Tracking Beacon: When activated, allows locator devices to locate it by tuning on its frequency. Useful if you are in trouble, or if you simply lost your suspension field generator.
- Core Sampler: Absolute necessity. Needed to take the rock samples you need for spectrometer analysis.
- Wrench: Needed to set the suspension field generator, which is necessary to collect artifacts.
- Hand Pickaxe: The largest excavation pick, does not fit in the Excavation Pick Set. Digs 30cm.
- Locator Device: Locates Tracking Beacons by tuning to their frequency.
- Blank display: Not set up.
- Red "?": Incorrect setup.
- Black dot: The beacon is very very close.
- Green arrow: The beacon is nearby.
- Blue arrow: The beacon is some distance away.
- Red arrow: The beacon is very far.
- Depth Analysis Scanner: Absolute necessity. Tells you if the tile of rock in front of you, contains something for you to dig up, and gives you information about it if it is the case. Detailed later in this guide.
- File:AldenSaraspova.png Alden-Sarapova Counter: Extremely useful for locating dig sites. Will tell you the exact distance to a detected anomaly (a misleading term, as it refers to both anomalous objects ("Exotic Energy") and merely foreign objects in a rock wall ("Small Anomaly"), which can be narrowed down by moving back and forth and re-activating the counter.
- Lantern: A very useful light source.
- Excavation Gear-Belt: The belt that will allow you to carry most of your equipment.
- Optical Meson Scanner: Allows you to see through the rock, and locate dig sites more easily.
- File:Excavation Hood.png Excavation Suit Hood
- File:Excavation Suit.png Excavation Suit: Both the suit and hood are absolute necessities. Capable of full EVA with an air tank, protects you against most radiation and partially against exotic particles, should you find an activated anomaly.
Note: Anomaly Suits are not vacuum proof, but provide more complete protection against radiation and anomalous particles, if seeking anomalies is your goal.
An oxygen tank, available in the same room, a breath mask also available there, as well as latex gloves. It's also recommended to bring a camera (One is found in the hallway office area) in order to take photographs of your digsites and finds 'in-situ' before you disturb their position, as their relative positioning could tell you as much about their purpose as anything else!
If you bring the listed items, you should still have enough space in your inventory to carry some extra equipment of your choice. Be sure to leave some room to bring your finds home, a crate from the store room may be advisable.
You may desire to set up a forward base (or repurpose one you find deep in the caves). To do so, bring some extra metal sheets in order to contruct tables, racks etc. as you see fit. You could use such a camp to organize your findings, for example placing all material from one dig site on one table or rack. Items worth keeping organized together are rock samples, your artifacts, and, when you have done it, your analysis and other paperwork, like photos and notes.
It is of the utmost importance you establish a pattern on how you organize your dig sites. This is very important, because as you dig out more sites, you should label the sample bags with a number (Dig Site 1, Dig Site 2, etc.) so that, when you go back to the Outpost for your analysis, you know which sample bag and which result belongs to these or those artifacts. So, you need to remember how you placed your various dig sites on your tables. Keep it simple, or find a system that works for you.
It is time to start looking for dig sites. For now, you only strictly need two items: Your normal pick, and your Depth Analysis Scanner.
There are a few simple methods you may wish to follow:
- Use the Alden-Saraspova counter device. This clever device can detect both Anomalies nearby (Exotic energy detected...) and dig sites for artifacts (Small anomaly detected...). The readout shows distance to the objects, so use triangulation to locate them.
- Pick a direction and use your drill to make tunnels through the rock walls until you see some strange rocks.
- Follow the open caves, you might get lucky and find some strange rocks in their walls.
Note: Be very careful as you get closer, not all artifacts are visible by naked eye and you might accidentally drill through one of them, destroying it in the process. When you get near the dig site, use your handheld Depth Analysis Scanner on the walls before you drill, if it pings, you're lucky and there is treasure in front of you, waiting to be extracted.
At last, you have found a dig site, or your Depth Analysis Scanner pinged while you were looking for one. It is time to be precise and thorough.
If you click on your Depth Analysis Scanner, a screen similar to this one will appear.
Time: The time at which the scan was made. Only for paperwork purposes.
Coords: Coordinates of the dig site. Paperwork purposes too.
Anomaly depth: The depth at which your artifact resides.
Clearance above anomaly depth: The size of the cavity in which the artifact is. If you dig in it, you will get a strange rock, which I will talk about later.
Dissonance spread: Quite useless, a 1 means it is an artifact, other numbers indicate an anomaly, but in this case, the scan is different enough to render this information useless.
Anomaly material: Tells you roughly what your artifact is.
Now that you have this information, bring the Suspension Field Generator to the dig site. You need two free tiles around the site, so that you can put your generator on one, and be on the other one. Fix it to the ground, and do not activate it yet. For now, what we need is a rock sample.
For that purpose, you will need to dig just before the cavity starts. It means you need to subtract the Clearance from the anomaly depth, and dig at this distance. In the case of the image below, the artifact is at 30 cm and the clearance is 6 cm, so I need to dig 24 cm. Now that you have dug this distance, take your Core Sampler and click on the dig site. The red light will turn green, meaning that a sample was taken.
Note: You only need one rock sample per dig site.
Now you can focus on the excavation. You will need to strike at the exact anomaly depth if you want to directly collect the artifact. Now I activate the Suspension Field Generator, and I dig 6 cm to reach the anomaly. I turn the suspension field generator off, and...
Here is your artifact, excavated in the most efficient way possible.
Then, repeat the same procedure minus the sample until your Depth Analysis Scanner stops pinging.
