3. Time and TimeMap

The temporal dimension

Despite the recognised importance of the temporal dimension in archaeological GIS (e.g. Castleford 1992, 104; Harris and Lock 1995, 360; 1996), explicit development of temporal GIS in archaeology has been limited. While many GIS projects recognise change through time and record data for different time periods, few have addressed the methodological issues of treating time as a dimension rather than an attribute.

Time is critically important for archaeological and historical data, yet it is frequently used simply to as a basis for symbolisation or to group data onto separate maps (Johnson 1999). Work by several authors over the last 10-15 years (e.g. Langran and Chrisman 1988; Langran 1992; Peuquet 1994; Yuan 1996) has laid a groundwork for temporal GIS (TGIS), yet practical implementations of time-enabled mapping software, let alone TGIS, remain illusive; one is obliged to resort to crafting complex solutions from existing tools (Ott and Swiaczny 2001, 77 ff.). Bagg and Ryan (1997) stress the importance of an inte grated approach to spatial, temporal and attribute data, which Ryan has pursued with the development of FieldNote (Ryan 1998; Ryan et al. 1999). Our development of TimeMap, described below, aims to provide a practical methodology for recording and displaying archaeological and historical data in spatial and temporal contexts.

TimeMap ® [1]

The TimeMap project (Johnson 1999; aims to develop a practical methodology for the recording, manipulation and display of time-stamped archaeological and historical spatial data. Developments in both hardware speed and software platforms have opened up new opportunities for visualisation of spatio-temporal data through access to distributed data sources, high resolution interactive maps which can be recomputed on-the-fly, and temporal animation of maps. The project has developed metadata for describing spatio-temporal data, an index to allow access to distributed spatio-temporal datasets and software which allows the presentation of data in both spatial and temporal contexts through time-enabled map viewers (TMView for Windows and TMJava for web browsers) and map animation.

In this paper I will discuss some of these opportunities and describe (in section 6) three applications of the TimeMap methodology to the delivery of mapped data in an educational context:

[1] The TimeMap methodology and software has been developed at the University of Sydney Archaeological Computing Laboratory, since 1996, under the direction of the author. TimeMap is a registered trademark of the University of Sydney.


Last updated: Wed Sep 11 2002

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