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Anthropology, Space, and Geographic Information Systems$
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Mark Aldenderfer and Herbert D. G. Maschner

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780195085754

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195085754.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 17 October 2021

Moving from Catchments to Cognition: Tentative Steps Toward a Larger Archaeological Context for GIS

Moving from Catchments to Cognition: Tentative Steps Toward a Larger Archaeological Context for GIS

(p.132) 8 Moving from Catchments to Cognition: Tentative Steps Toward a Larger Archaeological Context for GIS
Anthropology, Space, and Geographic Information Systems

Vincent Gaffney

Helen Watson

Oxford University Press

Geographical informations systems are being used increasingly frequently within archaeological applications. Given the nature of much archaeological data, there can be little doubt that this technology probably represents one of the most flexible and comprehensible tools for the analysis of spatial data presently available. However, there are causes for concern relating to the archaeological context of GIS. This paper suggests that the nature of most GIS is such that they are most readily applied to data that are most conveniently stored in map format and that this may ultimately be restrictive to the natural development of archaeological analysis. In particular it is suggested that the use of GIS modules may lead to the unwitting exposition of an environmentally or functionally deterministic viewpoint of a type that has largely been rejected by most archaeologists. The need to develop cognitive models is emphasized and it is suggested that GIS has an important role to play in the development of such approaches. Particular emphasis is placed on the ability of GIS to incorporate the whole environment within archaeological models and to transform abstract spatial information in order to place it within a cultural domain. Two case studies are presented to support these suggestions. The first involves the re-analysis of a GIS study of late prehistoric settlement and burial data on the island of Hvar by the authors. It is suggested that the original interpretation of these data can be greatly improved through a more thoughtful consideration of the belief systems operating within these communities. The second case study involves prehistoric rock art and other ritual monuments in mid-Argyll in southern Scotland. The GIS-generated viewshed data are used to explore the cognitive context of the monuments within the landscape and to explore the perceived relationship between monuments. The GIS clearly has a lot to offer archaeology. However, there is a need to ensure that we use the technology on the terms of archaeology rather than simply transfer the techniques for which GIS is most commonly used into an archaeological context.

Keywords:   Argyll, Intel-visibility, Kilmartin, Least-cost module, Viewshed

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