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1.1 Origins of spatial analysis

Consideration of the spatial patterns of settlements as an object of study can be traced back to Willey's ground-breaking survey in Peru in the early 1950s, combined with the ecological approaches of Steward and Clark, and a general dissatisfaction with the emphasis on chronological sequences (Willey 1953; Steward 1955; Clark 1952). Initially, the approach to settlement studies was largely descriptive and observation-based. It was not until the mid 1970s, with the rise of scientific archaeology, that an explanatory approach using geographic models was developed. The latter was derived from theories and methods that arose within the disciplines of geography and ecology in Europe (especially the work of Haggett 1965), which were adopted by systems archaeologists who wished to have scientific models to better explore cultural process (Aldenderfer 1996). It was hoped that such settlement studies would also enable more 'objective' methods of analysis and could deal with the great bulk of spatial data being recorded (Hodder and Orton 1976). Some even hoped that they would be able to understand the human set of rules that generated particular settlement patterns (Flannery 1976, 161-2).

According to the geographic models, settlement rank, size, spacing and function were presumed to be related, so that smaller settlements were thought to have fewer functions, be less important and be located closer together than larger ones. The ideal was a central place surrounded by its satellites which lay within, or on, its zone of influence. Consistent with social geography theory, settlement distributions were dictated by market, transport or administrative principles and, when transferred to archaeology, were thought to incorporate domestic, local, political and religious activities.

As a consequence methods such as rank size rule, measures of centrality, gravity models, catchment analysis and Thiessen polygons were used to portray these processes. These models were very popular as they always produced a positive display despite the acknowledged, but unresolved, problems.

In the 1990s these earlier techniques were incorporated within GIS (Wheatley and Gillings 2002). Again the technology and methodology was developed first by geographers and then taken up by archaeologists, especially by those involved in Cultural Resource Management (Harris and Lock 1995). In contrast to systems archaeologists, Wheatley and Gillings assert that 'we see formal spatial analysis not as a means of producing complete archaeological interpretations but as an extension of our observational equipment' (Wheatley and Gillings 2002, 125, emphasis mine). This to some extent reflects a North American concern, which tends to focus on predictive modelling, whereas the European concern leans towards 'an analytical approach, which concentrates on cultural meaning' (Harris and Lock 1995, 354 emphasis mine).

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