At the University of Sydney, we have been using GIS-based exercises, as well as web-based resources, in teaching a course on computer application in archaeology for several years, initially as a means of inserting some interest into rather dry material on data description and relational database structure. Increasingly, however, GIS have become the central component of our teaching, not only because they engage the students' interest, but because they embody much of what is relevant about archaeological data, encourage students to think about the structure and meaning of data, and provide increasingly intuitive tools for problem-oriented project exercises.
Over the last few years we have based the course around a range of urban historical datasets (early fire risk maps, directories of householders, census records), archaeological field survey records from the Sydney-Cyprus Survey Project (Given et al. 1999) and the Australian Paliochora-Kythera Archaeological Survey (Wilson and Johnson 1999) and substantial GIS framework, remote sensing data and archaeological site records for the pre-industrial city of Angkor in Cambodia. Last year students designed and carried out spatial analysis on the Angkor data and cooperatively developed a web site describing their analyses. By using GIS in this way, and framing teaching in terms of a class research agenda, we find that students learn to address real archaeological questions using spatial data and learn the basic technical skills through self-motivated practice and application, completing the course with a better skill-set than they would acquire through lecture-based teaching and highly packaged exercises.
Last updated: Wed Sep 11 2002
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