Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are playing an increasingly powerful role in archaeology (for a recent review of their use see Wheatley and Gillings 2002). Their potential for SMRs has long been recognised and it is some time since Harris and Lock (1992) outlined some of the advantages and also some of the potential pitfalls. However, the position of most SMRs within local authorities has meant that they have had to wait on the whole for these organisations to develop GIS in order for them to make use of this technology. At times the wait has been long, as this development has often been at the corporate level, and SMRs are sometimes positioned relatively low in the hierarchy. Nevertheless, the last few years have seen great strides forward, as reflected in a survey carried out by Kate Fernie (1997) and in the Baker assessment, and by subsequent developments. It is also true to say that this development, as so often with SMRs, has been uneven, with some SMRs forging ahead, and others lagging behind. The extent to which SMRs can actually display data varies, with most having point coverage available. The time-consuming digitising of polygons is naturally taking longer. A related issue is the extent to which SMRs are merely transferring paper records into an equivalent digital form rather than making full use of the potential of the GIS environment.
A more serious problem concerns standards and also the lack of a
theoretical model to underpin the use of GIS. It is unclear to what
extent SMRs have been able to move beyond simply reproducing their
paper maps in electronic form and whether they are able to harness the
full power of the technology that is now becoming available. Moreover,
although GIS is enabling SMRs to be make information more widely
available to key stakeholders, such as planners, it is also bringing
data quality issues much more to the fore (Wheatley and Gillings 2002, 227-29).
Locational inaccuracies and uncertainties are inevitable given the
diverse base of sources trawled to create SMRs, but can require a
substantial amount of work to ensure they meet the more exacting
demands of the GIS environment.
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Last updated: Wed Jan 28 2004