6.2 What are the implications for GIS research?

This article has shown how non-specialists who lack the expertise to exploit the full range of features and capabilities can make use of aspects of GIS technology. Despite the often daunting complexity of GIS applications, they can perform basic functions that do not require a sophisticated understanding of the full range of programme functionality. These can be used by non-experts to achieve simpler goals.

There are, of course, some limitations to this process. First, it cannot be applied to all published legacy data. In the case of Osteria dell'Osa, all the data required for spatial data mapping were included in the comprehensive site publication (Bietti Sestieri 1992a). Not only did the detailed catalogue outline the contents of each discrete burial, but the position of artefacts within the burials was clearly illustrated in plans of each burial, and also described in the text. Without such information it would be impossible to obtain meaningful results through spatial mapping.

The second limitation relates to the level of support required. Although it has been stressed throughout this article that a high level of expertise is not necessary in order to follow the described process, there is undoubtedly a need for expertise in a supporting role. GIS applications are not intuitive to new users who have no background in geographical programmes, so some level of expert support is required.

The potential of GIS applications to spatially represent archaeological data effectively is directly correlated with the quality of those data. As shown, true geo-referenced coordinates are not necessary, but there needs to be sufficient published information in the form of plans and written description to allow connection of artefacts and features to discrete spatial locations.

It is hoped that the trend towards user-friendliness continues, allowing development of an interface that is more intuitive for non-specialist users. In the meantime, non-specialists (with some assistance from experts) can use GIS functionality effectively by utilising the tools that meet their needs and complement their data.


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Last updated: Mon Jun 30 2008