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2.6 Conclusions

The broad aim of this paper has been to identify and highlight a number of major shortcomings which currently restrict the breadth and utility of research-oriented applications of archaeological-GIS. In beginning to address these limitations and move towards the development of a more reflexive, theoretically informed archaeological-GIS, the synergistic potential of more intimate relationships with developments in VRML and the World Wide Web have been discussed.

In stating this, a central concern of the paper has been to ensure that discussions relating to purely theoretical issues and idealised future developments, did not come at the expense of current practice. To this end the practical implementation of the ideas developed have been discussed in the context of developing GIS-based research into the Tisza flood-plain, and in an attempt to communicate some of the essence of the more experiential approaches advocated and illustrate the thematic breadth of possible applications, a number of simple case studies have been presented.

In looking to the case studies, it is hoped that they will act as catalysts both for the wider exploration of the GIS-VRML relationship, and the further development of an archaeological-VRML in its own right. As a result of the approaches introduced here the temporal, spatial and social dynamics that characterise past landscapes, yet are so lacking in the results presentation of GIS-based studies, can be integrated and explored. Artefacts may be sensuously rendered in the context of a typological sequence, but equally be encountered as structured deposits in the ditch terminal of a causewayed enclosure or as ritual paraphernalia in the enclosed gloom of a Mithraeum. In addition, notions of dwelling and place can be explored as forest clearings are approached and encountered, and the structured internal space of a henge is negotiated and explored.

In conclusion, it seems clear that if archaeological-GIS is finally to realise its enormous potential, it must be through a commitment to developing and exploring archaeological modes of enquiry and the explicit acknowledgement, if not rejection, of a highly static and reactive theoretical base. We believe that ongoing research into the relationship between archaeological-GIS and technologies such as VRML represents an important stage in both achieving this goal, and in developing whole new approaches to the study, exploration and communication of the past.


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