GIS has, to date, been primarily applied to 'landscape studies' (although for exceptions see e.g. Huggett 2000; Miller 1996; Vullo et al.1999). In the context of GIS this generally refers to archaeological analysis undertaken at a regional or inter-site scale as distinct from an intra-site scale (Crumley and Marquardt 1990; Zubrow 1990), and these kinds of studies have formed the mainstay of the published applications of GIS for a decade, usually making use of existing, sometimes published, data which has often been collected with other purposes and other analytical methods in mind.
Within this, a number of different methodological approaches have also been developed. These include 'classical' spatial archaeology approaches such as geometric spatial-allocation models, trend surface and site catchment analysis (Vita-Finzi and Higgs 1970) originally introduced to archaeology by the 'new archaeology' (Clarke 1968; Clarke 1972), and latterly perpetuated using GIS (see e.g. Ruggles and Church 1996; Savage 1990 for spatial allocation, Kvamme 1990c; Neiman 1997 for trend surface and Gaffney and Stançic 1991; Hunt 1992 for site catchment analyses). These have been re-discovered and re-applied to contemporary archaeological situations, and sometimes 'improved' through the application of increased processing capacities or algorithms. GIS has also permitted further advances in the use of classical statistical approaches to archaeological materials, notably by encouraging the use of one sample significance tests (Kvamme 1990b) and, more recently, for the application of geostatistical approaches to spatial variables (Ebert 1998; Robinson and Zubrow 1999)
Two areas of application stand out, however, as together representing the largest number of published applications of GIS to archaeology. These are predictive modelling and visibility (sometimes 'viewshed') analysis. In a sense, these can be seen to represent entirely different approaches to the application of spatial technology to archaeological problems and, more relevant to this discussion, to have quite different agendas for the development of an archaeology of spaces and/or places.
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Last updated: Wed 28 Jan 2004