Geographic Information System (GIS) approaches to landscape analysis in archaeology have traditionally been confined to the computer laboratory. Phenomenological analyses of archaeological landscapes are undertaken within the landscape itself, and rarely do the twain meet (Millican and Graves McEwan 2012). The experiential approach, that is, an exploration of landscape using phenomenological or body-centred techniques (e.g. Tilley 1994), allows us to explore all of the sensory dimensions (at least of the modern world) using our bodies and various in-built senses. Attempts to use an experiential approach to landscape within a computer environment have primarily focused on using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to recreate elements of human perception (e.g. Llobera 1996; 2001; Witcher 1999; Lake and Woodman 2003; Van Hove 2004; Frieman and Gillings 2007; Gillings 2009). While these computer-based studies have produced interesting results, they are not without their critiques (mainly involving claims of environmental determinism: see Wheatley 1993) and, in particular, with some notable exceptions (Mlekuz 2004; Frieman and Gillings 2007; Gillings 2009), they have tended to focus mainly on the visual aspect of perception rather than encompassing all of the senses (see Thomas 2008 for a critique exploring the wider problem of ocularcentrism in archaeology, and Rennell 2009, 37–49 for further discussion).
As Mark Gillings says of the phenomenological turn, 'if the interpretation of landscape [lies] not in its measurement, abstraction and representation, but instead through immersion, movement and perceptual engagement, then how [are] archaeologists to go about recognising, gathering and interrogating this data' (2012, 602).
This article presents a method of bridging this gap by using Mixed Reality (MR). MR provides an opportunity to merge the real world with virtual elements of relevance to the past, including 3D models, soundscapes, smellscapes and other immersive data. In this way, the results of sophisticated desk-based GIS analyses can be experienced directly within the field and combined with a body-centred exploration of the landscape, creating an embodied GIS. In this article I will first introduce the concept of Mixed Reality and discuss some previous archaeological applications, before going on to present my concept of an embodied GIS alongside a number of case studies undertaken in two prehistoric landscapes (i.e. Leskernick Hill, Cornwall, and Moesgård, Denmark) and a post-medieval cemetery in York, England.
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