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1 Introduction

In the last 30 years, intensive survey in the Mediterranean and elsewhere has made a major contribution to archaeological knowledge. It has established an appropriate range of methodologies, a series of very substantial data sets, and widespread agreement about survey's suitability for addressing numerous highly topical research questions. What it has not achieved is a convincing demonstration of how surface artefact scatters can be interpreted to reveal past human activities and relationships.

One major problem is the increasing gap between GIS-driven statistical analysis of large data sets and phenomenological or interpretative approaches. The first sometimes verges on the processual, while the second tends to use a small sample of conspicuous monuments. Is it possible to combine the wealth of representative survey data with the interpretative sophistication of contemporary landscape theory?

A further problem is the difficulty of communicating these complex data sets to the reader, and integrating them with a theory-driven interpretation. Traditional print publication demands a linear format and static images. These can only ever provide a pale shadow of the richness of modern archaeological data sets and the even richer human experience of landscape. Online publications, in contrast, offer unlimited colour, full databases and interactive maps that can be queried and searched. These have the potential of providing a much fuller range of choices for authors to present their interpretations, and for readers to pursue their own interests.

This article takes advantage of current web-based GIS and database technologies to provide a complete landscape data set, fully integrated with an interpretative text carefully grounded in current landscape theory.

The material comes from the Troodos Archaeological and Environmental Survey Project (TAESP), working in the northern foothills of the Troodos Mountains in central Cyprus. In six seasons of fieldwork between 2000 and 2004 our team collected and analysed a substantial archaeological and geomorphological data set. This encompasses all periods from the Neolithic to the present day, a wide range of topographical and environmental contexts, and a broad spectrum of disciplinary and interdisciplinary expertise.

The core of this article is an interactive GIS-based map. This map presents the complete set of TAESP's archaeological, geomorphological and topographical data, along with interpretative commentaries. It allows the user to turn layers on and off, zoom and pan, drill down to the underlying database tables and view landscape photographs and panoramas.

There are two ways of visiting this landscape. The guided tours provide a series of pre-set zooms, layers and detailed interpretative commentaries. They allow users to work through the landscape either by period or by area, reading and reflecting on our interpretations. The independent exploration allows users to follow their own threads through the landscape, exploring as intensively as they like, and following up issues, areas, periods or artefact types of particular interest to them.

Our interpretations are deliberately wide ranging, covering all of our various periods, artefact types and analytical themes. The central aim is to demonstrate how surface survey data can be interpreted in terms of human activities and relationships. There are, however, some core themes, particularly the relationship between farming and mining, the control of production, and the spatial differentiation of human activity across the landscape. These are particularly evident in the Early and Middle Bronze Age, the Late Roman period and the medieval to Ottoman periods, but all periods are presented and discussed.

This interactive mapping is supported by three other sections. We explain the rationale for our interpretation in the theory section on 'Continuous survey and the archaeology of routine practice'. A summary of TAESP's aims and methodology gives the reader the necessary background to the project. We also explain why we consider the careful and well-designed presentation of data to be absolutely critical to academic communication.


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Last updated: Thur July 5 2007