Note: This example is for a precise excavation. If you dig too far, the artifact breaks. But, if you dig too short, and you end up in the cavity of the artifact, you will get this.
This is a strange rock. While not being a total failure, a strange rock is bad. First, because you need to open it with a welder, which is one unnecessary step in the process. But the most important point here is that opening strange rocks quite often breaks the artifact itself, so, try to dig at the exact anomaly depth to avoid these kinds of issues.
When you are done with the excavation, bring your sample and findings back to the Camp, where you may want to organize them in the way you see fit, as I explained in the Camp chapter.
Here is a quick guide to picks and their sizes:
So! You have spent some time digging and excavating, and now, you have around 6 different dig sites, maybe more. That’s good. Hopefully you organized and labeled them all according to a memorable pattern. Now, take all the samples, put them in your crate, and head back to the Outpost, for the Spectrometer analysis.
Here is the Spectrometry Laboratory. In the room, you see a coolant tank, a bucket, some nanopaste, and three spectrometers. In order to have an organized analysis, I suggest you only use one, most particularly, the upper one, since it avoids the usual back & forth to provide it with coolant. Once it is filled with coolant, take your first sample, take the rock sample in it, and put it in the spectrometer.
Note: Once again, use only one Spectrometer, and start with your Dig Site 1, then 2, etc. The results of the analysis are chronologically numerated, so, that way, you will have correspondence between your samples and your results.
Now, you have opened the Spectrometer menu. Big scary screen at first, but simple to understand.
Scanner: Indicates the progress of the scan, and the "health" of the spectrometer. When it is too low, use nanopaste to fix it.
MASER: The most important stuff. Try to match you Current Wavelength with the Optimal Wavelength best as you can, since it is what makes the scan progress.
Environment / Internal: The speed at which the machine functions, and the heat it endures. The faster it goes, the hotter it is.
Radiation: Sometimes, radiation outbursts happen during the scan. You can enable the Radiation Shielding, but it stops the scan. It's highly recommended to keep your excavation suit on for this stage, since it protects you against it. That way, you can totally ignore this factor.
Cooling: Rather simple to understand. It is what keeps the Internal Temperature low. On this screen, you see I put the flow rate at 2 u/s : It is best to keep it that way, 2 u/s gives you plenty of time before emptying it, and avoids overheat in almost every case.
If you followed these instructions, the only part you need to focus on is the MASER field, since it is the only one that will necessitate you to fiddle with during the scan.
Now, you begin your scan, keep the Wavelength in check, and normally, the scan goes very well without any trouble. The machine pings, ejects your rock sample, and prints the result of the scan.
Now, you have some techno-babble information that will allow you to RP-study your artifacts later.
Obviously, the coolant in the tank is not enough to last the entire shift. It is generally empty after three spectrometer scans. You can still use water as a less efficient coolant, but here is a better solution.
Go into the room east of the Spectrometer room. Here is the Chemistry lab, which was once used to prepare the samples for the Spectrometer scans, before the system was reworked to be simpler. But it is still of use: Grab the two large beakers of the room, and make coolant. The formula is quite simple:
Oxygen + Water + Tungsten
Now, you have an unlimited source of coolant to keep your Spectrometer working!
Now that you have analyzed all your samples, it is time to bring all of this to camp or the office. Put your sample bags and reports in your crate, and drag it back there. Make sure you keep things organized, so that you have all the information you need available.
(For the needs of this tutorial, there is only took one sample here, but multiply this by 6 or more to have an idea of what your camp could look like by now.)
Now you have organized all your findings... It's time for a bit of imagination, be creative! Look at your 800 year old weapons from Dig Site 4. Maybe they belonged to the species depicted on this 850 years old bowl, at Dig Site 2? Basically, make logical links between your findings, invent stories, entire civilizations, wars, religions, the possibilities are quite huge. Here you can reference existing lore, or come up with something yourself - maybe it's a fringe theory, or maybe you've made the breakthrough of the century. Maybe when you have enough data, you’ll write a book about it? Xenoarcheology can be a very lonely job, but it still gives you plenty of occasions to make great RP, so just go crazy. Nerd out about it to your friends, or anybody who will listen!
But, while you have fun with your trinkets and old plant fossils, your buddies in the Anomaly department are still waiting for anomalies to work with.
They are found the same way you find artifacts: Scan a tile, if it doesn't ping, nothing, if it pings, excavate it. To make your life a lot easier, the Alden-Saraspova Counter can be used to track anomalies. Rather than scanning every tile, this tool will find the closest anomaly and display your distance from it. Every time you change position, you can use it again, getting closer with each scan. Once you're within a few meters, you can begin to scan tiles confident that one of them will ping and contain an anomaly. Generally, anomalies are hidden behind a bunch of artifacts, so finding them is generally a matter of luck. You know you have found an anomaly when your Depth Analysis Scanner tells you this:
At this point, it means you need to dig at a depth of 200 cm. Once you are there, the external rock collapses, leaving a rocky debris. Scan it once again, and you’ll get another bunch of results, which are quite erratic, so don’t focus on them. For the excavation, you do not need your field generator, so just grab a small pick, smaller than 8 cm, and start digging. At one moment or another, the rocky debris will collapse too, leaving you with the anomaly. At this point, you might want to take a photo or something else, to add to your own paperwork.
Then, simply bring back the anomaly to the conveyor belts of the Outpost, tell your coworkers that the anomaly is ready to be brought inside, and let them handle the reception and analysis, so that you can go back to your own work, though they may also appreciate some interdiciplinary assistance.