6. Conclusion

6.1 What has this study shown?

This brief exploration of the spatial arrangement of an Iron Age Italian cemetery shows how a specific GIS application can be employed to present data in a visual format that complements traditional database analysis. Sophisticated geo-referencing and mapping functionality of programmes such as ArcGIS are not essential to this process, allowing a user with little or no knowledge of GIS applications to utilise selected functions in answering specific research questions. Users can productively analyse non-geo-referenced data in an application that is traditionally used by GIS specialists using comprehensive and complex, fully geo-referenced, data sources. The methods employed in this article allow visual display of data that is not achievable using traditional database or spreadsheet functionality. The process is essentially illustrative rather than analytical, but adds a valuable dimension to research of large datasets with complex variables.

The value of GIS for presentation of complex datasets is clearly illustrated by this study of the Iron Age Italian cemetery of Osteria dell'Osa. Visual display of queries generated through the database programme Microsoft Access allows immediate identification of patterning that might otherwise be difficult to recognise. Certain anomalies, such as the spatial isolation of burial 151 from its contemporaries, are obvious when spatially contextualised. Such contextualisation cannot be achieved through conventional statistical analyses alone.

Distribution patterns of specific artefact types throughout the cemetery can highlight unusual social identities that might otherwise remain invisible. The location of Phase IIB males with anomalous hair rings in the Phase IIA section of the necropolis suggests intentional separation from their contemporaries, possibly indicating different mortuary treatment of unusual social identities.

Spatial distribution of specific styles of artefact can also reveal their connections to particular kin groups. For example, the strong association of finger ring type 46a with the North cluster suggests a family link. Likewise, the association of fibula type 39b with cluster 503-578 reveals a strong relationship with this group.

The ability to explore these spatial relationships in a visual format provides an important alternative to traditional statistical analysis. The valuable perspective provided by GIS increases our ability to identify social patterning that is manifested spatially.

The existence of statistical methods for quantifying spatial relationships, such as Nearest Neighbour analysis, is acknowledged, and it is recognised that visual presentation through GIS programmes is only one of many techniques that can be employed to produce similar results. Such techniques, while valuable, fall outside the scope of this article.


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Last updated: Mon Jun 30 2008