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4.3 Time slices

Although Interpreting Space presented some atemporal applications (e.g. Kvamme 1990), Zubrow (1990a, 67) emphasised how archaeology studies the change in human behaviour over time. In Gaffney's and Stančić's (1991) work all research was defined by archaeological periods; the results were distribution maps and presentations of correlations arranged in time slices. Castleford (1992) defined Temporal Geographic Information Systems (TGIS) in archaeology and suggested GIS studies should get away from traditional time slices. However, he discussed time in the context of a geographic model of different time relationships, and not as an archaeological problem.

Archaeological GIS, however, does not deal only with temporal phenomena but profoundly multi-dimensional entities (cf. Harris and Lock 1995). Harris and Lock advocated three-dimensionality but in their own work they discussed technicalities of 3-D presentations, not research applications with theoretical problems. They were looking for 4-D presentations incorporating time. Technically, existing tools only allow less accurate presentations such as using elevation to represent time or creating a sense of dynamic process via animations (cf. Daly and Lock 1999, 287-88; Johnson 1999; 2002; Johnson and Wilson 2002). Methodologically and theoretically, the fuzzy character of archaeological datings and chronologies has been ignored in relation to TGIS.

The reality of different resolutions of archaeological datings has only rarely been addressed; only Exon et al. (2000, 110) suggest that 'the limitations of archaeological chronologies may mean that we will always be prevented from simulating detailed change over the medium term.' It is clear that in practice time slices are part of archaeological reality, partly imposed by the fact that diagnostic material rarely presents a chronological resolution more accurate than a century. Even if we could reproduce 3-D stratigraphies or dynamic temporal presentations, well-dated reconstructions may remain Utopia. Accurate reconstructions would require a huge amount of inter-disciplinary research.

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