4. Discussion

In each of the case studies presented, the application of GIS to legacy data has added nuance to understanding of survey results. In particular, it is argued that such applications need to be flexible and to focus upon not only past human behaviour, but also the practice of archaeology itself and the effects this has on data structure and interpretation. Comparative survey requires a wide range of formal metadata (e.g. walker spacing) with which to evaluate the results of individual surveys and to compare one survey with another.

Such metadata are scarce for most legacy surveys. However, through digitisation, visualisation and simple analysis, it is possible to enhance understanding of such data. For example, consideration has been given to how two different surveys record the same landscape and whether the distribution of sites is affected by visibility. Further, it has been possible to assess a survey's original research questions and to re-evaluate the validity of the surveyors' conclusions. It has also been possible to approach new research topics such as memory and movement even though these data were not collected with these questions in mind.

As a result, we have developed new understanding of past social behaviour in the Biferno valley. For example the emergence of Larinum as an urban centre was associated with enhanced exploitation of its immediate hinterland, in particular the territory to the north. However, its subsequent transformation into a Roman town involved a recentralisation of social activities (e.g. the thinning-out of rural settlement and refocusing of monumentality and burial at the site of Larium itself; see Memory and Movement). More generally, the transformation of settlement organisation was incremental; rather than an unstable landscape of many short-lived sites, it is possible to identify a network of long-term settlement foci around which more temporary activities occurred. Arguably these long-lived sites formed 'stores' of memory and social capital through which change such as villa-building could be mediated. Individually none of these issues revolutionises understanding of these surveys; cumulatively such nuances refine understanding and permit broader reassessments.


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Last updated: Mon Jun 30 2008